Charity is Not the Antidote to Over-Consumption
Stuff. I’ve written about how it tends to pile up, how our society seems designed to get us to accumulate more and more, and how it can become a burden.
For many of us, one solution to this is to ‘purge’. We go through our closets and basements and cupboards and get rid of stuff we’re not getting use out of. Since we don’t feel great about just throwing it out, giving it to charity is the answer for many of us.
I’ve done this myself, many times. In my student days, I even organized a Goodwill drive at my university residence.
Recently, though, I’ve come to realize that giving stuff to charity is an imperfect solution. There’s increasing evidence that we donate far, far more than charities can realistically use. As this article explains, there’s so much that often only a very small percentage of it can be sold and/or given away in the communities where it’s donated.
Most of it ends up as rags, or shipped overseas, where it often has a detrimental effect on local clothing manufacturers. If that weren’t bad enough, some experts believe that many of the countries where we dump excess stuff will soon start rejecting it as the cheap imports we buy in such huge quantities begin to penetrate their markets, too.
For the system to be sustainable, someone has to buy (or at least accept) the used stuff. It has to go somewhere. So why not consider buying second hand a little more, instead of new? Shop at Goodwill, as well as donating to it?
The best solution, though, is to reduce the demand for stuff in the first place – attack the problem at its root. So take a breath before buying your next top, or kitchen gadget, or souvenir, or decorative figurine. A trick I use is to ask myself whether I’d be willing to move house with the item in a year’s time. If not, maybe it’s not the purchase for me.