By Dee Caffari MBE
Has consumerism finally reached breaking point? Products are reaching their planned obsolescence faster than ever and our continued obsession with shopping fuels the demand to produce more, more, more. It was not so many years ago that quality items were saved for, bought with pride, cherished and looked after for an entire lifetime. Advertisers are feeding us with ‘facts’ about, among other things, the life expectancy of a mattress. What happened to basic common sense and actually waiting until the mattress is no longer fit for purpose before buying a new one? Are we really going to rely on information provided to us by the companies selling these products and accept being told what to buy and when? Suggesting that having the latest iteration of a certain type of phone or brand of clothing somehow makes us more complete as individuals is a sad reality of modern day advertising. Even sadder is that many of us believe it, buy the product being sold to us under the guise of making us feel better only to realise that it makes no difference whatsoever to how we really feel about ourselves.
It was not so many years ago that quality was sought after and repairing was not a dirty word. Good design and well-crafted products are out there still and well overdue a resurgence. There is something wonderful about an item that feels good to use, that has heft and the vast majority of us don’t mind paying a little more for something that we know will last and be a pleasure to use.
In the western culture, we don’t seem to have much respect for age. Looking your age is something to be actively avoided, the sheer number of age reducing products being marketed to us being testament to that. Age and experience should be celebrated, not hidden away. That is certainly true for people but it should also be true for the things we surround ourselves with in life.
Cheap, poor quality products that were intended to be disposable have had a disastrous effect on our environment. Be in no doubt that we are at a crisis point but there is hope and I believe that a return to using ‘built to last’ products will be fundamental to encouraging consumers in the right direction. The phrase ‘retail therapy’ speaks volumes about how we perceive shopping. Products were once only purchased out of necessity but buying is now a hobby and in some cases an addiction. Is it a coincidence that at the height of consumerism, we also have a mental health crisis? If ‘nature therapy’ was as popular as shopping, perhaps we would all be more fulfilled and satisfied.
In my sailing, I have to work with nature not against it and I have seen first hand the impact pollution is having on the oceans. That pollution is replicated in the soil, the air and is now present in the food chain. We must act now to stop further damage.
When all is said and done, if I am given the choice between an old wooden oak sea chest, marked and worn with all the experiences and adventures it has had over its lifetime or its plastic, modern alternative - it will be the product with history and a story that I will be drawn to every time.
Dee Caffari MBE has sailed around the world six times. She is the first woman to have sailed single-handed and non-stop around the world in both directions and the only woman to have sailed non-stop around the world a total of three times.
Dee led ‘Turn the Tide on Plastic’ – the first mixed gender youth team to compete in the Ocean Race (formerly Volvo Ocean Race) 2017/18; with a strong sustainability message. The issue of single use plastic in our oceans gained huge momentum and has inspired many people to take action in their day to day lives. Dee continues to be an advocate for ocean health and highlight the vital importance of reducing our dependence on plastics.
Outside of sailing, Dee continues to showcase her talents as a presenter and on the motivational speaker circuit. Dee also spends time supporting her chosen charities and is Chair of the World Sailing Trust, a new global charity that will promote the health of oceans and grow participation of the sport to protect its future