Engaging in consumerism requires awareness of its consequences


Orion Kim

CROSSING CONSUMERISM. With the scale of online shopping constantly increasing, it’s become more and more difficult to avoid making unethical purchases. However, social movements to protest things like fast fashion have also grown, acting to spread awareness of the harmful aspects of consumerism.

Consumerism is a dominant force in daily life and people need to be aware of the psychological influences that materialistic value can have on their mental health. Additionally, consumerism extends beyond customers, influencing prevalent social issues.

Consumerism is an ideology that is fueled by a mutual relationship between corporations and customers. While production and consumption accelerate economic growth, they can have adverse effects on society.
While people naturally desire more and more tangible profit, it doesn’t necessarily correlate to happiness. According to an article by the American Psychological Association, “compared with Americans in 1957, today we own twice as many cars per person, eat out twice as often and enjoy endless other commodities that weren’t around then.”
Despite all these benefits, the emotional results can have inverse implications. According to a study published by the Yale University Press, “Our becoming much better off over the last four decades has not been accompanied by one iota of increased subjective well-being.” Essentially, materialism accentuates individualism and selfishness rather than happiness.

In the modern world, it’s almost impossible to avoid buying into consumerism. However, there are many small actions that can prevent further damage. Along with raised awareness, large producers have been making efforts to be more socially ethical. According to The Good Trade, “Brands are starting to display their credentials on products and marketing materials so that buyers concerned about these issues can make more informed ethical purchases.” These ethicalities include an array of prevalent real world issues.

Among the list of consumerism faux pas is the harm it causes the environment. According to an article published by the Columbia Climate School, “the production and use of household goods and services was responsible for 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.” Although detriments to the environment might seem synonymous with consumerism, there are still solutions. Within the realm of consumerism, one of the largest contributors to climate change is fast shipping. Customers ultimately want to receive their products as soon as possible. Consequently, companies need to meet consumer’s requests in order to compete with their counterparts.

While fast delivery is appealing, heavy consumers should prioritize the environment over their own short-term satisfaction. It only takes customers a few clicks to find out whether a corporation uses sustainable means to produce and distribute their products. Although ethical consumerism is better than nothing, the most effective way to avoid consumerism is to hold back from it all together. Customers should try to limit the amount of products they purchase that are non-essential.

Another social issue, poor working conditions in third-world countries, provides yet another reason for consumers to take a step back. Sweatshops, which are factories that violate multiple labor laws, have been under fire in recent headlines. While the simple solution might seem to avoid purchasing from companies that rely on labor, this won’t necessarily help workers.

According to a study performed by the Cambridge University Press, the most ethical consumer must purchase a product produced by a corporation that uses sweatshop labor, and then compensate for the fair wage amount. If sweatshops were to go out of business, their workers would have no way of making money. Thus, consumers should support the workers themselves.

“Despite all these benefits, the emotional results [of consumerism] can have inverse implications.

— Orion Kim

To be an ethical consumer requires three things: setting limitations, raising awareness and taking action. In today’s world, it’s easy to buy more for shrinking prices with hopes of gaining social status. Consumers are faced with a decision between ethicality and momentary gratification. The more difficult path, however, happens to be the correct one.