Series: ‘7 days of garbage’ | photography: Gregg Segal

“Both “Less is more” and “More is more” are the catchphrases of a consumer society faced with unimagined plenty. Following World War II, “Less is more” suggested unease with mass abundance: restraint became an emblem of refinement. Two decades of uninterrupted prosperity later, “More is more” poked fun at its abstemious parent. It is also a fitting description of the way we live now. Even if you think yourself a reluctant shopper, consider all of the resources used to create our material world: the steel to build our homes (especially the Miesian ones), the natural gas to fire our furnaces, the aluminum in our smartphones and tablets. In the world’s richest countries, consumption has ballooned by over a third in the past few decades to the point that in 2010, each person in the thirty-four richest nations consumed over 220 pounds of stuff every day. How did we come to be such voracious, irrepressible consumers?”

Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First, by Frank Trentmann