Quantcast

Mindless Overconsumption Is Destroying You and the Planet

www.facebook.com

By Frances Lo

Do your clothes make you happy? Or, after the excitement of the shopping spree fades, does your new stuff tend to lose its in-store magic by the time it's reached your wardrobe?


A new survey of international buying habits has found that we buy far more than we need and use. Two thirds of Hong Kong residents admit they own more than they need. The same is true for 60 percent of Chinese and more than half of German and Italian respondents. But the mindless overconsumption of fashion has become our cultural norm.

Online shopping fuels this overconsumption. It's easier than ever to buy new clothes by clicking through social media feeds whenever you see something you like. And it's a time consuming habit: The average Chinese consumer spends at least two hours online shopping every day.

The reasons for this are emotional and social. For many, comfort buys occur when people need to channel their anxieties. Shopping is a way to kill time, relieve stress and avoid boredom. But the cheap thrill of buying something new dies away pretty fast. Half of the people surveyed said that the immediate excitement of a shopping spree lasted less than a day. After the binge comes the hangover.

When they're not shopping, around a third of the East Asian people surveyed admit feeling empty, bored or lost. What's more, around half feel guilty about their shopping habits, sometimes hiding their purchases from others for fear of negative reactions or accusations of wasting money. Shopping does not make us happy. We already own too much and we know it.

Greenpeace

So why do we shop? We are searching for excitement, looking to increase our self-worth, confidence and recognition. The American media activist and advertising critic, Jean Kilbourne, has commented about how deeply advertisers insinuate themselves by exploiting basic human desires like friendship, happiness and success in advertising for profit.

The result is "Stuffocation," a term coined by British cultural forecaster James Wallman. It describes a state where people's lives are trapped in a vicious cycle of working and accumulating products in order to keep up with the pace of consumerism. This fuels the anxiety of modern life; destroying the planet while keeping us from leading more imaginative, fulfilling lives. Materialism is eating us inside out.

So how do we stop it? Our survey showed that ads, promotions and 1-click buying functions are all designed to trigger impulse buying. The rate of buying increases the more companies speed up delivery. Therefore, the slower the buying process, the lower the desire to shop. To break free from the cycle of consumerism, we need to slow down.

Next time you find yourself about to buy something new online, give yourself a few minutes to think. Sleep on it and see if you still want it in the morning. When we switch off our phones and go outside instead of into shopping malls, we won't buy so much.

The joy of life is ultimately defined by our relationships to each other and the connection we feel to the natural environment. Instead of stuffocating ourselves, let's enjoy the genuine happiness that stems from leading a fulfilled life.

Frances Lo is a campaigner at Greenpeace Taiwan, working on overconsumption.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A drilling rig in a Wyoming natural gas field. William Campbell / Corbis via Getty Images

A U.S. federal judge temporarily blocked oil and gas drilling on 300,000 acres of federal leases in Wyoming Tuesday, arguing that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) "did not sufficiently consider climate change" when auctioning off the land, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
Mizina / iStock / Getty Images

By Ryan Raman, MS, RD

Oats are widely regarded as one of the healthiest grains you can eat, as they're packed with many important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
JPMorgan Chase building in New York City. Ben Sutherland / CC BY 2.0

By Sharon Kelly

A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability speaking on conflict of interest demand of the People's Demands at a defining action launching the Demands at COP24. Corporate Accountability

By Patti Lynn

2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."

Read More Show Less
The head of England's Environment Agency has urged people to stop watering their lawns as a climate-induced water shortage looms. Pexels

England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Jessica Corbett

A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.

Read More Show Less
A flock of parrots in Telegraph Hill, San Francisco. ~dgies / Flickr

By Madison Dapcevich

Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.

Read More Show Less
Fire burns in the North Santiam State Recreational Area on March 19. Oregon Department of Forestry

An early-season wildfire near Lyons, Oregon burned 60 acres and forced dozens of homes to evacuate Tuesday evening, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) said, as KTVZ reported.

The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.

Read More Show Less