There are many reasons, as someone living in America in 2023, to buy less stuff. For one, everything just costs so much now — as Vox senior correspondent Emily Stewart recently reported, that has less to do with continued inflation than the fact that prices went up, stayed up, and have no indication of ever going back down. For another, the stuff we’re proffered up to buy these days is objectively worse in terms of quality than the stuff that came before, as Future Perfect deputy editor Izzie Ramirez has written about in depth. That’s on top of the profound environmental effects caused by online shopping and the human rights violations perpetrated in the service of manufacturing goods. And in a society that’s marked by ever-growing inequality, the drive to consume becomes a form of power seeking and identity formation, resulting in a self-perpetuating race nobody can ever truly win.
So the question becomes ... what do we do about that? If this is the water in which we all swim, how do we even begin figuring out how to do it? Where does personal versus corporate responsibility come into play? Why do we want to buy what we want to buy in the first place? This package of stories attempts to grapple with those questions, and to provide a useful framework for thinking about your own approach to consumption — not to absolve the Amazons of the world, but to recenter our power as individuals, which can start with something as small as setting (and sticking to) specific goals as we approach the holidays, or changing the language we use to talk about purchases.
To that end, we have five fresh pieces that provide different approaches and perspectives to the topic of buying less, including a look at the current state of the internet and how it impels us all to sell each other stuff; advice on how to raise kids to be less consumerist; and a guide to fixing the things you already have. This isn’t nearly our final word on the subject of buying less; as you can probably tell from the trove of previous stories, we’ve been on it for quite some time, and will continue to pursue it as these questions become even murkier and harder to parse. We’d love to hear from you and what you’d like to see us tackle in this space, so please fill out this form or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, ideas, or responses to the project.
Editorial Lead: Alanna Okun | Editors: Meredith Haggerty, Lavanya Ramanathan | Contributors: Allie Volpe, Rebecca Jennings, Anna North, Izzie Ramirez, Lilly Milman | Art Director: Paige Vickers | Illustrations: Lorena Spurio | Style & Standards: Tanya Pai, Caitlin PenzeyMoog, Kim Eggleston, Elizabeth Crane, Sarah Schweppe | Audience: Gabby Fernandez, Shira Tarlo | Special Thanks: Julia Rubin, Melinda Fakuade, Jayne A. Quan