The Roots of Consumerism

consumerism

If you scroll through your Instagram or Snapchat, you’ve undoubtedly seen at least a few pictures of Kylie Jenner and her latest addition to her makeup line, or maybe you’ve read the brand new scoop on the upcoming iPhone, or the newest shoe trend literally everyone seems to follow (like this one, basically) Sit down with your family for dinner, and your sister will tell you about amazing deals in this store or that one. In fact, the average American sees 1600 advertisements everyday. It seems as though we are constantly on this search for the newest thing, the newest trend to follow, and what to buy. The truth is, it wasn’t always like this. 70 or even 60 years ago, everyone (with the exception of the rich) brought things purely out of necessity. Unnecessary spending was frowned upon and seen as wasteful. So, how did we ever come to be such a consumerist society?

In order to understand this question, we first have to know that to live means to consume. As humans, and as living things, we have always and will always consume oxygen to breathe, food to eat, and water to drink. Consumption isn’t a bad thing; it’s completely natural and it’s been going on since we came to be. However, as technology has advanced, so has our ability to consume. An example of this is food. We could potentially live off the same simple diet our great-grandparents did just fine. But now that we have the technology and means to enjoy delicacies like chocolate, burgers, and ice creams, why would we ever want to settle for less? Another example is clothing. Really, two or three sets of good quality clothing is all we need.  But with so much choice, and so much pressure to fit in (or to stand out), buying clothes has become somewhat of a hobby for many. Now we need a different pair of earrings to go with every outfit, a fresh shirt for every day of the week, and they all need to be washed and ironed to perfection. (keep in mind that this contributes to our growing rate of energy use, which means air pollution) Humans have always loved to consume, but now that it’s so much more convenient, it’s come to the point where it’s taken over our lives.

Especially since the end of World War Two; America was experiencing expansion in many ways. There was a great economic boom, as well as a Baby Boom, and as men were returning home from war the suburban culture was born. An easy, fun, and much-needed lifestyle was marketed towards the new families after the depression the war had caused. Processed food, plastic toys, saran wrap: all of these daily and convenient household necessities had been invented during this time, making USA the standard of living across the world. This easy lifestyle spread quickly, but the problem is that the ‘simplifying’ of our lives still hasn’t stopped today. Whether it be doggy treat dispensers , or a hands-free book holder, our desire to make our lives easier is messing them up much more than is obvious.

And there are actually many of us who do care about the environment, and we do want to make a difference; but the solutions we learn about in school and see on the TV have turned being ‘eco-friendly’ into a business. Ideas like ‘buy a more energy-efficent dish washer!’, or ‘buy an electric car!’ are often nothing more than schemes dreamed up by the same businesses who messed up the environment in the first place.  It’s kind of like becoming obese because of fast food and then McDonald’s pretending that they’re good for you now that they have salads. It just isn’t idealistic or real. Consumerism is causing us to forget the good life Mother Nature made for us. Fruit is candy, our legs are our transportation, and nature is our playground.

And no, you don’t need a doggy treat dispenser. That’s what a bowl is for. Nor do you need a hands-free book holder. That’s why you have hands!

By Gurher Sidhu

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Benefits of Buying Less for the World

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed” – Mahatma Gandhi

earth-waste

fotokanal.com

The moment something breaks, becomes slightly worn, or even just a little outdated, we rush to the store in order to search for a new object to replace the old one. Whether it be the latest fashions, the newest iPhone, or even just a spontaneous urge to shop, we are constantly buying, spending , and splurging; whatever you call it. However, many of us don’t stop and consider how our rampant shopping habits are impacting the rest of the world; the world in which our kids, grand kids, and great-grand kids will eventually build their futures in. Here are three ways that buying less can mean more for the world, and more for the future.

1. Being Frugal is Eco-Friendly

Over consumerism = Waste = Pollution = Global Warming

When we buy a new shirt, or a new backpack, or TV, the only harm that is obvious to us is the money that’s leaving our wallets. But the environmental sacrifice and the waste that companies employ in order to create your new purchase is far heavier than the financial burden.

For example, when you eat a hamburger from a restaurant, a lot of the waste is pretty transparent, like the leftovers and the wrapper.  Then there’s also the land used to raise the cows as well as the land used to feed them. (not to mention that methane emissions from cows are the second highest source of greenhouse gases in the world )  There’s also the water and space needed to sustain the vegetables and wheat growing for both the burger and the bun. In order to transport the cows to process them also creates greenhouse gases through fossil fuels, and the same is for the vegetables, the cheese, and the bun. Even more pollution is created when the ingredients are transported to the actual restaurant, only to be frozen in a freezer that will, undoubtedly, waste more energy. Finally, a customer heads into the drive-thru to fill his/her/their stomach, completely oblivious to the space, resources, and pollution that was needed to fill their stomach. Apply this scenario to every object you own and you will see how consumerism is affecting Mother Nature.

The solution to this issue is simply reducing the number of things you buy. If you make the choice to not buy that thing in the first place, that will be one less thing that will need to be produced, and one less thing contributing to global warming (and dying polar bears). Try to buy, when you need to, with a mindset of quality over quantity. This way you’re not only likely to save money, but the item will last longer therefore eliminating the need to replace it so often.

2. Set a Good Example for Your Kids

Children are a big target for companies. Marketers are aware that parents want to do everything they can do to make their children happy, even if that means buying them the latest cool toy when they already have so many. They know that, by planting a desire in the malleable brains of young humans, they will make the parents, who have the power to buy things, buy things!

The truth is, however, it just isn’t right for children to be raised in such a consumerist society. A society in which no one is ever satisfied, because by the time you buy one new thing, a newer version of it is already out.

Consumerism encourages us to be on the lookout for the next best thing, when more often what we have is still in good condition, fully functional and wholly adequate.

And childhood is where children pick up habits, both good and bad. As a parent, you would ideally be their role model. Do you want your child to constantly be comparing themselves to the next kid, to always want more, more, and more? Of course not! You would want your kid to appreciate everything they have, to harbor creativity, and to never, ever have a tantrum in the supermarket lineup over a toy again. So, you have to practice what you preach. Give them not physical things, but your time and love. Treat them to real-life experiences as opposed to constantly buying candy and other stuff. By not giving in to every demand your kid has, you’re teaching them patience, gratitude, and how to be wise with money. You’re teaching them how to entertain themselves, and how to respect their surroundings.  You’re raising a new generation that hopefully, won’t place their happiness in the hands of a few rich CEO’s who know exactly how to manipulate people into becoming consumers.

3. You’re not Supporting a Trend that may be Unethical

The main goal of a business is to earn profits, which is common knowledge. They dream up fancy schemes and advertisements to get your interest, your desire, and ultimately your money. But the measures taken by these companies for profits can be unethical, and even cruel.

For example, countries like USA and Canada have rules and regulations on basic things like minimum wage and working conditions. Other newly industrialized or developing nations such as India, Bangladesh and China are different. Though many of these countries do in fact have laws protecting workers’ rights, they are for the most part ignored or forgotten. Companies build factories in such countries where people are desperate for water and bread. They underpay these workers, who themselves (in many cases) are legally too young to work. They are given dangerous working conditions, and expected to work overtime without any additional pay. Many may argue that these are the reasons that big names like Walmart and Joe Fresh are able to keep costs low, but this to me is another reason why we should stop before we shop.

Another big issue is waste management and pollution. Again, developed nations take advantage of the lesser ones. As with workers’ rights, environmental issues like air pollution and waste disposal are not as regulated in poorer countries. So, more and more factories are built there, contributing to lack of air quality and therefore health problems. In fact, half a million people in India die every year due to air pollution. To top that off, once we westerners have enjoyed our products and send them to the landfills, they travel to places you never could have imagined. Children living in poverty sort through our toxic waste in order to collect a little money. Unsanitary conditions are promoted when our countries deliver garbage to other countries that can’t deal with them.  In a 42 minute long documentary by CNN, Morgan Spurlock explores the ridiculous amounts of trash that is created in USA and how it’s dealt with. The results were eye-opening.

In conclusion, I think that it’s high time that we all just step back to take a look at the bigger picture. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional frivolous purchase. But when it becomes a source of happiness, an unethical practice, and a hobby that is destroying nature, consumerism needs to be acknowledged.

By Gurher Sidhu

Reasons You Should Quit Consumerism

We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.

buy-nothing

You really don’t need new clothes. Or another pair of new shoes. Or anything else companies are convincing you that yes, you do need this in your life. The only thing a company wants is for you to believe them when they say that. They would like nothing more in the world than for you to take out your wallet, pull out your credit card, and swipe it through the payment terminal. They just want your money.

Even if you do have the means to buy whatever you’d like whenever you’d like, it’s not always the best decision for you to make. Here’s 5 reasons why reducing the amount of material goods is the best thing you can do in this very materialistic society.

1.  You’ll Make Money

Every penny saved is a penny earned, right? Though this tip is an obvious one, actually making the conscious decision to buy less unnecessary things to save up more cash will benefit you in the long run.

2. Whatever You Own, Owns You Back

Time is perhaps the most valuable human resource. When you buy, for example, a car, you are not only now responsible for driving the car, but you are also assuming responsibility for washing the car, paying for gas, paying for/doing maintenance, and parking. The car is now consuming your time, effort, space, and quite obviously your money. Take that into consideration the next time you are making a purchase; is it worth the sacrifice?

3. You’ll have a Cleaner Home

If you stop making futile purchases, your living space will become a home for the things you truly need and value. It’ll become that much easier to clean your house and your possessions.

4. You’ll Value What You Do have Even More

It makes complete sense; if you have, say, three pairs of almost-identical black boots , you won’t appreciate their existence and usefulness in your life as opposed to only having one pair. Being mindful and grateful of what you are lucky enough to have is a very humble trait everyone should posses.

5. Less Things = Less Stress

Multiple studies have shown that your physical environment plays a vital role when it comes to your state of mind. A cleaner, minimal atmosphere creates a happy and productive mood. Messy and cluttered rooms are actually proven to create additional stress in our lives. When you no longer buy things you know aren’t necessary in your life, you won’t be further contributing to this stress.

As soon as you begin to adopt a minimal attitude towards shopping, you’ll begin to obtain a sense of freedom in your life. When you walk into a store, you won’t look at everything and contemplate its purpose in your life. Sneaky advertising and schemes won’t deter you anymore because you know what is best for you. In turn, you’ll save money, space, energy, and time. Your time can be better spent doing things more important than standing in a long and hectic lineup. Spend these resources on creating real-life memories and experiences, like a vacation, or even just a massage.

Consumerism has trapped us into thinking that the more you have, the happier your life will become. It’s time to break out of that trap.

By Gurher Sidhu