If consumerism is the engine that drives our economy, will it eventually drive us over a cliff?
Consumerism was on the Lunch Bunch menu Tuesday. Ironically, it was “Giving Tuesday”, a day following Black Friday and Cyber Monday to join together to share commitments and rally for favourite causes and think about others.
We looked at the following three questions:
Do you feel that the level of consumerism has changed in your lifetime?
What do you see as the effect of a consumer culture on our society?
Is it too late to put the brakes on consumerism?
Has the level of consumerism changed in your lifetime?
It will come as no surprise that everyone agreed there has been an increase in consumerism over our respective lifetimes.
Post war, branding increasingly gained importance. We didn’t want a pair of jeans, we wanted a pair of Levi’s. Marketing got more creative, pervasive and ubiquitous.
Where once the decision to buy “stuff” was done through necessity or reward, it now seems an end unto itself.
“In the 1950s, the average home size was 1,200 square feet, By 2008, it was 2,500 square feet. The average US family size in the fifties was 3.67, in 2008, 2.56 with fewer extended families under one roof.”
What is the effect of consumerism on our society?
We identified 5 negative effects:
1. Environment – Planned obsolescence fills our landfills. It’s much easier to replace stuff than have it repaired.(If you can even find a ‘stuff fixer’)
2. Marketersare more aggressive. Advertising invades every aspect of our life pressuring us to buy more and so, trash more. We want the new shiny toy. If “stuff” is disposable, will people become so too?
3. High debt loads. This level of consumption is fed by easy access to credit. The result, added stress on families as they plunge deeper into debt trying to live up to the American dream where the “pursuit of happiness” has come to mean the “pursuit of stuff”. Credit cards enable instant gratification contributing to our disposable economy.
4. Confusing “needs” and “wants”.How many people buy things because they actually need them? People are tying their self-worth to their material possessions. They define themselves and others by what they have not who they are. When you attach your self-esteem and self actualization to external “stuff”, your wants become your needs.
5. Stress on Families. There’s a high societal cost to trying to attain a lifestyle beyond our means.
“…harried parenting and rampant materialism are making children meaner and more self-absorbed. Raised to prize consumer goods over people, children with low empathy are turning into narcissistic adults who have never learned the intrinsic rewards of social belonging and interdependence.”
Is it too late to put the brakes on consumerism?
Have we gone too far to turn back now?
We’ve become more shortsighted, businesses more driven by quarterly profits, and politicians more preoccupied by perpetually campaigning than governing. This doesn’t bode well for us or the planet.
“As North America grows an environment and moral conscience, rampant consumerism is spreading to the developing world to the detriment of the environment, health, and happiness. (Worldwatch Institute in its annual report, State of the World 2004.)”
Every great movement starts with the actions of one person.
What can we do to make a difference?
1. Recycle when possible.
Newspapers and toner cartridges can be reused.
Donate old eyeglasses, cell phones and computers.
Take your own reusable, cloth bag with you when you go to the grocery store
Choose paper over plastic, and then recycle the paper.
2. Make your home green.
Use low-flow shower heads, compact fluorescent light bulbs and other energy-efficient devices. This will help your budget in addition to the environment.
3. Use public transportation when possible.
If you live somewhere where this isn’t possible, think about carpooling or consider buying a fuel-efficient vehicle. Plan your errands ahead to reduce car trips. Again, this will benefit your wallet and the environment.
4. Downsize where you can.
Do you really need a five bedroom home with seven bathrooms when there’s only two of you? Just saying.
5. Stop buying stuff!
We all have to buy stuff, but know the difference between needing and wanting. Spend the few extra bucks in the short-term for better quality that will save you money in the long term.
What ideas do you have that will help your pocketbook and the planet?
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Stuff – Lunch Bunch Ep. 59
Thanks for dropping by. I'm the Director of Digital Marketing for Image-24.com.
My background in business includes non-profit (performing arts), restaurants and Promotions.
Having moved on from my own strategic consulting company, I now write about what interests me. So in this blog, you may read about my thoughts on marketing, health issues and business culture.
You can follow me on Twitter @rayhiltz or @image24Call