Trying to cut spending and minimize waste can feel like an upstream battle in a society so driven my consumerism, but we’re giving the marketing industry more power over us than we realize in one specific place.
I’ve been on my low-waste journey for over a year, cutting out physical waste everywhere I can: not letting food go bad, avoiding plastics, repairing clothes to make them last longer, donating the things I don’t need. If we’re trying to reduce physical waste, then the physical world seemed to be where the problem resided.
It wasn’t until reading Bea Johnson’s @zerowastehome where I had my light bulb moment: our exposure to ads is an enormous part of our waste problem, and we willfully read advertisements every day without realizing it.
The connection between waste and consumerism and seeing advertisements seems so obvious now. Bea talked about reducing her exposure to ads by minimizing time consuming television, magazines and advertisements in her inbox.
What advertisements in my inbox? I thought.
You know that “promotions” tab in your Gmail inbox? That’s where they sneak in. I thought I had somewhat minimal exposure to ads: I don’t have a tv or listen to the radio, I don’t read magazines, I ride my bike everywhere which means no advertisements staring at me on my commute to work via the bus or train.
The emails came in under my radar, and did a great job: I wouldn’t be shopping or in the market for anything, but I’d still scroll through emails looking at the lovely sale items. Things seem so personal when they’re in your inbox.
In that realization, I discovered the relief of the unsubscribe.
Unsubscribing from companies that I haven’t ordered from in years, or companies who sell products for hobbies that I don’t have any more. Companies that don’t suit my lifestyle anymore or add value to my life.
There was some sentiment or guilt in some of the unsubscribes, like the cute little bookstore that used to be in my neighborhood in Chicago. But I haven’t lived in Chicago in years, and it doesn’t help them to have my name on their email list. I felt the closing of digital doors and focusing on where I am now.
Not all emails are bad, and I haven’t unsubscribed from everything. But I have turned down the volume.
We’re exposed to so much noise. Marketing is a billion-dollar industry dedicated to developing the most successful ways to get us to buy things.
Today as you check your inbox, I invite you to open an email from a company that doesn’t enrich your life and click “unsubscribe.”
I feel empowered remembering that I control the volume on that noise.
You do too.