How much is too much? Does consuming more make us feel better? Does it make us a better society? In truth consumption doesn’t equal happiness and being a good consumer doesn’t make you a good citizen.

What “keeping up with the Joneses” has meant is that today we are using the resource equivalent of one and a half planets, when we only have our one precious planet. For the global economy to become sustainable, we need to find ways of consuming that don’t pollute and deplete the earth’s resources.

This brings me to discuss another standout session at the 2013 BSR Conference: The Power of Networks, entitled Sustainability Storytelling. The session offered a vibrant discussion about worldreengaging with “stuff” in a new way.

Rick Ridgeway, who has been with Patagonia since the company started in the 70’s and is now the vice president of environmental initiatives, joined the conversation. Rick spoke about Patagonia’s story of “stuff” and their current campaign: The Responsible Economy. The concept is simple, but at first blush, counterintuitive for a retail company reliant on sales to keep the lights on – consume less and far more slowly. Reengage with “stuff” in a new way – reduce, repair, resell and recycle. Recognize quality, pay more for something that will last longer and get everything out of a product that you can.

It is a continuation of the ambitious Don’t Buy This Jacket ad concept of Patagonia’s two years ago.

Patagonia’s story of stuff is about connecting with customer’s growing dissatisfaction of the current global economy model that is fueled by relentless consumption.

There is great promise in rethinking our relationship with “stuff.”  And it may be time to bring an end to our collective “stuff” substance abuse problem.


Title photo courtesy of Bruno Girin

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