Nowadays, many people do not measure the amount of things they buy, acquiring products or items that they do not necessarily need. This is an activity known as consumerism.
But what does it really mean? Stick around to find out more.
What is consumerism?
Consumerism has for many years been defined as a tendency to acquire services and products in a cumulative manner, which exceed the needs of individuals. In other words, the things they consume excessively do not mean that they need them.
In fact, it is from this that the term "overconsumption" or "unconscious consumption" arises. However, consumerism can be seen from different points of view.
For example, many speak of consumerism as a doctrine that promotes the purchase of various items or services to satisfy individuals. On the other hand, there are people whose well-being depends entirely on the way they consume. That is why over the years it has been seen as a negative attitude to spend money excessively to obtain unnecessary products.
Why does consumerism originate?
This term started with capitalism and the consumer society in the 20th century. It became popular due to increased production, advertising and industrialisation.
These factors built a culture full of consumption, since they generated a great amount of products and services to acquire, which as a consequence generated excessive buying in a society in which it is believed that the more you have, the better you are.
It is important to note that some researchers point out that consumerism originated in the United States in 1920 during the industrialisation and overproduction of various objects. From then until today, this trend has been marked in many countries around the world, bringing with it both negative and positive consequences.
Important characteristics to consider about consumerism are:
- Sooner or later, luxuries become necessities.
- Demand is generated where it did not exist before
- Happiness depends on the acquisition of material things
- It is a trend that is heavily influenced by marketing.
- It is prominent in advanced countries, elites or among individuals with a high level of income (in countries in constant progress or underdeveloped countries).
What are the causes?
There are many factors that give rise to consumerism, starting progressively just at the ideal moment. However, the causes that stand out are the following:
Consumerism would not have been a trend if it were not for mass production, when goods were accessible. This is very surprising because products used to be priced at unaffordable prices.
Even thanks to supermarkets and department stores, consumerism increased when consumers could buy many products in one place. This turned shopping into a leisure activity.
This happens when the useful life of the product is over, after some time in use, discarding it to be replaced. So various products are manufactured with lower quality and durability with the aim of being replaced much faster, rather than being products that are durable.
Even products such as smartphones, household appliances, computers and cars are suspected of being affected by planned obsolescence.
This factor plays an important role in society, because marketing is used to send messages to consumers directly and indirectly through different media, about products and services that they can consume, such as health, beauty, studies, entertainment, sports, transport, personal relations, tourism, among others.
With the existence of credit cards, consumers no longer have to save and buy a product, but have the possibility to buy the product today and pay for it in part in the future. This progressively increases consumption, even if the individual is unable to pay.
What are the consequences?
Most people blame governments and huge companies for today's climate change. However, they do not realise that excessive household consumption also has a major impact on the environment. The main consequences are:
Affects the environment
Every day thousands of households consume toys, clothes, tools, beverages, electronics, plastic, paper, furniture, food, among others. These cause 60% of greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to using 50% to 80% of the earth's natural resources (water, land and raw materials). As consumerism increases annually, the consumption of natural resources increases.
In addition, it is important to note that this trend is the main generator of waste. By using so many disposable products, it does not remove the need to want to get something new in a short period of time. Even individuals replace the old with something new, even if the "old" is in good condition.
Harm to the economy
Decreasing consumerism, and with it the demand for goods and services, would cause an economic crisis, as well as economic recessions, with truly devastating problems for economic growth, employment and people's well-being.
It is no secret that consumerism increases spending enormously in thousands of families. There are many families who overspend, i.e. spend beyond their means. An important exercise to know if you are buying because of consumerism is: don't buy it. Ask yourself in 3 days' time if you still need it. If so, go ahead.
Families also have to work much harder to generate sufficient income to cover all the products they consume as their expenses increase. In fact, it is no secret that consumers are happy to be able to buy material goods.
Types of Consumerism
For as long as consumerism has existed in different societies, different types of consumerism have been created. This stems from the fact that society applies this tendency in different ways, establishing specific actions within a type of consumerism. The types of consumerism that are common within capitalist society are:
- Experimental consumerism: this is when the consumer sets out to experiment with the usefulness of new products that come onto the market, having the need to try them before other individuals.
- Extraordinary consumerism: this occurs when a person, faced with an important event in his or her life, buys many products, as a consequence of an anxious purchase.
- Occasional consumerism: this type of consumerism is generated when a consumer buys products very rarely, but mainly on specific occasions.
- Habitual consumerism: this is when consumption is part of everyday life, in which the acquisition of goods is frequent, being part of a person's or even a family's lifestyle.
What is the solution?
Today it takes about three planets to cover the style of consumption. By 2050 our planet will simply not be enough for the level of production, pollution and consumption. It is therefore necessary to implement a change of habits and adopt sustainable ones.
Furthermore, it is crucial to note that the data speaks for itself. Currently, people use a plastic bag in 15 minutes, when its component takes many years to degrade, the same happens with bottles, even straws. The best alternative to avoid single-use plastic is to use cloth bags and reusable bottles. In addition, companies and governments should also contribute to sustainability and care for the planet, avoiding generating more waste.
On the other hand, consuming foods such as meat has increased industrial livestock farming, with Spain being the third largest pork exporter in the world. The fact that industrial facilities are increasing considerably is not necessarily good news. That is why it is important to support local sustainable projects and initiatives, which establish a diet where meat consumption is reduced and promote a better quality of life.
Stopping excessive shopping is necessary to stop contributing to waste and shopping. Even in the world of fashion, it is not necessary to opt for the model of wearing and then throwing away the clothes you can still use. In fact, we advise you to be careful in this sector, as it is often disguised as greenwashing. We encourage you to go for conscious and sustainable fashion by creating a capsule wardrobe. If you set out to keep your clothes for a year or two, you will save money, water and raw materials, as well as avoid polluting the environment.
Consumerism generates a lot of environmental problems, so changing your habits has a big impact by generating less waste day after day. Identify what kind of consumerism you are constantly doing and take action. We encourage you to inform yourself and implement small changes in your daily life.
It is time to avoid consumerism and support initiatives that support the protection of the environment by using ecological and sustainable products. Avoid mass production and promote the production of quality products that do not need to be replaced so quickly - it's time to take action on the problem and raise awareness!