The Problem With Consumerism Culture

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By Mariel Gousios

As residents of East Amherst, overconsumption is something we know all too well. Because the average household income is more than $100,000, we simply have too much money to spend.  With this extremely wealthy average income, residents of East Amherst turn to overconsumption as a way to burn through their cash. In the United States as a whole, overconsumption is a huge problem. According to the Guardian, the US has grown in population by 60% since the 1970s, but consumption spending has increased by 400%. Instead of buying things sustainability, we should simply buy less.

Some may argue that we can continue buying the same amount to help the economy progress, but simply switch to buying sustainable products. While this may improve the environmental situation, it still falls short to simply buying less. Buying something that is planet friendly will still likely end up in the landfills once it is finished being used. Unless every product we buy is produced without fossil fuels, is compostable, and made with recycled materials, it will have a negative effect on the environment. To be fully safe, we have to implement a cyclical pattern of the objects we buy. Until this is a reality, we have to turn to buying less to truly have an impact. Skipping the trip you take to find the new season’s clothes, instead rewearing something you already wore, won’t produce any trash or carbon emissions. However, it’s not like we can all just stop buying everything at once. While the environment would be able to bounce back, millions of people would lose their jobs and the economy would plummet. Instead, JB MacKinnon, author of The Day the World Stops Shopping, suggests that reducing our consumption by 25% would be enough to positively impact the earth. While some may think the economy would take a hit, MacKinnon says that the new cyclical pattern of consumerism would need more labor to produce durable goods. Fast fashion would be a thing of the past, and well-made practical styles would take over. 

As residents of East Amherst, this is something that we could improve on. The change doesn’t have to be drastic, but if it steadily increases over time, it will truly make an impact. Part of the problem is how far consumption culture is rooted in society. We rationalize black Friday hauls and retail therapy. We shame others for wearing the same outfit twice. To change, we need a shift in our attitude towards consumption. Start complimenting your friend for creating a unique outfit with clothes they already own instead of complimenting their new shirt they just bought. When someone asks you if they should buy this new gadget ask them “how long will you use it” instead of “how much do you like it.” Prioritize longevity instead of the rush you get from the click of “add to cart” and the Amazon notification telling you your package is two stops away.