• Rachana Kadikar

How Mass Consumerism Impacts the Environment

In the United States, we live in a bubble of consumerism, even basing our lifestyles and goals around it. We can't scroll through social media, watch a TV show, go on a drive, or do anything without being confronted with advertisements. However, these extremely high-levels of consumption aren't sustainable, and can have adverse environmental effects.

The Rise of Mass Consumerism

Following the Great Depression that was supposedly worsened by underconsumption, a consumption-driven economic model began to rise in dominance in the United States. After the second World War, veterans had returned home, women now had a much larger role in the workforce, and there was a boom in mass production and the middle class as a result. Public redistributive policies emerged with goals of increasing purchasing power and improving the economy by decreasing prices and increasing incomes. However, this significant rise in aggregate demand and long-run aggregate supply would come at costs to the environment.

Consumerism on Supply

With a culture of mass consumerism, people have a higher marginal propensity to consume, which leads to a higher aggregate demand. This leads to a higher quantity supplied in the economy than if this culture wasn't as prominent. However, to increase this quantity supplied, manufacturing companies must resort to increasing inefficient mass production and further depleting the resources of the environment. This leads to an increase in pollution and carbon emissions, deforestation, and ultimately, an acceleration of climate change. In addition, on the microeconomic front, businesses try to cut costs to increase profits with this demand by reducing the sustainability of their goods, which can end up accumulating as trash in sensitive locations like oceans.

Consumerism on Demand

Consumers feed into consumerism by accumulating disposable products like plastic bags and cheaply-manufactured goods, only to dispose of them away after a short-period of time. In addition, the rise of fast fashion has led to poor labor conditions as well as negative environmental impacts. People will buy clothes with the cheap prices in mind and will discard of them after only wearing it a couple times. This leads again to a large increase in accumulated waste, and an increase in demand for fast fashion leads to them producing more under unsustainable conditions.

Personal effects of Mass Consumerism

With increased impulsive buying habits, people are going further into debt and have to finance these buying habits. As a result, they are spending less time taking care of their well-being and less times with family and friends.