Thursday, October 6, 2011

Buy Less, Benefit More

Yasuhiro Yamashita designed small home
Alternately titled, Better Living Through Curated Belongings.
Graham Hill is a writer at and a designer. He explains in his TED talk how and why we should simplify our lives through smaller spaces, fewer things and more thoughtful living. He covers the idea of editing your life. His talk is certainly worth a listen. In it he explains how the world benefits and how the individual benefits.

Leading a more sustainable life is laudable for all of us, but I am more interested in how producers of things benefit. How does the furniture company, the electronics company, the car company benefit? In more ways than you can imagine.

Engaging in a cultural shift toward possessing fewer belongings does not mean that our earnings and total spending on goods and services will change. What it does mean is that we will start to desire products that are longer lasting and of more quality. Couple that with the trend of localized consumption and you have a perfect storm for and explosion of micro and artisanal manufacturers of a huge array of products. I believe you will also see a growth of locally based style sites. But what does this shift mean for current products?

The strong retailers and manufacturers will start to adapt. Companies like Target will start to stock more refillable and reusable products. The days of the low quality bookcase that goes to the curb on trash day after a couple years will be replaced by high-quality solid wood bookcases made from reclaimed materials. You may also start to see retailers offering trade-in and trade-up programs. The consumer will benefit but so will the retailers. Fewer total transactions may occur, but each product transaction will be at a higher price point and invariably a higher profit margin.

Neighborhoods will benefit by having more infill homes, more density and more civic engagement. If you live in a smaller home that doesn't have 4,500 square-feet you get out to public spaces more. Restaurants will see continued increase in frequency of visitors. Architects will have to be much smarter, but will get to be much more creative. Smaller home construction will also allow more custom designs as the total construction cost will be lower.  

Smaller quality product manufacturers located in your city will mean more jobs, closer commutes, more use of mass transit and so on.

Getting on the leading edge of this trend could hold great potential for business owners and entrepreneurs. There is great potential for more small retailers, small neighborhood grocers, residential renewable energy providers  and even service providers to help consumers downsize their lives.

A lot to think about as this trend takes hold, but a lot of possible benefit for all of us.

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