The True Cost of Convenience

We live in a society that prides itself on convenience, and we as consumers in this society oftentimes even demand it. There is nothing wrong with convenience in and of itself. It's very meaning "to make things easier" is surely a positive thing? However I can't help but wonder lately if we have taken things a bit too far and the true cost of that convenience is in fact one big inconvenience, not necessarily for our society, but for the bigger picture and the wider world.

Do we ever stop and ask ourselves the consequences of our convenience on the environment for example, or even the quality of life of someone on the other side of the world?

I know I don't often enough. However, today I was forced to when I found myself inconvenienced.

One of the most convenient things for modern day living failed me. My grocery delivery was going to be delayed by one whole day. I had scheduled it to arrive an hour before dinner so I was relying on it to cook tea for the family, our fruit bowl was also looking very depleted and I had told the children it would be restocked by the time they got back from school. Now we were going to have to get creative with what remained in the cupboard for dinner and deal with potentially disappointed children after school. I found myself feeling quite put out for about one minute until I realised that this was the very definition of a first world problem and the real impact on our life would be negligible. Plus we actually have shops within walking distance of our house.

The more I thought about it the sillier I felt for even allowing myself to be bothered by it. Can you even imagining explaining to someone struggling to even put food on the table for their family that all of our lovely food wouldn't be personally hand picked and delivered to us for another day, let alone explaining it to someone in the developing world!

I felt so very privileged in that moment, and a little ashamed.

Not of my privilege, that in itself shouldn't be a source of shame, if anything it should be a source of action. But ashamed of how far we have taken our need for convenience and all that that is costing us.

For example, we cover so much of our food in single use plastic, that we all know is damaging to our environment, but we excuse it all because of "convenience." We are told it makes things last longer, or stay fresher during transport, or we don't want to take reusable bags with us everytime, and sometimes it is simply that it is more convenient for the manufacturers wallet to not have to pay for alternative packaging. 

Sourcing local produce is much better for the environment, but often requires more effort on your part.

Sourcing local produce is much better for the environment, but often requires more effort on your part.

We buy cheap clothes, and more clothes than we really need, just because we can. Our parents will tell us they once had to save to buy new clothes, or furniture or other things they deem luxeries, but we have made it all so affordable and convenient that we don't even stop to question the cost of that conveninece. 

It may cost you more money and may even feel like an inconvenience, but making better choices with clothing can have a big impact on people's lives.

It may cost you more money and may even feel like an inconvenience, but making better choices with clothing can have a big impact on people's lives.

I don't want to upset anyone, but it is upsetting and I think we need to know. Knowledge is after all power. Those clothes are cheap at the cost of someone you will probably never meet, who is having to work in unsafe conditions, or isn't being paid a living wage.

Similarly, we often feel it is easier to replace faulty items rather than repair them, simply because we love convenience so much. But where are those old, broken items, going? Oftentimes to landfill, which you may think isn't a big problem, but landfills are a huge contributor to the amount of methane we are releasing into the atmosphere. Which we know to be a leading cause of global warming.

So many, seemingly small and inconsequential decisions, having global impacts.

It is undeniably overwhelming and I wouldn't blame you if you would rather have your convenience with a side helping of guilt than try to tackle the problem head on. Hey, it's what I do most of the time too.

But what if we let ourselves see all of the true cost of our convenience and were more intentional in trying to limit our impact?

So what can we do in this society of utter convenience that will make the slightest bit of difference?

First off, we can educate ourselves to some of the issues mentioned above and to other problems our world is facing. Then we can find simple, everyday alternatives, to some of the biggest costs of our convenience for the world. These little changes may not seem to make much of a difference, but we are all hopefully mature enough to know that doing your bit, no matter how small, is better than doing nothing at all. And the more of us who make these changes the greater the impact.

Start simply, and just ask yourself when making a purchase if there is a different choice available that might better help the environment, or the people behind the product.

When you are shopping for food remember to use reusable bags rather than plastic, buy fruit and vegetables loose so you can use your own non-plastic bags. Can you plan your meals to take into account seasonal produce and buy things grown or made locally to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? We are so used to being able to have certain foods all year round that only by making a personal decision to think seasonally do we stand any chance of reducing the impact of this harmful convenience.

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When something breaks can you try and get it repaired instead of buying a new one?

When buying clothes, ask yourself if you really need this item? Can you buy something secondhand to help reduce the huge waste problem there is in the fashion industry? Or can you choose to buy from an ethical retailer so that you can have a positive impact on the lives of the people behind your clothing?

It's overwhelming to think about I know. It is in fact very inconvenient to think about. But I really believe that we have the power to change the world by simply saying enough is enough.

I'll take inconvenience and a better world, over a convenient one we are slowly but surely destroying, any day of the week. How about you?

Serious about making changes? You might find these resources helpful...

  • Have a read of this "10 ways to easily reduce your plastic usage" blog post.
  • Check out Together Street, to help you make better clothing choices.
  • Have a browse of The good shopping guide, to reveal what goes on behind the scenes of companies and manufacturers, and to see which ones are making better choices so you don't have to think about it so much.
  • Listen to this great podcast from the guys at "Stuff you should know" to learn how global warming works. It is a very real problem we are facing, don't let anyone convince you otherwise.
  • Try finding "repair cafes" or "remakeries" in your community to reduce how much you send to landfill.
  • Recycle everything you possibly can. Not convinced it's worthwhile? Go educate yourself on the impact it can have, start here. 
  • Lastly, use the internet. It can be a very positive convenience to educate yourself in all the ways you can make better decisions for the wider world.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments below. What conveniences do you think are costing us too much?

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