What is Consumerism and Why We Should Avoid It

Consumerism has its benefits in that products reach consumers in record times, and markets can standardize prices.

What is Consumerism and Why We Should Avoid It
Photo by Jingxi Lau / Unsplash

What is Consumerism?

Consumerism is the preoccupation of human society with consumer goods. In layman’s terms, it is being obsessed with material possessions and specifically, mass-produced goods and items. It ranges from food products to high-end motor vehicles. Human nature can entail obsession, and we, the 21st-century earthlings, are obsessed with consumer goods. The words ‘consumer goods’ are self-explanatory and entail designer clothes and items, electronics, motor vehicles, shoes, and accessories, among others. We are obsessed with these items.

Technological Advancement and How It Has Propagated Consumerism

The advancement of technology has meant that a lot of what used to take a lot of resources and longer processing times to manufacture is increasingly easy to produce. For instance, in the early days, every alcoholic drink produced would be bottled by hand one at a time. Today, the same drinks are made in the thousands every minute. Mechanization has increased production speeds so much that more and more products get cheaply produced, and ready to go to market in a matter of days.

Modern Culture and How It Feeds Consumerism

Modern culture feeds consumerism and what corporations choose to promote and put out to the world, as per the needs of the people. Think of viagra. If big pharma had missed the opportunity to produce the pills, they would have missed a multi-billion dollar opportunity. Such an example shows how consumerism does not always follow sense and sensibilities.

Another example is the food industry, especially the meat processing sector. Think of salmon produced in tens or hundreds of thousands in Norway. Consumerism is fundamentally the realization that there is a demand for something and producing goods to meet that demand, whatever it takes.

Mass Production and Its Unsustainable Consumerist Nature

Consumer goods are non-specific and produced using a blueprint and model that seeks uniformity in the numerous products produced. Computers, for instance, are built one after the other at a speed that surpasses that of making watches. Think about it, a computer with all its ability gets produced in less time as compared to a watch that only tells time. Mass production and consumerism have become the reality of the 21st century and the three industrial revolutions that have already taken place. Industry 4.0 should, however, be more sustainable.

The Positive Effects of Mass Production and Consumerism

Consumerism has its benefits in that products reach consumers in record times, and markets can standardize prices as more and more companies compete in various product segments. Imagine if there were only one computer manufacturer in the world, computing technology would not have advanced as fast as it has. Competition is part of the most crucial market dynamics that dictate the quality and quantity of goods that consumers can access, and the prices they pay for these goods.

Mass production tries to produce as much as possible while using the least possible resources. It means that sometimes mass-produced goods are not of the best quality. Additionally, mass production has had adverse and negative impacts on the environment and has propagated climate change. Consumerism goes against living with less and includes fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and consumer packaged goods (CPG), and companies.

The Dark and Negative Side of Consumerism

Consumerism has its dark side, and over the decades, it has led to a lot of carbon emissions getting released into the atmosphere. It has also meant that through mechanization, there is less and less attention to detail, and most goods are of an average standard of quality. For instance, materials such as pleather can appear to be similar to leather but lack the attention to detail that goes into producing quality and genuine leather products. In some sectors, mass production has fed consumerism and turned the industry into a consumer product-producing machine.

How Consumerism Has Lowered the Quality of Produced Goods

In the manufacture of motor vehicles and motoring facilitations, automotive companies utilize mass production to produce lower-tier motor vehicles. High-end and couple hundred-thousand-dollar vehicles and their parts are always primarily produced by hand, and minimally by robots. The higher the quality of the item, the less mechanization goes into it.

The Use of Robots and Automation and Their Effect on the Quality of Produced Goods

Robotics is a massive part of mass production, and even as it enhances the rate of production, this does not always translate to high-quality goods. It does not mean that mechanization and robotics inflict on quality, but that handmade products have higher quality and incur a higher concentration of attention to detail. The same applies to high fashion, designer clothing, and shoes. The most expensive products have better quality and vice versa.

Ensuring the Environmental Friendliness of the Goods and Services We Consume

When it comes to cotton and plant-based products, it is only wise to source information on the environmental friendliness of their production methods. When you purchase a product, be keen to consider whether the producer is environmentally friendly and has produced the product sustainably.

Ensuring Fair Labor Practices in the Production of the Goods We Consume

It entails ensuring that the product gets produced in a safe labor-practices context and that there have not been any labor violations by the manufacturer. Moreover, you should not buy illegal products such as wildlife parts as this could be tantamount to funding organized crime. Where products come from, how they get produced, and the legality of their production process are crucial to ensuring we consume goods responsibly.

The Importance of Consumer Awareness in Reducing Consumerism

Consumerism is not a crime, and markets and economies rely on us consumers to buy products at competitive prices. However, it is the consumer’s responsibility to ensure that these goods do not degrade the environment and that the waste produced by these products is bio-degradable.

The advent of the internet means that there are technological solutions such as smartphone applications, that we consumers can use to source the production information of various goods. Such technology has been utilized effectively in the food production industry, where there are food tracking apps. These applications can track the production and distribution of the food product, its content, and how healthy it is for human consumption. It envisages a smart way for you as the consumer to interact with the products you consume.

Consumerism and Its Propagation of Substandard Goods

Consumerism is, in some ways, a scourge of society and has meant that more and more companies are producing substandard and low-tier goods. It has fed into the problem of counterfeiting and the proliferation of markets with products that fall below standard. Recycling can be a way to ensure that we use less and buy less as a way to discourage the proliferation of markets with lower-tier goods.

For instance, if you have clothing that you haven’t worn yet, please refrain from buying more clothes. This way, you will first wear all the clothes you have and wear them for as long as possible. Funny enough, some of the high fashion out there today entails rugged clothing, and this means your clothing has a longer lifespan even when ‘rugged’. The same can be said for a myriad of consumer goods and products, from cars to electronics and household goods.

The Necessity of Consumerism and How to Consume Responsibly

Consumption is necessary, and we all need what we can’t produce for ourselves. The trick is consuming in an environmentally friendly way and consuming the right amount of goods. By avoiding wastage and doing all we can to reduce, reuse, and recycle, we can increase the longevity of our products and reduce our carbon footprint. The lesser the carbon footprint for every one of us, the lower our consumption toll on the environment.

It means that we can mitigate climate change in the present and not wait for future generations to do it for us. Having the best entails having well-produced and high-quality goods at higher prices. In my view, it is better to pay more for higher quality and longer-lasting products. Pay more, conserve more, use less, and live sustainably.