I’ve seen several articles over the last week or so, talking about “Peak Stuff”.
They follow on from a Guardian Sustainable Business Debate about the role of business in climate change, where Ikea’s Head of Sustainability uttered this memorable quote:
“If we look on a global basis, in the west we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff…”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this, what it actually means, and what the implications might be.
My admittedly possibly slightly basic understanding of what Peak Stuff means, is that we have reached a point where everyone has enough stuff. If there is a bell curve of consumption, we have hit the top, and the only way is down.
We are still being cajoled by the advertising companies that our lives will be better, and happier, and easier, if we had the latest shiny new thing. But maybe, just maybe, we’re all finally starting to cotton to the fact that this is actually just advertising bullsh*t designed to keep us spending, and that our lives are not any better, happier or easier, even after buying a whole heap of latest shiny new things.
Maybe the message is sinking home that current levels of consumption are unsustainable, and our planet does not in fact have finite supplies of everything we need.
Maybe we’re all seeing the pictures of the rivers and oceans rammed with our plastic debris, and the overflowing landfill sites, and starting to question what the hell our society has been doing for the last 70 years or so.
Maybe all our houses are just stuffed too full to fit another thing in.
Or maybe we’re all just skint and jaded.
Whatever the reason, if we have indeed reached Peak Stuff, it can surely only be a good thing.
If our desire and demand for stuff has reached it’s zenith, then that’s good news.
It’s good news for the planet, and I genuinely believe it’s good for our sanity and wellbeing too.
It’s also awesome for us, the people who have long been banging this drum, and trying to change the world through consuming less. It means we are ahead of the game…!
It is not however good news for business, the economic model we currently use, or the government.
Our current economic model demands continual growth, most of which is met by making and selling more and more stuff.
It’s going to mean a massive shift in thinking and operating from businesses if Peak Stuff is really here, and we aren’t going to keep buying their stuff.
Interestingly, in the same debate, Steve Howard, the guy from Ikea, the Peak Stuff guy, went on to say that Ikea is hoping to double it’s 2011 sales figures by 2020, not by selling more stuff, but by recycling and repairing. He has a vision for products to have a second life so they could be resold.
Are we at the start of a whole new economy? Could this be the moment when the Circular Economy, the Sharing Economy, the Re-use and Repair Economy (I’m not sure if that’s even a thing yet, but you can bet if there is money to be made from it, it soon will be) really start to become meaningful alternatives to our current linear make it, use it, ditch it model?
I don’t know.
But I really really hope so.
PS. If my incredibly insightful, hard hitting and insightful post hasn’t given you enough Peak Stuff info, you can read more in these articles:
- We’ve hit peak home furnishings says Ikea boss-The Guardian
- Ikea senses room to grow amid Peak Stuff-Financial Times
- Peak Stuff: the ‘growth party’ is over. So what next? The Ecologist
PPS. If your answer to Peak Stuff is to attempt a spot of Buying Nothing New, you might be interested in the Buy Nothing New! Facebook group I’ve just launched for anyone doing that very thing!