Convenience culture is all around us. We can’t escape it. From the moment we wake up to when we go to bed, convenience is there, trying to suck us in.
For many years, I’ve been a flag bearer for convenience, especially when it comes to leveraging technology to automate our lives.
I now recognise, however, that we have become so reliant on convenience that we are no longer aware of the consequences.
In this post, I’ll explore the pros and cons of convenience culture. I’ll also share 15 simple actions to reduce reliance on convenience and live a more fulfilling and eco-friendly life.
What is convenience culture?
Convenience culture refers to how modern society is increasingly geared towards ease and instant gratification. It has origins in the post-World War II era, when Americans began to enjoy a period of unprecedented prosperity.
This newfound wealth led to a boom in the consumer culture, as people looked for ways to simplify and streamline their lives.
Nowadays, convenience culture can be seen as a reaction to this fast-paced, materialistic lifestyle. Rather than embracing the traditional values of hard work and thrift, the allure of convenience encourages people to seek out shortcuts.
This shift can be traced to the rise of fast-food restaurants, drive-thru services, and prefabricated homes.
And in a world dominated by apps and tech companies, we can now order take-out with the click of a button, get our groceries delivered to our doorsteps, swipe left to meet the partner of our dreams, and stream movies and TV shows at any time of day or night.
Everywhere we look, there are opportunities for us to save time and make our lives easier. It’s a pretty incredible proposition! Let’s look at why we’re all so hooked on convenience in more detail.
The pros of convenience culture
In today’s world, convenience is king — which has led to the rise of several businesses that cater to our every whim.
There are now companies that will walk your dog, pick up your dry cleaning, and even assemble your Ikea furniture.
While some people see this as a lazy way of life, there are some undeniable benefits.
It’s more important than ever to make the most of our time. Fortunately, convenience culture has come to the rescue, offering time-saving products and services.
From frozen meals that can be quickly reheated to 24/7 convenience stores that eliminate the need for planning ahead, we now have more options than ever before to save time.
We’re constantly bombarded with work, family, and social demands, and it can be tough to find time to relax.
More and more supermarkets are offering pre-chopped veggies that take away the need for chopping at home.
Or, you can now shop for sustainable clothing online for your exact sizing without trawling through local stores, which probably don’t have what you’re looking for anyway.
Better products and services
Another benefit of a convenience culture is that it often leads to better quality products and services that save us time and hassle. This is because businesses know they need to compete on convenience to survive.
Consider the online dating industry. In the past, people often had to rely on friends and family members to set them up on blind dates. Thanks to dating apps and websites, we can quickly and easily connect with potential partners who share our interests and values.
Similarly, self-driving cars represent the latest development in a long history of convenience-oriented transportation innovations, from the first cars with automatic transmissions to ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft.
And, of course, we can have whatever we want to be delivered to our doorsteps with just a few clicks. And businesses are responding by offering faster shipping times and more flexible return policies.
The short video below encapsulates how we expect more convenience from companies at unprecedented levels.
At this point, you may be wondering, how is convenience a bad thing? More time, less stress and better products and services.
This is human advancement. Yes, it is. But at what cost? Let’s look at how destructive convenience culture can be.
The cons of convenience culture
While there is no denying the benefits of this so-called convenience culture, it comes with a number of drawbacks.
A culture of convenience has come at a cost to our health and wellbeing. For one thing, it has made us more sedentary. Instead of walking to the store or riding our bikes, we can now have everything delivered to our doorstep. This lack of physical activity has contributed to obesity and other chronic health conditions.
In addition, the ready availability of processed and junk food has led to poor diets and increased rates of heart disease and diabetes. I remember my teenage years of getting multiple refills of soft drinks at the movies just because I could. Yikes.
And with ubiquitous social media and 24/7 news cycles, we’re constantly exposed to information and stimuli, leading to higher levels of stress and anxiety.
In today’s culture of convenience, it’s easy to go for hours or even days without speaking to another human being.
Between email, text messaging, social media, and soon, the Metaverse, we can communicate with others without ever having to leave our homes.
While this increased connectivity has its advantages, it also has a downside. For example, studies have shown that loneliness can lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
In addition, research suggests that social isolation can have physical health consequences, such as a weakened immune system and an increased risk for heart disease.
As our lives become more and more convenient, it’s essential to make an effort to connect with others in person. Whether it’s going for a walk with a friend or attending a community event, taking the time to interact with others can help combat the isolation that convenience culture can create.
It’s easy to become addicted to the conveniences that make our lives easier. From shopping on credit to gambling apps at our fingertips, we often pursue instant gratification without thinking about the long-term consequences.
While these addictions can provide a temporary escape from reality, they can also lead to financial ruin, relationship problems, and mental and physical health issues. In some cases, they can even be deadly.
For instance, people addicted to shopping may rack up vast amounts of debt and clutter, while those addicted to gambling may gamble away their life savings.
Additionally, addictions can cause people to neglect their responsibilities or lose interest in activities that once brought them joy.
Finally, a convenience culture is also detrimental to the environment. The more we outsource and purchase convenience items, the more resources we consume and the more waste we produce.
Single-use packaging from water bottles and home delivery meals creates a significant amount of waste, much of which ends up in landfills.
Furthermore, the development of supermarkets and fast-food chains has led to a considerable increase in food waste, as consumers demand perfectly presented produce that is available all year round.
The environmental impact of convenience culture is becoming difficult to ignore, and it’s clear that we need to find a more sustainable way of living.
So there you have it: convenience culture isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
What’s the solution here? Go back to complete self-sufficiency without any technological developments?
Foraging for food is something that many of us have to do because we don’t have other options. But it’s not a feasible solution if you have the privilege of reading this article.
Next up, we get into some suggestions to reduce your reliance on convenience.
15 simple actions to reduce your dependence on convenience culture
There are many ways to reduce your reliance on convenience culture without making dramatic stone age changes. Here are 15 ways to help you get started:
- Bring your own coffee mug to the coffee shop instead of a disposable cup.
- Delete your credit card from online shopping services, including Amazon, Google Pay, Apple Pay, Afterpay etc., to make the ability to shop more inconvenient.
- Make your own lunch instead of buying from a food truck or restaurant.
- Use public transportation or ride a bike instead of taking taxis or driving yourself.
- Rent textbooks from the library or online rather than purchasing them.
- Buy in bulk to save money and reduce packaging waste.
- Grow your own food or shop at farmers’ markets.
- Make your own cleaning products using natural ingredients.
- Repair clothes instead of throwing them away.
- Develop a process for composting your food scraps instead of throwing them away.
- Bring a water bottle with you instead of buying bottled water.
- Borrow items from friends and family instead of buying new ones.
- Book an off-grid tiny house or camping experience for your next vacation.
- Support businesses that are eco-friendly and ethical.
- Use less water by taking shorter showers and doing laundry less often.
If you want more ideas, check out this post with over 100 sustainable living tips, which will also help in reducing your dependency on convenience.
I hope these tips help you reduce your reliance on a convenience culture. Remember, small changes can have a significant impact.
What other ways do you suggest reducing convenience culture? Let me know in the comments below.
My comment is strictly about convenience food and drink. When I was a teen and started earning my own money it was a delight to be able to buy candies, snacks, and sodas whenever I wanted. I had no real financial obligations and was able to afford it. Later when I was on my own I went out to eat often and almost never cooked my own meals. Much later I realized my friends and I had been conditioned to squander our money on frivolous things. When I stopped using convenience stores, started making my own lunch for work, and cooking my own meals I had much more money for important things such as healthcare, housing, transportation, retirement planning, etc.; and I felt better living a more structured and healthier life. I believe the absence of the ” convenience culture” is why many recent poor immigrants seem to flourish economically compared to many poor American born people.
When I became an empty nester, I transitioned into becoming a minimalist. When I retired, I lived among retirees who discovered the food we have eaten during our lifetime is the cause of many health concerns.
As a full-time RV’er, I have discovered that repeated commecialized broadcasts on all forms of media cause the ultimate conveniences of American Culture and its health problems. From overeating to multi-tasking in a fast-paced world to achieving all within a moment.
I have become vegan, cooking all of my meals and moving towards never entering a franchise restaurant again unless it is strictly vegan.
There is one element considered as a vegan to consider, and it is the element of nature to reduce stress and learn to enjoy the sounds of silence.
Several US states allow doctors to issue prescriptions to nature. Here is a link to the recent attempts by the US National parks to encourage people into the parks.
You have written an excellent article, and I would be surprised if it goes mainstream because you have identified the side effects of rabid commercial capitalism.
What a journey! I especially resonate with the challenges around embracing the sounds of silence. At least for me, managing overstimulation is way harder than not buying things or maintaining a clutter-free physical environment. Thanks for sharing! I trust you’re enjoying life on the road.
Interesting article. I tried to find a vegan meal while out shopping. It had to be remade as the employees got the order wrong, then put a generous amount of Sriracha on it, making it fairly impossible for me to comfortably finish. Packing my own lunch would have been less stressful, more tasty and more convenient in the long run.
Online dating for vegans over a certain age has not been fruitful for me. There are very few men interested in vegan women over the age of forty. Many people online see dating as entertainment. A vegan specific dating site told me there were no matches, then tried to set me up with a non-vegan man with schizophrenia (stated in his profile) who was young enough to be my son. What in the world? If spending lots of extra money for convenience (my home brewed tea and home filtered water are pennies per serving) is worth working extra hours, extra years, okay, that’s not what I value. I’m still questioning the environmental impact of all the recycled polyester clothing “greenwashed” as earth friendly and how ads berate the water use to grow cotton for one pair of jeans. If I wear my jeans several times between laundering them, stay the same size and wear them at least five years, I believe it is better choice than purchasing a lot of fast fashion. Thank you for the opportunity to rant. 🙂
Ha! I thoroughly enjoyed your rant. You’ve shined a light on how some of these “conveniences” end up being inconvenient — whether it’s your experience or macro-level impact. Great share.
PS – I don’t have much context on the dating world, but I hope you have some better luck in the future. I would’ve assumed being vegan would make things a little easier. But perhaps not!
Very interesting point of view, and the best way to reduce our carbon footprint on mother Earth. I will try and apply all these in my life, so as to encourage my kids to do the same as well.
Yup. I hope automation will lead to a net positive for the environment and public health.