The Epidemic of Overconsumption


Vritti Godani, Publicity Manager

We would require 5.1 Earths to support the population if everyone on the planet lived the same lifestyle Americans do. With the rise of fast fashion websites such as Shein (which lists over 5000 new products each day), short-lasting social media trends, and a rapid increase in online shopping consumerism, it is no surprise that Americans live an unsustainable lifestyle that our planet is paying the price for. 

Although Americans and Western Europeans account for 12% of the world’s population, they are responsible for 60% of the world’s consumption. Social media influencers went from posting yearly Black Friday hauls to sponsored clothing hauls weekly, promoting fashion microtrends and unethical clothing brands. Furthermore, lifestyle microtrends promote different decor, and aesthetics are not everlasting and encourage the production and consumption of products that you “must have” but are not likely to use more than once. These products end up being discarded, and because they were produced on a whim to meet demand, sustainability was not part of the criteria, ultimately leading to an increase in the amount of mercury and other harmful chemicals that are released into the environment. The veiled fault in simply shopping is revealed when most subconscious festive purchases often fail to regard the impact of overconsumption or the immoral production of the item. Americans will often disregard any issues with their purchase as long as they are at the benefit which further tolerates overconsumption and its harmful effects. 

Think about all the different seasonal decorations, foods, gifts, and such that you see while walking through Target or Walmart. There is an overproduction of such goods, which encourages more impulsive purchases and ignores intuitive shopping. Themed and festive candles, scented lotion, and such items are unnecessary, and although it is okay to indulge once in a while, social media has made a norm out of impulsive and constant shopping. This increases the number of products that are bought but never used. Nobody thinks about the impact of purchasing Halloween-themed pillows during such a festive season, but Americans are not only ruining their land, but they are also promoting methods of production that are degrading to others due to the outsourcing of production to increase profits. Again, Americans will be ignorant as long as convenience serves them, whether it be through production or purchase, which, in turn, promotes overconsumption and normalizes it, despite its harms. 

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw the short-lived impact of lessening consumption (before the rise of Shein), which resulted in a clear view of the Himalayas for the first time in ages, cleaner seas, and breathable air in developing countries. Although these effects were not everlasting, they show how we can improve our environmental conditions, despite how impossible it may seem. Additionally, the United Nations (UN) states that sustainable consumption and production can help take significant steps towards improving poverty and can help guide the shift to low-carbon and green economies.  It has also been proven that sustainable methods of production and consumption reduce greenhouse gas emissions (which reduces air pollution) and help favor local businesses as opposed to big corporations. 

Yes, the easy answer would be to consume less, spend less money, and live a minimalist lifestyle. But for many Americans, that seems unrealistic and poses a complete lifestyle shift. Instead of offering unrealistic options, we should focus on promoting choices that seem more manageable such as thrift shopping, which reduces overproduction and carbon emissions through factories, or shopping/selling second-hand through online sources like Mercari or Depop to prevent unwanted items from ending up in the landfill. 

The effects of global warming and climate change are fully evident, not only through natural disasters but in our day-to-day life, including how we dress. We have about seven years before climate change is completely irreversible, and every small, positive lifestyle change adds more time to the clock, even if it is a mere millisecond. I am not asking you to change your lifestyle completely, but please, for the sake of our planet, make some compromises. 


Photo courtesy of UNSPLASH.COM