Less is more

Mathias Barth

Urban Art Now

Urban Art Now

How can we shop more conscientiously?

We don’t have new bodies in our closets. Nor do we have a new world. We have to be good to ourselves and to the world. We have to make the right decisions, say, “Yes,” to the things that are worthwhile, protect them, and live conscientiously. Living conscientiously also means shopping conscientiously.
“Our greatest hope is that a different kind of consumer behaviour will become the norm,” says Pola. Pola, born in 1989, founded “Kleiderei” together with her friend, Thekla, 27, in Hamburg’s Schanzenviertel district. “Kleiderei” is a kind of clothing library, where you can borrow clothing instead of buying it.
Like many of their generation, Pola and Thekla dream of change. They want to take action against this machine of always having to buy something new and always wanting more. They want to get rid of the madness that is overconsumption and overproduction, rid of this futility. And not just with clothing. Because they know that our world’s resources are not infinite, and because they know that even the best economic system cannot experience eternal growth.
Initiatives across Germany have shown that Pola, Thekla, and their “Kleiderei” project are not alone in their desire for change. The “culture of sharing” – swapping, sharing, lending – and its self-conception have been able to grow primarily thanks to the inventiveness of younger generations and new technologies. Sustainability and sustainable living are no longer terms greeted with laughter.
The comments that accompany the “Kleiderei” project reflect this awareness. Time and again we see similar answers to the question, “How can we shop more conscientiously?” Answer’s like Thomas’, 13, or Lisa’s, 18:
“By only buying what you actually need and always asking yourself: Do I really need this?”
“Throwing less away and only buying what you can actually use.”
Clearly there’s consensus here. And Generation25 knows exactly where this new kind of living can lead. Quite specifically and very practically. They are not hiding behind empty words:
“By introducing less plastic into the environment! Bring a reusable bag with you instead and stop using plastic bags.” (Antonia, 13)
“By shopping in thrift stores or swapping clothes with friends,” writes Nina, 18. Her generation has long since understood that less is more and that quality is better than quantity. Just like Merve, 25, says: “By buying quality products instead of cheap, low-cost goods. You’ll have fewer things but they’ll last a long time in exchange!”
You really get a sense of how natural this kind of thinking is from the comments:
“It doesn’t matter how new something is, but what you have gone through to learn to appreciate the value of something.” (Emilie, 18)
“By being aware that a bargain also means that others are only receiving bargain-price wages.” (Christoph, 23)
Shopping conscientiously is not something those born after 1989 find difficult. Instead it seems to be something that they come to learn naturally as they grow up. Sharing, swapping, lending, and reusing things with friends – both old and new, real and digital. That’s life and it’s fun. Because it also means that you are allowed, able, and have to communicate with one another. Sharing is caring. People who share become closer. At least closer than they’d come at the cash register of a supermarket or in a dressing room with fluorescent lighting.
But we need to rethink things even more. “We have to reform capitalism,” writes Kevin, 20. Capitalism is the backbone of economic and social life in Germany – and the basis for the freedom to be able to evolve. Generation25 sees it as an opportunity. 28-year-old Aurora’s comment is clearly representative of this: “The past is shopping, the present is trading and giving things away!”


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  • Title: Less is more
  • Creator: Mathias Barth
  • Type: Illustration