The Consequences of Consumer Culture

Overconsumption, also known as excess consumerism, is a serious and increasing modern problem faced in developed countries. Overconsumption – when an individual or group purchases an amount of goods that exceeds its necessary amount – is a more recent phenomenon, as our current market system was severely lacking until the early 20th century. 

Industrialization and modernization established a consumer culture in America that continues to thrive today. As America shifted from an economic model centered around local towns and cities, to a national open market system, ways of life also shifted. Big businesses and corporations established assembly lines and factory production to fuel the economy and growing consumerism. For these techniques to continue indefinitely, businesses use a technique called “planned obsolescence”, which isthe practice of making or designing something (such as a car) in such a way that it will only be usable for a short time so that people will have to buy another one.” Planned obsolescence, along with frequent advertising and perceived obsolescence – which is the idea that goods need replacing even when they are still usable – has caused Americans to over consume severely. This extreme excess poses a significant threat to the environment and is a major cause of pollution and habitat degradation. Excess consumerism of food items, luxury goods, and other commodities leads to environmental damage and an overall decrease in the quality of life in consumerist nations. 

Many scientists have pointed out the “connection between an excessively materialistic outlook” and increased levels of anxiety, depression, and a loss of community, which lowers the overall happiness in a consumerist nation. This way of life is not only detrimental to an individual/community’s mental health and social life, but it also destroys the natural world. Excessive production wastes energy and non-renewable resources. Overconsumption depletes the planet of necessary finite resources; using resources unnecessarily in industrialized nations takes those resources away from those in nations who do not have the basic commodities, such as food, water, and clothing, that the United States and other developed nations exploit every day. 

To combat the serious consequences of overconsumption and decrease waste, nations should adopt the mentality of “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” Additionally, corporations and big businesses should stop practicing planned obsolescence and the promotion of buying and selling cultures. Consumers should also take it upon themselves to only purchase goods when necessary.

Overconsumption will naturally worsen over time if no intervention – either on a consumer or corporate level – is made. It is critical that this issue becomes a priority for governments, corporations, and interest groups now, in order to preserve the environment and happiness of people around the world.