Restaurants in the US have more than
doubled their portion sizes since the
1980s. The average bagel has grown
from 3" to 6" in diameter, and the
average soda size has increased
by 13.5 ounces. SourceSource 2
in the past 25 years, the apparel industry, the entire global
economy, has undergone a complete transformation. The way our clothes
are made and distributed and thrown away is barely recognizable compared
to the way it was done in the ’90s. And yet our playbook for improving
it remains exactly the same.
This year, I spoke with more than 30 company reps, factory auditors
and researchers and read dozens of studies describing what has happened
in those sweatshops since they became a cultural fixation three decades
ago. All these sources led me to the same conclusion: Boycotts have
failed. Our clothes are being made in ways that advocacy campaigns can’t
affect and in places they can’t reach. So how are we going to stop
Definitely an interesting weekend read. And not quite as hopeless as it sounds. The rest is here.
Consumerism becomes excessive when it extends beyond what is needed. When we begin consuming more than is needed, boundaries are removed. Personal credit allows us to make purchases beyond our income-level. Advertisements subtly reshape our desires around material possessions. And the consumption culture that surrounds us begins to make excessive consumption appear natural and normal.
Excessive consumption leads to bigger houses, faster cars, trendier clothes, fancier technology, and overfilled drawers. It promises happiness, but never delivers. Instead, it results in a desire for more… a desire which is promoted by the world around us. And it slowly begins robbing us of life. It redirects our God-given passions to things that can never fulfill. It consumes our limited resources.
And it is time that we escape the vicious cycle.
It is time to take a step back and realize that excessive consumption is not delivering on its promise to provide happiness and fulfillment. Consumption is necessary, but excessive consumption is not. And life can be better lived (and more enjoyed) by intentionally rejecting it.
Consider this list of ten practical benefits of escaping excessive consumerism in your life:
1) Less debt. The average American owns 3.5 credit cards and $15,799 in credit card debt… totaling consumer debt of $2.43 trillion in the USA alone. This debt causes stress in our lives and forces us to work jobs that we don’t enjoy. We have sought life in department stores and gambled our future on the empty promises of their advertisements. We have lost.
2) Less life caring for possessions. The never-ending need to care for the things we own is draining our time and energy. Whether we are maintaining property, fixing vehicles, replacing goods, or cleaning things made of plastic, metal, or glass, our life is being emotionally and physically drained by the care of things that we don’t need—and in most cases, don’t enjoy either. We are far better off owning less.
3) Less desire to upscale lifestyle norms. The television and the Internet has brought lifestyle envy into our lives at a level never before experienced in human history. Prior to the advent of the digital age, we were left envying the Jones’ family living next to us—but at least we had a few things in common (such as living in the same neighborhood). But today’s media age has caused us to envy (and expect) lifestyle norms well beyond our incomes by promoting the lifestyles of the rich and famous as superior and enviable. Only an intentional rejection of excessive consumerism can quietly silence the desire to constantly upscale lifestyle norms.
4) Less environmental impact. Our earth produces enough resources to meet all of our needs, but it does not produce enough resources to meet all of our wants. And whether you consider yourself an environmentalist or not, it is tough to argue with the fact that consuming more resources than the earth can replenish is not a healthy trend—especially when it is completely unnecessary.
5) Less need to keep up with evolving trends. Henry David Thoreau once said, “Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but religiously follows the new.” Recently, I have been struck by the wisdom and practical applicability of that thought whether relating to fashion, decoration, or design. A culture built on consumption must produce an ever-changing target to keep its participants spending money. And our culture has nearly perfected that practice. As a result, nearly every year, a new line of fashion is released as the newest trend. And the only way to keep up is to purchase the latest fashions and trends when they are released… or remove yourself from the pursuit altogether.
6) Less pressure to impress with material possessions. Social scientist Thorstein Veblen coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption” to describe the lavish spending on goods and services acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth. In his 1899 book, The Theory of the Leisure Class, this term was used to describe the behavior of a limited social class. And although the behavior has been around since the beginning of time, today’s credit has allowed it to permeate nearly every social class in today’s society. As a result, no human being (in consumption cultures) is exempt from its temptation.
7) More generosity. Rejecting excessive consumerism always frees up energy, time, and finances. Those resources can then be brought back into alignment with our deepest heart values. When we begin rejecting the temptation to spend all of our limited resources on ourselves, our hearts are opened to the joy and fulfillment found in giving our personal resources to others. Generosity finds space in our life (and in our checkbooks) to emerge.
8) More contentment. Many people believe if they find (or achieve) contentment in their lives, their desire for excessive consumption will wane. But we have found the opposite to be true. We have found that the intentional rejection of excessive consumption opens the door for contentment to take root in our lives. We began pursuing minimalism as a means to realign our life around our greatest passions, not as a means to find contentment. But somehow, minimalism resulted in a far-greater contentment with life than we ever enjoyed prior.
9) Greater ability to see through empty claims. Fulfillment is not on sale at your local department store—neither is happiness. It never has been. And never will be. We all know this to be true. We all know that more things won’t make us happier. It’s just that we’ve bought into the subtle message of millions upon millions of advertisements that have told us otherwise. Intentionally stepping back for an extended period of time helps us get a broader view of their empty claims.
10) Greater realization that this world is not just material. True life is found in the invisible things of life: love, compassion, and solidarity. Again, we all know there are things in this world that are far more important than what we own. But if one were to research our actions, intentions, and receipts, would they reach the same conclusion? Or have we been too busy seeking happiness in all the wrong places?
Escaping excessive consumption is not an easy battle. If it were, it would be done more often… myself included. But it is a battle worth fighting because it robs us of life far more than we realize.
Excessive consumption promises happiness, but never delivers. True life must be found somewhere else.
Economists are divided on just how to define and measure inequality. The most-cited measures of inequality involve income, but some economists say income data have too many flaws to be the primary measure of inequality. They argue that consumption is a better measure of economic well-being. And a third way to look at economic inequality involves household wealth.
“I’ve never even been dizzy off liquor – and never been high or anything. People are always shovin’ it at you, but it’s not beautiful; it’s sloppy. If people want to escape, they should walk the beach or be around children.”
After my father passed away, I started the process of picking up the pieces. Paperwork was filled and filed, ceremonies held. Then we had to empty out his old apartment. The month we spent cleaning out his old apartment shocked us all. There was just so much stuff. Bags of clothing, random knicknacks, mountains of books, kitchenware, furniture. A lifetime’s accumulation of things.
It was cruelly ironic.
My dad invested countless hours, loads of money and energy into acquiring, transporting, moving and maintaining these possessions. Now, after his death, we were struggling to make away with it all. As the move-out day came closer, we even started panicking. How could we ever find a way to dispose of all of this stuff?
Photo Description: In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifth just 1.5%.
“We have been duped into moving capitalism’s problems around instead of resolving them, into the foolish notion that buying green is an act of divergence from capitalist exploitation.
Worried about car emissions? Buy Tesla’s Model S. Want to fight water misuse? Take shorter showers. Concerned for underserved children around the world? Use a credit card that supports a NGO. Interested in bettering working conditions for exploited laborers? Look for the “fair trade” stamp at corporate outlet malls.
All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.
“Today we use far fewer materials than we once did to get the same things done—a phenomenon known as “dematerialization.” But, paradoxically, this efficiency seems to drive up overall consumption. In Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization, a deeply researched statistical profile of global material use, author Vaclav Smil lays out just how much stuff we need to live modern lives.
“We Make More with Less…
“Material intensity continues to fall dramatically. In the U.S., the amount of resources extracted per dollar of GDP has decreased by nearly 75% over the past 90 years.(…)
“But We Consume More Than Ever
“As efficiency rises, so does affordability, putting ever more products within reach of ever more consumers. As a result, the amount of resources extracted for every person on the planet has skyrocketed even as the global population has multiplied….”