10001ways: Next time you go to Costco or Target try this. (But you probably won't like it.)

Before I make a suggestion about your next $500 trip to CostCo or Target let me set the stage.

In order to defeat climate change and stop environmental degradation we have to change our consumer predilections. Since World War II we have believed that consuming as much as we can, as fast as we can, is good for everyone and makes us all happy. Such a consumer-based economy would give us all jobs and might even make us rich. Not only did it seem to make sense, it worked. Thus, we were chained to production and consumption for better or worse.

Meanwhile, our lust for things caused landfills to flourish, skies to heat up, oceans to acidify and nature to enter into death throes.

There is talk of different kinds of economies to replace the one we currently live with thus stopping the destruction of the environment. However, replacing an economy where everything is measured by growth and % of profit will be revolutionary at the least. Without getting into the details of Command and Market economies and variations thereof, let’s just jump to an alternative economy that is getting a lot of lip service lately: The Circular Economy.

Circular Economy: Design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, regenerate natural systems. (More detailed explanation here)

Let’s just say we don’t buy new stuff anymore that we don’t have to, and we learn to make things last 'forever' through the process of regeneration. (That’s recycling on steroids.)

Ellen MacArthur Foundation - Creative Commons

It’s sounds alien doesn’t it. How would that work? Where do the jobs come from? How do you get ahead in life? Who can get rich that way? It is really hard to imagine isn’t it? What would it be like to live in a circular economy?

This is where our trip to Costco or Target or Walmart or wherever comes in. Before we go into the store there is one more thing to talk about.

Wants and Needs

In my day I did my share of sales training. I tried to get salespeople to understand that customers preferred wants over needs and that, of course, is where the money is. They need a car but want a $50,000 pickup truck. They need a phone, but they always want the latest one. The compressor in the 2-year-old air conditioner is shot? Let’s just buy a new one. They have lots of towels but none of them match the upstairs bathroom colors. The engine of a consumer economy is driven by wants not needs. Anything old or used is bad. Consumerism, after all, is a state of mind. If I want it, I should have it. So, sell them what they want.

The engine of a circular economy is needs. We make things last and then regenerate them.