Sebastian Santos and Tom Hastings – The struggle between consumerism and sustainability


With the end of the year holidays and the world moving on, maybe now is a great time to think about how we buy and use goods.

The majority of the world economy is based on the concept of consumption. On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a bad thing, as we have to consume goods and services in order to live. However, the excessive acquisition of property can lead to extremely harmful practices.

Consider our increasingly unhealthy reliance on goods imported from afar, products that could often be produced much closer to where they are actually used, resulting in significantly less use of harmful fossil fuels for the world. weather. This is not only unsustainable for our ecology, but also for our economy, with trade imbalances impoverishing the United States and enriching China, for example. That deficit was more than $ 310 billion in 2020, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Consumerism is not all good or bad, it depends on the practice. Does a business exploit workers? (yes, Walmart, we’re talking about you) Do they pollute? (looking at you, Coca-Cola) Is the company guilty of defrauding consumers? (wow BP, Volkswagen, Enron and others).

Are consumerism and sustainability compatible? Sustainability focuses on a morally fair and ethical approach, mindful of the consumer, the environment and the producers. Meanwhile, consumerism focuses solely on profit, including planned obsolescence – by designing goods that will too quickly become unusable or out of fashion. Laws in most places are inadequate to prevent most producers from not paying the true costs, often passing them on to the taxpaying public or future generations. If lawmakers struggled to stop these externalized costs, ethical consumerism would be much easier.

Sustainability or going green is doable, even for manufacturers. Tips for Businessmen Who Make or Trade Merchandise from Author Sandra Goldmark (Fixation: How To Have Things Without Breaking The Planet):


  • Develop multiple revenue streams, not only through the sale of new products, but also through resale, repair, upgrade, lease and service models.
  • Stay away from the “race to the bottom” on prices. Sell ​​fewer items but make money on the same item multiple times by offering resale and repair.
  • Build stronger relationships with customers based on quality, transparency and service.

As concerned consumers, what can we do to be more sustainable? There is a growing awareness of what a conscious consumer is and how one can become one. None of them are too difficult or expensive for the majority of us:

  • Buy only what is necessary
  • Avoid excessive packaging on products (sorry, Trader Joe’s, we’re heading to the bagless section of the grocery store and bringing our own bags)
  • Consider the lifespan of the product
  • Reduce, reuse, repair, recycle
  • Think about quality, not quantity
  • Take good care of products to extend their lifespan
  • Align with companies that incorporate more sustainable practices

Although the holidays are over, we will inevitably fall back into this consumerist trap unless we start to become more aware of our own consumption practices.

These suggestions, we hope, make us all think more about how we can enjoy things and do it in a way that improves our sense of satisfaction, saves us money, preserves the planet and help businesses run smoothly.

Sebastian Santos, syndicated by PeaceVoice, graduated from Portland State University and is pursuing a master’s degree at Lewis and Clark College. Tom H. Hastings is editor-in-chief of PeaceVoice.

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