Participants on the Scone platform are a select company: namely people that actively take sustainable steps on the consumption end of the economy.
Such behaviour remains quite a rarity in our era of “solutionism”, the unfounded and risky belief that miraculous new technologies make it possible to keep growing our economies while also reducing our CO₂ emissions while we’re at it. All gain, zero pain, folks. Free lunches galore!
Even the IPCC, the United Nations climate panel, states that 1.5 °C warming and economic growth are simultaneously possible thanks to forthcoming “unprecedented progress.” How convenient: a crystal ball filled with pink mist.
In 1865, the British economist William Jevons already documented how more efficient use of coal led to more use of coal by the industry: production and products became cheaper, causing demand to rise and production to rise even further.
These days, this is referred to as the “rebound effect” on the consumer’s end. Even when countries like Belgium and the Netherlands have invested hundreds of billions in greener production, our use of energy, water, and raw materials and our greenhouse gas emissions have only grown due to increased consumption.
Part of that consumption is hidden outside our national borders. Calculations using the EXIOBASE data set show that the average Dutch or Flemish person annually withdraws two shipping containers of raw materials and food from other countries through their consumption.
The Dutch economists Paul Schenderling and Matthias Olthaar calculated on the basis of data from the multi-regional input-output database (MRIO) that there are 10 million “hidden employees”, people in other countries who work for Dutch consumption. That is more than the entire Dutch working population of 9.6 million people, and the figure includes 2 million working children.
The irony is that we rich northerners have been getting less value for money over time: clothes wear out faster, appliances die sooner.
“Planned obsolescence” has been the designers’ term for this since the 1970s. Clever marketing tempts us to buy that mediocre stuff again and again.
The way out? Being strong and buying better stuff that lasts longer. This way, an average household can save 10% on its expenses, according to the household tool (in Dutch) of Postgroei Nederland (PostGrowth Netherlands). That equals working half a day less!
If we were, on top of that, to take public transport more, have our stuff repaired and go on holiday in our own country, we would spend another 20-30% less while maintaining a similar standard of living, again according to Postgroei Nederland.
In other words, we work a quarter of our time—three months a year!—without actually needing to because we buy cheap or unnecessary junk that gives companies a little profit with every sale, while it’s doing little good for us. Penny wise pound foolish we are.
At Scone, we like to take the train often—this way we can work as we commute and avoid parking hassle. We take our stuff to the Repair Café, where volunteers repair our appliances and clothing.
How are you going to consume less and save money and time to enjoy more? We’d love to hear from you in the Scone community.