Since when did shopping become a leisure activity and not a way of buying necessities?
For the first couple of months that I lived in Leamington I had a lot of friends come to visit me. (The novelty of me being in a different place must have worn of by now, because I’ve noticed a gradual ceasing of visitors). As it was a particularly cold November/December there really wasn’t any way we were going to go for a walk outside, and so for about four weekends in a row I found myself wandering round shopping centres with a variety of different guests. The conversation was always the same. ‘What shall we do?’ ‘I don’t know, what is there to do?’ ‘Let’s go into town.’
‘Into town’ is a default weekend activity and something I have repeated often since with housemates and on my own. Now that I live somewhere where walking into town is indeed an option (and, having grown up in the countryside, a novelty) I’ve noticed a change in my spending habits. Basically I buy more. But I don’t buy more because I need more, in fact I rarely feel like I need anything new when I leave the house to walk ‘into town’. I wander into shops for something to do and end up buying something because it’s there and it’s new and shiny.
What I’m trying to say is that I feel as though a lot of our habitual over-consumption stems from there not being anything to do in city centres that doesn’t involve shopping (or at least spending money). A lot of people shop because they’re bored and so it must follow that if we can reduce systemic boredom we could reduce consumerism and do the planet a massive favour.
In an ideal world people wouldn’t have to go ‘into town’ to buy things they don’t need on a weekend. They would go to communal gardens to talk to other people and learn to grow food. They could go to workshops where they could learn a new skill in exchange for teaching another. They take home made food to a community hall to share with others. There are no end of ideas, if only people would step outside their comfort zone to think of them.
My resolution is to stop going ‘into town’ and to spend my weekend doing creative things or visiting friends. My landlord has just given me a free rein to decorate the living room so watch this space…