How Overconsumption Harms the Environment
Modern technology has made certain areas of our lives faster and more convenient than ever. One example is the modernization of consumption culture, which refers to the social effects of buying and consuming goods.
What is consumer culture?
Say, for example, you know a teenager who wants to get a new phone. When you ask them why they want a new one despite owning an adequate one, they may reply with a:
- “I need a new phone because this one is slow and outdated.”
- “I want one because the new version has better features.”
- “I want a new one because…”
Whatever the reason is, they may say it has something to do with their social life. Modern consumer culture emphasizes how getting the latest and fastest item may improve our social standing. From cellphones to makeup to shoes and cars—these items are desirable because they boost a person’s social standing.
Buying is the new socializing.
Social media exacerbates this through “flex culture,” where teens and young adults show off their latest upgrades, shopping sprees, and vacation online for the world to see. This phenomenon leads to a cycle of:
- Buying something new.
- Posting or flexing it online.
- Using it for a while.
- Get a new ad for possible replacement with more features.
- Tossing aside the item.
- Buying the new item.
Even if we try to prolong our use of “old technology,” many companies use “planned obsolescence” to get people to switch to new products. When a maker discontinues one phone model, its features are considered obsolete, and manufacturers may prevent it from working with more recent and costlier models. These speeds up the cycle of consumption, creating a harmful effect on the environment because of newer items made with raw materials.
How does overconsumption lead to environmental damage?
Overconsumption and overproduction are intertwined. Overconsumption means the excessive buying and using of goods and services. In contrast, overproduction is creating such goods that exceed consumers’ needs.
Overconsumption leads to overproduction. Companies that include planned obsolescence in their product design so people can continue to buy items and replacements for a long time. Rarely do you see a product guaranteed to last you a lifetime in this era. Some may even say that newer kitchen appliances aren’t as durable as vintage ones from the 50s!
Production requires raw materials, many of which come from several global sources. Overproduction can lead to scarcity of raw materials, which eventually become waste as a newer model takes over.
Constant work of raw materials and shipping items to global destinations also create excess carbon emissions, which harm the environment. When unregulated, this can lead to climate change and global warming.
Additionally, overproduction made with natural materials makes it harder for native flora and fauna to survive and thrive. Many species cannot have homes because of human activities like deforestation, excess light pollution, and dumping of wastes in clean waters.
Some final thoughts.
Fortunately, this phenomenon of overproduction and overconsumption is relatively new. This fact makes it easier to reverse its effects. However, we must start things small first to become better examples for others to follow. As much as possible, try to find reliable repairers for appliances, shop for second-hand clothing, and avoid giving in to the hype of getting the latest gadget or sneakers. After all, we can have multiple shopping options but only one planet as a home.