Change may not be easy, but it is absolutely possible. “It is naive to think that we’re going to change the world through small personal lifestyle changes,” says Zane, “however, each individual action adds up and multiplies. And it is having that perspective that matters.” A good place to start is with the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. Zane points out that globally, there is undoubtedly a huge focus on recycling, especially in Denmark where she currently lives. This is certainly important, but it is not enough. We need to “pay more attention to reducing, then reusing, and only then recycling”. With overconsumption, a key barrier to our well-being and the planet’s, reducing the quantity of stuff in circulation should be our first port of call.
Before the pandemic, Zane travelled to China and witnessed firsthand the magnitude of products available to consumers. Her visit coincided with Single’s Day – China’s equivalent to Black Friday and the world’s largest shopping event. “I sensed a different attitude towards consumption. Not necessarily negative, but definitely different to how I’ve observed it across Western cultures. The biggest difference can be seen in terms of the volumes of items consumed,” she says. “Needless to say, there are causes for the overall growth of the consumer culture – China’s rapidly growing middle-class being one of them. Still, my observations were not only widespread sales and huge purchasing volumes, but also a far more positive undertone of that whole process – the local society having the possibility to fulfill various personal wishes.”
If we want future generations to still have a vibrant, healthy planet to call home, a mass cultural shift in our attitudes towards consumption is imperative. “This change definitely can and must start with us as individuals,” Zane says. “As we speak, there are thousands, millions, of bold, driven thinkers and doers. If we look at the masses, however, [sustainability] is still not the common approach. By changing our daily behaviours and reducing our overall consumption, we would be indicating a different demand to businesses, driving the production of different types of goods on the market and pushing innovation across industries, changing the status quo.” With openness and determination, we can find a balance between necessity and desire to outgrow this materialist culture and secure our planet’s future.