BeyondConsumerism

Providing tools and support to families, citizens, and activists to counter our consumerist culture and to create new social norms about how to have a high quality of life and a reduced ecological footprint.

Rethinking "Stuff"

Americans have a love affair with stuff. Today’s consumer culture presents us with seemingly endless choices of clothes to wear, foods to eat, and products to buy—and we do, by the cartload. Unfortunately, we also discard and replace our stuff at an alarming rate, creating tremendous amounts of waste. Our constant accumulation of stuff has significant consequences for the environment, for communities around the world, and even for our own health and happiness.

Why We Buy

Clever advertising campaigns encourage us to buy things we don’t need, manipulating us to believe that more stuff will make us happier, smarter, or more loved, even though the research suggests otherwise. As a result, high levels of consumption have become the “norm” in American society: in just a few generations, we have transitioned from a society that values savings and thrift to one that increasingly relies on debt and credit.
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Understanding Obsolescence

One of the main forces driving high levels of consumption and waste today is obsolescence—the process of an item or technology being replaced, outdated, or falling out of use. Although obsolescence can be a spontaneous process by which genuinely innovative technologies win in the marketplace, in many cases it is “planned,” as manufacturers consistently update products, or design them cheaply, to keep us coming back for more.
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Redistribution and Sharing

Fortunately, we don’t need to buy into the mentality that “more” or “new” is always better. Rather than trashing our unwanted stuff, we can find ways to redistribute valuable, usable items—whether by sharing it, selling it, or giving it away. The emerging sharing economy offers us tremendous opportunity to access the things we need, without the burden and expense of ownership.
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Conscious Consumerism

If we must buy something, we can choose to seek out goods that better reflect the “hidden costs” that went into their production, from the use of natural resources to their impacts on the communities where they were manufactured. By becoming conscious consumers, we can support the production of more socially and environmentally sound products, as well as become more aware of the reasons behind the choices we make.
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Did You Know...

  • Americans spend 3–4 times as many hours shopping as Europeans do, on average.
  • Every day, the average American uses about 192 pounds of materials, fossil fuels, food, and water—that’s more than most of us weigh!
  • Only 1 percent of the materials used to make our stuff are still in use six months after the product is sold. 
  • If the rest of the world consumed like Americans, we’d need 4.5 planets to provide enough resources for us all.
  • More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and for the first time in modern history U.S. children are projected to have shorter lifespans than their parents due to future weight-related diseases.