We are what we buy: global problems and student consumerism


Saturday 27th November is Buy Nothing Day. Spending £0.00 in 24 hours is a strange idea, but it may be worth locking our wallets away.

Consumerism is society’s way of encouraging us to purchase more and more products. This constant flow of money is essential for our economy, but consumerism has an unpleasant impact on our world

Firstly, the environment. The environmental damage caused by creating, transporting and packaging the millions of goods we buy each day is colossal. From landfill, to carbon emissions, this is a way of life that is essentially unsustainable. Recycling is fine, but ironically the process uses energy. Think twice about buying items in the first place, especially if they’re wrapped in masses of packaging.

Many developing countries also lack proper protection and representation for workers, hence the pitiful wages and industrial accidents which regularly feature in the news. Consumerism contributes to global poverty, but this scenario could be changed by consumer choice. If a company uses poorly-paid workers or is ecologically unsound, don’t buy its products and it will be forced to improve its standards or lose your custom for good.

Despite our reputation for being skint, students are actively targeted by big companies. Businesses at the Freshers Fayre bombarded us with free pizza, popcorn, shots, bread, club entry vouchers and so on. Free food is great, but the point of these freebies is to make us spend, spend, spend our precious money on more cheap food and booze later on. University life has become intensely consumerist. Couldn’t we just go without that vodka/pizza/pirate costume?

All in all, I’m not suggesting you should live in a cave and eat only what you can forage. But it’s worth taking time to think about where your purchases come from, and what impact they may have had on the way to you. And maybe, on November 27th, don’t buy anything at all. It may not change the world, but at very least, you’ll save a few quid.


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