are consumers products of their own making?

Lately I have been wondering about products and behaviour patterns. Are products designed to promote particular behaviours, and if so, should it be the product that bears responsibility for that?

A fast-moving consumer good sails through the finishing line at such a rate of acceleration that it is little wonder we are programmed to treat it with some disrespect. Throwing away an old sock is far easier than throwing away a wooden bookcase, is it not?

Taking accountability for the stuff that we accrue during our lifetimes often manifests itself as an endless guilt trip. We know that, but still we accrue. Why? Because that sense of accountability is just as disposable.

We are given free license to erase our conscience out of the equation when we buy. Product marketeers still swear by the bullish mantra of ‘buy more, not less’ – they may be wrestling with the idea of sustainability as a core product attribute, but this does little to address the underlying problem of consumption.

The consumer goods market is built around convenience and fleeting desire, rather than genuine need. Our purchasing decisions reflect this, and so it really doesn’t matter whether a bottle is lightweighted or if a carrier bag is biodegradable. They will get discarded – and that point of neglect is considered acceptable by most.

Unfortunately it is still in our interest to purchase low value items. This constant turnover of materiality and capital transaction not only fuels GDP, but maintains societal structures, be they good or bad. Even a circular economy won’t do much to break that, as it is built around endless consumption loops of energy and material flow.

The idea of consuming less isn’t appealing yet, and until is it, we’ll uphold one of two product yardsticks thrown at us: planned obsolescence (we need to upgrade) or perceived obsolescence (we still need to upgrade).

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