Barcelona Lifestyle

Users vs. costumers

Do you like waffles? I do and very much so; it’s the typical thing that makes a Sunday afternoon taste like birthday parties, childhood and happiness. I have a waffle iron that I use two times a year (sometimes more but sometimes not even that), and that has been moving with me for more than 15 years. 

On the one hand, I wouldn’t want to live without it because I like waffles. On the other, it’s taking up a lot of space, and I’d gladly share it with other people so they can eat waffles too. 

I’m sure that we all accumulate similar items in our households: Drills, handsaws, pasta makers, Polaroid cameras, camping tents, evening gowns… There is an endless list of possessions that we rarely use.  

Our way of life in the industrialized world has led us to believe that we need to buy stuff to be happy. Shopping is considered a hobby and “retail therapy” supposedly indulges the soul. We buy things because we are bored, because they are on sale or because we had a tough day and want to console ourselves. We buy things because we saw them on Instagram, because we like what they say about us or because everybody has them. Our economies are built on the production of more and more stuff, and marketing experts help companies create solutions to problems we didn’t even know we had. 

As a consequence, our consumption of natural resources tripled from 1970 until 2010. Consuming more than we actually need not only makes us unhappy researchers found, it also endangers our home planet by worsening climate change and increasing pollution. The hunger for natural resources to produce goods will ultimately deplete their availability. And finally, growing piles of waste are polluting our seas and landfills. 

What do we really need? 

During the Corona crisis lock down we might have realised that we don’t actually need many things. Instead, we miss our families, friends and human interactions in general. Materialism can’t fill this void. 

Tidying expert Marie Kondo has been teaching many of us how to declutter our squeezed homes to only keep the items that we really use or that truly bring us joy. Her philosophy has helped me think twice before I purchase something new and to appreciate the things I already have and consciously decided to keep in the process of decluttering. But, there is still a long way to go. The definition of “need” is relative, and minimalism might not be for everyone. In the end, it’s nice to make waffles from time to time. 

The concept of sharing instead of buying seems like a good compromise if you don’t want to pass on certain things but want to take better care of our planet. In times of Netflix, car sharing and Airbnb, especially the younger generations are choosing use over ownership, experiences over things. A movement Forbes has called “NOwnership.”

Nowadays, you can drive a bike whenever you want in many cities without owning one (e.g. Bicing in Barcelona). You can hear every song you wish without buying CDs (Spotify). You can have a car only for a few hours or days (Getaround). Couldn’t we expand this concept even further? 

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard about the “Biblioteca de las Cosas” in Barcelona, a place inspired by the “Library of Things” in London. At the Biblioteca de las Cosas, you can borrow useful things for a short period of time (1 day to 1 week) instead of purchasing them yourself. Though the offer isn’t huge yet, it has a growing range of items from garden tools to ice cream makers, from trekking backpacks to skiing gear. It’s a small and local community initiative run by volunteers, but hopefully the idea will spread. 

How about creating local social networks where everyone in a neighbourhood could upload stuff they’d like to share (that way you’d also get to know the people from your community better). Or something like “Amazon of shared goods,” a digital platform where you could order anything you want, have it delivered to your home, use it for the time you need it, and then return it for the next person to use. Sharing not only saves resources and liberates us from the dictates of capitalism. It also promotes the sense of community. 

Right now we would need several planets to sustain us if everyone in the world used the same amount of resources like in the industrialized countries. It’s about time to come up with new strategies if we plan to eat waffles on this mother earth for a bit longer. 

Perhaps when the pandemic is over, I’ll throw a waffle party…

VERA // Barcelona

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