No matter where you happen to be reading this article, you can see examples of consumerism all around you. Take a moment and look around. What do you notice? Do you see only things that are essential for sustaining and enjoying human life, or is there plenty of waste to be found? Of course, the answer to that question is obvious, even without looking around. We live in a consumer culture, and the amount of waste we produce is simply staggering. In this post, we’d like to take some time to examine the effects of consumerism on waste and potential solutions to help reduce waste.
At the heart of our consumerist culture is the very economy on which our modern society is structured. Capitalism requires growth in order to thrive, and in this context, growth means the production and sale of more goods and services. Making and selling more is seen as a positive, while making and selling less would be seen as a negative. Those who grew up in a capitalist country learn from a very young age that it is desirable to have a large income in order to accrue as many possessions as possible. That lesson is not one which is taught overtly, but rather through the actions of others.
In the end, what comes out of an economy that is focused largely on growth is an incredible quantity of goods produced. Indeed, we tend to measure the success of a given nation in part by its GDP, or gross domestic product. This is simply a measure of how much ‘stuff’ a country is able to create in a given year. In a system that rewards volume above nearly all else, there is going to be plenty of waste produced along the way.
Before we spend too much time discussing the shortfalls of consumerism, it needs to be said that there are plenty of positives to remember, as well. For starters, residents working and living in such an environment tend to have access to everything needed for life and leisure. Not only is there food available along with shelter, medical care, entertainment, and on and on, but there are also plenty of choices within those categories. There are downsides to such extreme consumption, but one upside is the ready availability and variety of goods that support a high quality of life.
You may be thinking that people spending their hard-earned money on things they don’t really need is their own problem. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. There is a cost to all of us when consumerism kicks into overdrive and goes far and beyond what we really need to consume.
One key downside here is the sheer amount of waste that is produced along the way. If we are talking about physical goods, there is some amount of waste that is produced at virtually every stop from start to finish. Even small products can be responsible for plenty of waste before they make it to market. Even more waste is created by packaging, and eventually the item itself may simply be thrown away.
Here’s the thing. There is a lot to like about being a consumer, and there are plenty of benefits to be enjoyed that can truly add to your quality of life. At CITIBIN, we provide products that support that system in part by providing a package lock box to bring more goods to your home safely and a quality trash enclosure to sort those goods into trash and recycling on the way out.
We get that, and we appreciate what it means to have so much available at any given time. Yet there has to be a middle ground, a happy medium where people can have the things they need and want without senselessly creating tons of additional waste.
Two great ways to improve here are to consume less and to recycle more. That’s a powerful combination. By following this simple practice, you will send less to the landfill because you are purchasing less in the first place—and more of what you do purchase will be recycled. If you are willing to pay attention to your consumption habits as well as what can be recycled and what has to be trash, you can make a positive impact in your own way.
At CITIBIN, we think a lot about waste. Yes, we take pride in helping people manage their waste effectively with our trash and recycling enclosures—but we would love to play a role in helping to further reduce the amount of waste our culture creates. There is a lot of room to improve in this area, and we hope you will join us in making a commitment to reducing waste, one small step at a time.