Consumption and consumerism have become major issues in the United States and other Western countries. Everything from our fast food, to our homes and cars are ‘super-sized,’ meaning that the consumer expects to receive quantity over quality, or in some cases both quantity and quality. Our culture is driven by the idea that we must consume to show both social and economic status. Suburban sprawl and the mindset that it brings with it has become the definition of unsustainable land use. With the desire to consume comes a serious environmental impact as products are discarded as soon as the newer version is introduced. A rise in consumerist tendencies has created a society that is disconnected with the waste it produces and the impact of that waste on the environment.
We all contribute to the Western consumerist culture. With new iPhones, technology, and fashion trends revealed every year, we must consume in order to keep up with a constantly changing world. However, I doubt many of us stop to consider where our iPhone 4 and other discarded items ended up after we were done with them. While recycling does help mitigate the problem our wasteful practices create, it is not enough to keep up with the demands of our society’s consumption. Becoming aware of the of consumption patterns and attempting to make changes will help the situation immensely.
Consumption is not limited to the products we use and discard, but also the land and resources we use when building new retail and housing developments. Every time I visit my hometown, there seems to be another clear cut piece of land waiting for new construction. I have to wonder, do we really need all of this? The sprawl associated with suburbia is notoriously unsustainable. The only viable transportation is by car. Densifying living spaces and urbanizing cities and the suburbs has become an increasingly popular method of mitigating some of the unsustainable practices associated with suburbia.
Our culture has evolved into something that we will not be able to sustain in the future. In order to face this issue, we must all be more mindful of our consumption patterns and greater impact on the environment. Resources such as carbon footprint calculators are good ways to put consumerism and consumption in perspective.