JRA with the Angry Asian: Where consumerism and sustainability collide

We should all be thinking more about "want" vs. "need".

Photo: Getty Images

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I’ve been writing about bikes and associated gear for a living since 2005. Essentially, what I do is inform people about what’s new, report on interesting trends and technologies, and share my opinions on how well some of this stuff performs. 

Whether intentional or not, what I’ve also been doing all this time is tacitly telling all of you that “better” is good, “new” is better, and your old stuff is just … old.

Maybe it’s my age getting to me — or, more likely, starting a family — but I’ve been thinking an awful lot in recent years about “stuff” in general. About value vs price. About need vs want. About the true cost of all of these things, and not just in terms of what’s on the price tag.

I still love emerging technologies and continuous improvement when it comes to bikes and gear, but I’ve grown increasingly strategic in terms of what I buy for myself (or, at least, I’m trying to be). My own bikes don’t necessarily have the latest and greatest bits on them. My clothes are … let’s just say I’m no fashion icon. My wife and I have older cars, none of which we drive very often. Our recycling bin is double the size of our trash bin, which is almost always more empty than our compost bin, and about once a month, I drop off a giant sack of plastic bags at our local recycling facility (which I deliver via electric cargo bike).

Do we really need all of this stuff? Do any of us? That’s a weird question for someone in my position to be asking, but I’m asking myself that a lot nevertheless.

And so when the folks at Velocio asked if I’d be willing to make a guest appearance for a little documentary they were working on regarding sustainability in cycling clothing, I didn’t hesitate. 

I’m as cynical as anyone — more so, I’d argue — and this video Velocio has created could very well be perceived as just a thinly veiled marketing ploy, and I’ve perhaps positioned myself as an unwitting pawn to help them sell more stuff. After all, why would a company that makes money selling you new things be actively trying to tell you to buy less, right? 

It’s a fair question, and you’re right to be skeptical. But I prefer to not be quite so cynical in this case, as I believe there are plenty of valid questions being asked here that we should all think about.

In an ideal world, we’d exist in a fully circular economy where nothing more is consumed, and everything is somehow either repurposed or recycled into something else — but needless to say, we don’t live in an ideal world.

So what should we be doing? We at CyclingTips have mentioned several times in recent months that one of the most important things is to be more careful about what we buy. Is it necessary, or will it provide some genuinely significant benefit? Is this something we just want at the moment, or will this be something we’ll use for a long time? And to be clear, these questions apply to everything we might potentially buy in cycling, not just clothing.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers (or any of them, in fact). But I think we all have something to gain by asking more questions.

In any event, please watch the video if you’ve got a few minutes, and let me know what you think in the comment section below.

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