How to bridge the gap between consumerism and Sustainability?

A Guide to Making Consumerism More Sustainable: Consumerism is increasing day by day. Luxuries of yesterday have become necessities of today. The latest trends are prompting consumers to buy more and more. Increasing trends and the tendency to show off is responsible for the fact that people have started buying what they desire and not what they actually need. The increasing desire to enhance standard of living has guided people to live in a false but lofty pride. And as a result, we are facing various repercussions which can be prevented if we control our needs.

People’s short-sightedness has played a pivotal role in making them suffer. Owing to the spread of consumerism, human needs are ever increasing and so are the human sufferings. Consumerism has increased ignorance towards environmental awareness.

Some of the externalities of consumerism which need to be brought before everyone are given below.

1. Changing definition of luxury

Earlier, luxury meant something which only the rich could afford. But gone are the days when using luxuries implied being opulent. Today, people have started viewing luxuries and needs on an equal footing. Luxuries are becoming ‘ basic minimum needs ‘ for some groups which is certainly not sustainable.

Some of the so-called rich families do not get satisfied even after getting luxuries. Their crave for exhibiting affluence compels them to buy new luxuries from time to time. There are people who want a new sofa set and trending wooden work in their homes each year. Such people are completely unmindful about the harm it does to our environment. There are aesthetics who endorse gold jewellery only and that is why metals like brass have to be gold plated. They don’t realize that brass has its own beauty!

2. Fiscal indiscipline among households

Increasing consumerism is a byproduct of globalization. The multinational companies attract the households by providing products at reasonable prices. People find it difficult to ignore the lucrative offers like ‘Buy 2, Get 1 free‘ or ‘Up to 50% off‘. These companies exploit the psychological state of consumers that when consumers see some kind of offer or discount, they tend to purchase the product irrespective of the fact that it was not at all a necessity. And this is what consumerism has done.

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People have started spending so much on luxuries that they do not take care of their budget, earnings or savings. There can be numerous examples of families which were quite rich but today, they find it difficult to come out of the vicious circle of poverty. This desire of consuming more has resulted in fiscal indiscipline.

3. Negligence towards environment

Consumerism has complemented the processes of industrialization and urbanization in environmental degradation. With the onset of consumerism, the rate of waste generation has increased substantially and there are no concerns about waste management. The production process includes treating harmful chemicals which are anyway aggravating the problem of environmental pollution. For example, large scale mining is done to extract mica minerals which are used in the cosmetic industry. This large scale mining leads to deforestation and harms nature and wildlife.

The more we need, the more we spend. And the more we spend, the more we suffer. Thus, people need to learn that running towards luxuries will lead them nowhere but into a deep pit of sufferings and helplessness. Looking at the present scenario, it is important that the people are reminded of the concept of sustainable development frequently.

It is quite obvious that consumerism is not sustainable in the long run. If all this continues at the present rate, there will be soon a do or die situation as we do not have any other planet to go to and live on. Hence, the future of the world is — ‘Sustainable Fashion‘.

Here are some of the ways which we can adopt as solutions

1. Check the product labels

In order to choose eco-friendly products, we can check the product labels as it contains information about the materials used, source of power used while producing, waste disposal method, power consumption details (in case of electronic devices) etc. We should go for the goods which are produced by using natural raw materials and renewable sources of energy like solar energy, hydro energy, wind energy etc. For example, we should discard the use of synthetic fibres as they are not nature-friendly. Non-biodegradable substances like plastic should be boycotted. It is essential to embrace such practices as we ourselves are constituents of nature.

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2. The culture of reuse has to be redeveloped

In earlier times, it was quite common to see that a piece of cloth was discarded by households only when it was used for at least four to five times and its last use would be to sweep the floor. This is one of the best strategies of reuse which was practised by our grandparents but it has become obsolete now simply because there are only a few people who feel the urge of reusing things. Thus, it is necessary to cultivate the culture of reuse so that waste generation can be reduced.

3. Go green

The ultimate finding is that we need to adopt a ‘green lifestyle’. Firstly, we can prefer to have organic food as it does not involve usage of fertilizers, pesticides or other harmful chemicals. Non-veg food and fast foods should always be avoided.

Secondly, we should go for natural fibres like cotton and jute instead of synthetic fibres like polyester, nylon etc. as synthetic fibres are not compostable and thus, contribute to waste generation.

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Some other environmentally unfriendly materials which need to be avoided are toxic chemicals and all plastic products like water bottles, containers, polythene bags etc. People should select energy-efficient appliances and thus, try to reduce their energy consumption. Practices like rain water harvesting should be mandated to adopt. We can always choose bicycles over motor vehicles for short distance rides. Using public transport and practising car pooling can also make a huge difference.

4. Go for thrift shopping

Nowadays, there are many bazaars or shops where thrift shopping takes place. This is the best way to reduce the waste generated through used and thrown clothes and other such items. There are various NGOs which have opened both online as well as offline thrift stores. Thrift shopping has emerged as a very effective step towards sustainable fashion as it involves recycling and reusing.

5. Identify the actual needs

The solution lies in controlling our needs. Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘’ There is enough for everybody’s need, but not for anybody’s greed’’. Hence, there is only one option left in front of us — the luxuries are to be avoided and only necessities are to be taken care of. This is the only viable way to minimise human sufferings in the end. So, try to remain happy by demanding less!

The need of the hour is to spread awareness about sustainable fashion among masses, joining campaigns through NGOs, involving debates and talks in mass media and to do all what is required and essential. Also, individual efforts are must in this direction so that together we can succeed in creating a ‘market for green products‘.

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