Overconsumption is ruining the planet


Juana Garcia/The Cougar

It’s no secret that America lives in a consumerism culture. There is a constant advertisement for a brand new thing, whether that be clothes, appliances or electronics. All this overconsumption is horrible for the earth, so if possible, Americans should try to change up their buying habits. 

America wasn’t always a consumer culture. While people have always consumed what they need, such as appliances and clothes to wear, there wasn’t always the emphasis on buying the next best thing.

Around the 1900s, there started to be a change in the general public from buying things for usefulness versus buying things because of trends. Retail clothing shops turned into giant corporations utilizing quicker assembly methods due to new technology.

In order to get people to buy all these new products being made, companies began using advertising extensively, creating new needs and fulfilling those needs with the products.

Now what was once only available to the extremely rich could be made in a factory, and now available in a department store.

One result of this change in how products were made and advertised is how electronics are sold today. New phones come out almost every year. Old iPhones are not supported by Apple Inc. software after a certain time, which encourages customers to buy the newer products.

Those older discarded iPhones often turn to waste. Electronic waste is reported as the fastest growing waste stream in the world. E-waste has accumulated to be over 53.4 million pounds and only 17 percent is recycled. 

As consumers keep buying new electronics, e-waste continues to pile up and leak toxic substances like mercury and arsenic into the environment. 

Fashion trends come and go within a month resulting in people wearing clothes for less time and donating them or throwing them away after. Many donated clothes still end up in landfills, increasing the amount of plastic in the environment. 

Overconsumption is ruining the environment and the obvious way to stop it would be for people to consume less. 

This isn’t realistic for everyone. People need clothes and they need electronics.

However, in a world where it’s the norm for influencers to post monthly hauls of brand new clothes they bought, there’s a clear issue. Many people are not buying intuitively but just buying on impulse.  However, there are some ways to prevent overconsumption.

One way to lessen consumption is to try and think about desired purchases before buying them.

People often will impulse buy and then realize they won’t actually use what they bought. Put the item on a wishlist and wait a few days to see if you still want it before buying it. 

When you do buy things like clothes, try to buy clothes that last longer than some fast fashion.

For example, clothes from SHEIN are inexpensive but they may fall apart after a few months because they’re cheaply made. Try to buy something of good material and take care of it so that you won’t have to buy it again in a few years. 

Another way of trying to lessen consumption is to buy from thrift stores. The clothes have already been made and sold so you’re not contributing to your carbon footprint by buying them.

However, go ahead and look at the clothes to see if they are good quality by making sure seams aren’t coming undone and the fabric isn’t fragile. People send what they don’t want to thrift stores, so it’s important to make sure what you’re buying is a quality purchase.

Unfortunately, as an individual, it’s hard to make an impact on consumption levels as a whole. Still, consuming less is better than overconsumption and you can do that with thoughtful purchases, quality purchases and thrifting when possible. 

Anna Baker is an English senior who can be reached at [email protected]

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