Have We All Been Tricked Into Consumerism?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer:

We live in a culture of ‘want want want’, we want cheap mass clothing and we all want the latest tech trends that will eventually get chucked in landfill. This is called Consumerism; it’s a social and economic ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts. According to the State of the World 2004 by the Worldwatch Institute — 1.7 billion people worldwide now belong to the “consumer class” — the group of people characterised by diets of highly processed food, desire for bigger houses, more and bigger cars, higher levels of debt, and lifestyles devoted to the accumulation of non-essential goods.

Why haven’t more people stopped to think, why the fuck are we all so obsessed with consuming so much?

Advertising is clever

Last Christmas in London I went to an exhibition at the V&A Museum on the 1960s titled ‘You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966–1970’. There was a section of the exhibition on the rise of advertising in the western world and how it’s really changed our culture and perception of consumption.

Look at brands like Coca-Cola, invented in the 19th century, it’s become an integral product across the world that people love due to clever marketing. Everyone just ignores the fact that it’s disgusting and terrible for your health (no one is marketed that fact). The adverts make you feel happy and loved; therefore you associate the drink with those emotions. It’s the same with all large corporations; they shove their shitty products down our throat with clever advertising. Subtle advertising is ever increasing and eventually all the content we view will be sponsored by a brand somewhere trying to flog their shit to us. This is also dangerous as ‘Green-washing’ has become common practice in companies recently, so as consumers we are being tricked into thinking companies are good when they aren’t!

What’s the problem?

Most of the environmental issues we see today can be linked to consumption,” said Gary Gardner, director of research for Worldwatch.

Environmental — The world is suffering from the world’s overconsumption, especially from the western world. Our “throwaway culture” has increased our use of waste and the world can’t keep going at the rate we are consuming: Natural resources, land, species and increasing waste. To keep up with our culture, mass production worldwide is increasing to keep up with demand and competition for cheaper products and use of synthetic materials. We can’t dispose of our waste efficiently so it’s ending up in our oceans. The whole process of “throwaway culture” and mass production is also causing extreme global warming from greenhouse gases. The fashion industry is one of the largest contributors to global warming and pollution.

Social — With an increase in consumption seems to come with an increase in social equality. One example is the London Riots which some have suggested symbolizes a consumer society as people went out and targeted shops. There was a clear anger towards people that could afford high end products. We also apparently work harder than ever before and seem to have ever increasing debt. This may be due to spending our lives striving to afford a luxury lifestyle of being able to afford more and more. I don’t know about anyone else but I want to go back to the simple lifestyle of buy what you need.

Health — Well obviously, pollution and global warming is bad for humans and nature…which again will eventually kill us all off. It’s also not good for our health to be working so much and obsessing over consumption.

Fight the system

Consumerism drives our economy, yes. However, we can slow it down and change our culture and therefore corporations. We can still buy stuff but with conscience and awareness of what we are buying.

- Watch less ads for brands that don’t align with your values or you know are bad. Clicking on their ads and watching them provides the corporation with money. Be mindful about what you are watching and why, don’t be tricked! This was suggested on a recent podcast Conscious Chatter with Syama Meagher — using mindfulness for entrepreneurs.

- Treasure what you have. The simple things in life are the best, spend your money on experiences rather than possessions! Take a trip to the outdoors rather than buying a new shirt you don’t need from a store that’s unethical and unsustainable. Read up on becoming a minimalist (it’s supposed to make you more happy) here.

- Recycle the stuff you have or swap with others. Turn your shirt into a skirt (go to a sewing class) or swap clothes with your mates to get a wardrobe refresh. It reduces the impact on the environment and saves you money!

- Hassle the brands you love and tell them what you don’t like about them, RESEARCH & RAISE YOUR VOICE.