Right now, a lot of products -take razor blades, for example- are designed to be consumable. This means they stop working after awhile, so we throw the old ones into landfills and buy more. While this leads to a steady exchange of money prized in a strong economy, it also leads to a lot of unnecessary waste. A shift to a more sustainable culture would have products designed LAST for a long time, so we wouldn’t constantly be throwing away old ones and buying new ones.
Consumer awareness. A more conscious consumer base, willing to invest in a new kind of consumerism would drive a gradual change in the market.
It’s an overly simplistic, and very hypothetical theory.
I think it’s a mix of both sarahtonin’s answer and tomsharpe’s answers. As both the above posters state, the consumer culture is a problem stemming both from the quality of products available and the consciousness of the consumer. Even 30 or 40 years ago, people’s purchases lasted a long time – you bought something, and you took care of it, repairing it over and over until it was literally unusable. Now, if a t-shirt has a tear, it will be thrown away and new one will replace it. Frugality is considered gauche. Change would therefore require a shifting of societal mores, in my opinion at least.
Additionally, the whole idea of a consumption-driven economy is itself problematic. America booms if people buy. I actually read an intersting blog post about this recently (link below if you’re interested). It’s definitely a complex question, but one well worth asking and thinking about.
If you study early 20th century history, you’ll be amazed to learn how many gadgets, gizmos, and other manufactured junk were sold to consumers. Many of these items we’ve never even heard of, hadn’t even realized they had been invented.
If you read biographies of George Washington, you’ll be amazed how much his household ordered: dishes, trinkets, equipment, and other manufactured junk. A lifestyle of purchasing like this drove many planters into debt and even sometimes financial ruin.
There’s no way to curb human nature or the whole basis of our economy. Most people have compulsive desires to acquire junk. Look at the collectors: stamps, coins, trading cards, dolls, cars, etc. Most of our lives our spent collecting junk that winds up in a landfill or an antique store after we die. Our ancient ancestors foraged for berries, nuts, and fruits. The more they collected and hoarded, the greater their chances of survival.
Maybe the only way to deal with the environmental repercussions of this is to make every product 100% compostable. If people want to hoard junk, let ’em. And when they’re done with it, it can all get shredded and composted.
Or maybe virtual/digital. People can hoard all the Megabytes of images, songs, videos, and books they want. No harm to the environment.
We can change our consumerist tendencies by learning to be more self-sufficient. As it turns out, the basic necessities of life are not difficult to come by. Plenty of nutrient-rich food can be grown in our yard with a little planning, labor, and fertilizer. Items such as soap, clothing, and candles can all be made using basic skills and raw materials and substances. Cook your own food from scratch, learn how to sew and patch, or shop from second-hand stores. Take any one of these approaches and you will be combating consumerism! And you will be more empowered as an individual.
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