Overconsumption in the Outdoors: Are You Being Targeted?

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Four kinds of water bottles seen from in front / overconsumption in the outdoors

Four kinds of water bottles

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The outdoors has always been a place to escape the hustle and bustle of life and embrace the beauty of nature. But overconsumption of outdoors gear is helping to accelerate climate change.

In recent years, the outdoor industry has become increasingly commercialized, with constant marketing efforts on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok pushing the latest “must-have” gear and gadgets.

One product upgrade push that really bugs me is the endless promotion of new and “better” water bottles targeted at hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. 

There aren’t many things simpler than H2O. Yet we’ve managed to poison one of our fundamental molecules, literally and symbolically. The proliferation of new water bottle designs might be the prime example of overconsumption in the outdoors.

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Water Often Equals Plastic

Whenever I see bottled water for sale, I remember that convenience water companies like Dasani, Aquafina, Poland Spring, Fiji and Evian are not really in the business of selling water. They’re actually in the business of selling plastic bottles. Bottled water companies are plastics companies. When we buy their water, we’re really buying their plastic.

Outdoor brands know this and they know how we feel about it. They also know how to manipulate buyer psychology.

Fancy water bottle makers supposedly offer a more environmentally-sensitive solution by designing and producing capacious water bottles for a lifetime of big days in the outdoors. 

And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s great.

But if you ever feel the urge to replace your existing multi-use water bottle with a newer and somehow “better” water bottle, it’s time to take stock and ask, “What’s really going on? Am I buying into overconsumption?”

In reality, whatever water bottle you own right now is more than likely sufficient for your needs for the next three to five decades.

Too much to expect? I don’t think so. IMO, it’s that kind of timescale we need to focus on when we think about and research many of the products we buy.

The Marketing Machine & Overconsumption

Social media platforms have become powerful tools for advertisers to showcase products and encourage overconsumption. Outdoor companies are no exception, with Instagram and TikTok flooded with images and videos of the latest water bottles, backpacks, camping and hiking gear.

This new kind of marketing is extremely effective. Keep in mind that the bottom line is that brands only care about the bottom line — and brands wouldn’t be wasting resources on social media outreach if, at bottom, it wasn’t helping them sell more stuff.

On our end, as a target demographic, the constant exposure to these marketing tactics feeds our FOMO feels and generates a sense of inadequacy, two of the most exploitable psychological weaknesses advertisers use against us. These tactics lead many people to feel they need the newest products to enjoy the outdoors properly.

But overconsumption in the outdoor space has a significant impact on the environment. The production of new water bottles and other plastic items consumes vast amounts of natural resources and generates significant carbon emissions. And remember: when these items are eventually discarded, they contribute to plastic pollution, harming ecosystems and wildlife. 

It’s crucial for outdoor enthusiasts to consider the environmental consequences of constantly purchasing new gear and to look for ways to reduce overconsumption.

Resisting the Pressure to Overconsume

Here are five strategies to help us stay focused on what truly matters while enjoying the outdoors:

Four kinds of water bottles seen from above / overconsumption in the outdoors
Four kinds of water bottles
  1. Embrace minimalism: Adopt a minimalist mindset when it comes to outdoor gear. Ask yourself if you genuinely need a new item or if the one you already have will suffice. If we focus on the experiences and memories we create in nature, rather than the gear we use, it can help us reduce our desire to consume.
  2. Reuse and repair: Make an effort to repair and maintain your existing gear, rather than replacing it with something new. Regular maintenance can prolong the life of your equipment, save money, and reduce waste.
  3. Research before purchasing: If you need to buy new gear, spend time researching the most sustainable and eco-friendly options available. Look for products made from recycled materials, companies with strong environmental policies, and items that have been built to last.
  4. Support second-hand markets: Instead of purchasing new items, consider buying used gear from second-hand stores, online marketplaces, or friends. You’ll save money and help keep perfectly functional items from ending up in landfills.
  5. Share and borrow: If you need a specific piece of gear for a one-time trip or activity, consider borrowing from friends or family members. Think about organizing a gear-sharing group in your community, allowing everyone to access the equipment they need without having to purchase it individually.

Ditch the Hype: Reducing Gear Overconsumption

The overconsumption of unnecessary products in the outdoor space is a pressing issue. 

As outdoor enthusiasts, it’s our responsibility to resist the temptation to buy into the hype. Instead, we need to consider the broad environmental consequences of our individual actions. 

Is this exhausting? Hell, yeah, it is. But by adopting a more mindful approach to our consumption, we can enjoy the beauty of nature while minimizing our impact on the planet. 

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While it’s the media’s job to help us lose our perspective and buy more shit, it’s always helpful to remember that it’s not about having the latest water bottle or the most expensive gear — it’s about the experiences and memories we create in the outdoors. Let’s not lose our perspective.

Next time you feel pushed to buy a new water bottle, remind yourself: the one you have is probably just fine.

Use that out-of-style product until it breaks, and lean proudly into your antiquated gear as an emblem of perspective.

Dig Deeper

Forbes – The Evolution of the Water Bottle: A History and Health Impact https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffkart/2019/03/11/the-evolution-of-the-water-bottle-a-history-and-health-impact/ 

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