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Thank you for visiting my site. I will be posting articles on responsible living. In this section, I want to provide you some food for thought as it relates to living responsibly and being informed on the impact of our individual consumption.
Let’s Talk Hyperconsumerism
What is hyperconsumerism? Well, in short, is the entire United States. ;D No really, we created this monster. Whether you call it overconsumption or hyperconsumerism…it’s all the same and it needs to change. Many people don’t realize how damaging this industry is and the fact that it is leading to water scarcity, textiles are made exploiting people in lower-income countries while not even paying them a living wage, rivers in those same areas are polluted with dyes and the transport involved in shipping all of the components to make clothing (cloth, dyes, buttons, zippers, etc.) have a significant environmental impact, second only to oil and gas production and industrialized farming.
There’s a great movie I saw years ago called “Outsourced” that really drives home the point. For those who haven’t seen it, here’s the link that gives you a quick summary of the plot (you can find it on Netflix).
While this film focuses on culture clashes between a guy whose job is outsourced and the Indian folks he has to go train in India, it also pokes fun at the absurdity of crap that Americans buy. In one scene, the American guy is training the call center/sales workers on items they need to sell and the workers don’t understand what some of them are for or how they’re used. One item is a “burger brander.” You can brand your initials into your burgers… I don’t have to tell you that aside from this being incredibly offensive to people from India (as they don’t eat cows and consider them sacred animals), the fact that an American would buy a gadget to brand their burgers is absolutely preposterous!! However, how many of us know someone who would totally buy this?!
That’s us. We buy burger branders, hot dog toasters, beer sleeves (Koozies), salad spinners (I’m guilty of this one!) and the list goes on.
Guys – we have to stop, now! Seriously. We don’t need all of the shit we buy. We are wasting our own financial resources while polluting rivers, damaging our environment, exploiting the poorest of the poor and wasting a resource that is likely to reach crisis levels in the next 10 years–water. The worst part is we are none-the-happier for it. I know. I was one of these people! I bought stuff without thinking about the consequences (and a lot of stuff) because I could. Because dropping good money after bad buying shoes, clothes, bags… However, as I started to better understand the impact I was having and as I observed and learned from mostly Mexican and French friends who were happy and fulfilled with the “basics”, I really started questioning my consumption. There are four key ways in which Americans over-consume:
- Industrial farming, especially meat (all of it–beef, chicken, pork and fish) and processed foods, including soda/pop. I put this under hyper-consumption because we consume WAY MORE than what we need
- Fast fashion (think Zara, H&M, Forever 21, Top Shop, Target, Macy’s, Gap, etc.)
- Impulse buys (all the shit made of plastic and other silly crap at checkout stands and whatever says “made in China”)
I will discuss fast fashion in detail below as this is one of the lesser known impacts to responsible living. We’ve all heard of the industrial farming impact on climate, health and animals (I’ll cover that more in depth in my health section), but many of us aren’t aware of the wide-reaching (global) impacts of fast fashion. Below you’ll also find other links to videos that cover the topic of hyperconsumerism.
Did you know it takes 5,000 gallons of water to produce the amount of cotton (organic or otherwise) needed to make one t-shirt and one pair of jeans?! YEAH, me neither until I started getting informed on this topic.
Fast fashion is one of the dirtiest and wasteful industries out there. Some studies have shown it’s harmful impact to the environment is second only to meat production. Mind you, I’m not just talking climate change. When I say impact to the environment, I mean these industries lead to rivers and other water sources that are either polluted or completely dry, they accelerate water scarcity and contaminate oceans (one of the videos below highlights the effects of washing polyester-based clothing on marine life and the contamination of ocean water in general).
Americans are the BIGGEST offenders. We purchase 20 billion garments per year. That translates to 68 pieces of clothing for every man, woman and child in our country. Only 1 in 10 is recycled and most of this clothing (11.1 million tons of it) is thrown away. Where does it end up you ask? Landfills in low income countries and landfills in our own country. Further, since clothing is normally produced in the lowest wage countries (i.e. Bangladesh, China) the environmental impact of just one pound of textiles is significant when you account for (1) freight shipping of textiles, dyes, buttons, zippers and other components from one country to another (2) dyes being dumped in local rivers and (3) workers treated inhumanely, working conditions are horrendous, some still employ child labor and most textile workers don’t earn a living wage. Below you will find various video links that provide more education and help raise awareness on this topic:
- Video: The Real Cost of Fast Fashion
- Video: The True Cost of Fast Fashion
- Video: 10 Unbelievable Facts About Fast Fashion
Now, while one of these videos says we can do better by “recycling clothes” I call bullshit on that! The best way to conserve resources and prevent worker exploitation is for the garments never to be made in the first place. Simply recycling clothes doesn’t address the root cause of the issue–the ever-increasing demand via our overconsumption of clothing. We don’t need that many clothes, shoes or bags. Ask yourself, why am I buying all this stuff? Trust me when I say, it won’t make you happy! In fact, we will be happier living with less and we will have more savings in our bank accounts in the process. Instead of buying “things”, I say spend that money on vacations and travel–buy “memories” instead!
You may ask, but Becca, how do I stay fashionable and trendy?!! It’s a valid question. Many of us like to look good. You have two options: (1) use your creativity while shopping at thrift stores and buying other second-hand/gently worn clothing; (2) buy only minimal pieces per year (say no more than six in a year) and make sure they are super high quality, not made in a developing country and will last you 3-5 years. Quality over quantity. In Spain, they’ve come up with a couple of innovative and clever ways to encourage responsible consumption. The first is buying second-hand clothing. Madrid has the first “clothing library”. It’s a good idea. I’ll link the video here, if you want to skip ahead go to 26:00. Fair warning, it’s in Spanish! The second solution they’ve come up with (in this same video) is creating a clothing line that is produced by hand and each piece has a code that connects you to the person who made it–the artisan. As the founder of Slow Fashion Next, interviewed in this video says, “Either you’re part of the solution, or you’re part of the problem.” Which one will you be?
Video: Shop ‘Til You Drop: The Crisis of Consumerism
Video: What is hyperconsumerism?
Video: A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance. This is a FASCINATING study performed by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) anthropologists. They actually documented how the typical American is living and how abundance is actually leading to stress because overconsumption has led to a signficant amount of clutter in their homes; so much so that it becomes very difficult to clean and keep straight. Women, especially, given they bear the brunt of keeping the home tidy, who live in these homes showed high levels of cortisol (stress hormone) caused by this clutter–directly affecting their health and well-being! The anthropologists found these people stockpiling clothes, food, cleaning products…you name it.
A couple of years ago, I had to unload a bunch of stuff as I moved to London for work for a year. I was supposed to be there two so given this, it didn’t make sense to store all of my stuff and there was a limit to how much my company would ship over. And, since we still got deductions on our taxes for donations (those are gone thanks to the tax cuts), I donated clothes, shoes, bags, furniture and more. Even after this, I still had 60 pairs of shoes I took with me along with four large suitcases filled with clothes, jackets and coats. Here’s a sample of the stuff I packed up to donate:
Oh, and all of the furniture you see in this video and a bunch of other furniture you can’t see in the video.
I’ve done it. I’ve made the commitment to no longer consume in this way. I can’t. It’s not responsible or sustainable.
So listen, this one’s a slam dunk. I’m not suggesting you by 100% second-hand clothing or that you cut meat completely out of your diet (I’m about 90% there and it is incredibly hard–although, a significant reduction in consumption of all animal based products would have a HUGE positive impact on our health, our wallets–yes, eating vegetables, grains and fruit is much cheaper than eating meat, trust me…I’m a finance person and I’ve done the math–our planet and the animals themselves who are treated horribly. You don’t want to eat meat from an animal that has spent its entire life in fear and living in squalid conditions. You’re ingesting all that junk).
The ask is this: change your habits starting today. Today. You probably have plenty of clothes, shoes and bags in your closet. Don’t buy any more. As you purchase new pieces, shop for second-hand clothes, be creative and mix and match it with the pieces you already own. And stick to no new clothes, shoes or bags other than once every two months (or 6x a year) if you absolutely must have something new. Remember, don’t buy “things” buy “memories”!
Hola mi gente!
Gracias por visitar este sitio/blog. Publicaré artículos sobre este tema en mi blog. En esta sección, quiero ofrecerle algo de reflexión en lo que respecta a vivir responsablemente y estar informado sobre el impacto de nuestro consumo individual.
Hablemos del hiperconsumismo
¿Qué es hiperconsumismo? Bueno, en resumen, es todo los Estados Unidos. ;-D A ver, lo digo como una broma, pero sí, nosotros los estadounidenses ¡creamos este monstruo! Ya sea que lo llame sobreconsumo o hiperconsumismo…es lo mismo y necesita cambiar.
Muchas personas no se dan cuenta de cuán dañina es esta industria y el hecho de que el hiperconsumismo conduce a la escasez de agua; que la vestimenta “fast fashion” que consumimos en una manera voraz se hace explotando personas en países de bajos ingresos sin siquiera pagarles un salario digno; que los ríos en esas mismas áreas están contaminados con tintes; y que el transporte involucrado en el envío de todos los componentes para hacer que esta ropa (telas, tintes, botones, cerraduras, etc.) tiene un impacto ambiental significativo, superado por la producción de petróleo y gas y la agricultura industrializada.
Hay una película muy divertida que vi hace años llamada “Outsourced” que realmente lleva a casa el punto. Para aquellos que no lo han visto, aquí está el enlace que le da un resumen de la trama (el resumen es en ingles pero la pelicula la puedes encontrar en Netflix, con subtitulos en español).
Esta película se centra en los choques culturales entre un hombre cuyo trabajo se subcontrata a la India y luego tiene que ir a entrenar los trabajadores en ese país. La peli se burla de la basura que los estadounidenses compran. En una escena, el estadounidense capacita a los trabajadores de centros de llamadas / ventas sobre los artículos que necesitan vender. Los trabajadores no entienden para qué son algunos de ellos o cómo se usan. Un artículo es un “burger brander”. Un “brander” es lo que se usa para marcar el ganado. El “burger brander” segun es para poner tus iniciales en tus hamburguesas… No tengo que decirte que aparte de ser increíblemente ofensivo para las personas de la India (ya que no comen vacas y las consideran animales sagrados), el hecho de que un estadounidense compraría un gadget para marcar sus hamburguesas es absolutamente absurdo!! Sin embargo, te comento que yo conosco por lo menso dos personas que lo comprarían.
Esos somos nosotros los estadounidenses. Compramos burger branders, tostadores para hot dogs (hecha un vistazo a la derecha–cool no?!!), mangas para la cerveza (Koozies), aparatos para secar la lechuga (¡soy culpable de esto!) y la lista continúa.
Chicos – ¡tenemos que poner un fin a este tipo de consume…ahora! En serio. No necesitamos toda la mierda que compramos. Estamos desperdiciando nuestros propios recursos financieros mientras contaminamos ríos, dañanmos nuestro medio ambiente y explotamos a los más pobres. Este tipo de desperdicio alcanzará niveles de crisis en los EEUU y quiza en el planeta dentro de 10 años. ¿Por qué? porque seguimos desgastando del agua. Y sin agua, un ser humano no puede vivir.
La peor parte es que todo este consume no nos hace felices. Y yo lo sé de primera mano. ¡Yo era una de estas personas! Compraba cosas sin pensar en las consecuencias porque podia. Compraba zapatos, ropa, bolsos… Sin embargo, cuando comencé a comprender mejor el impacto que estaba teniendo y observé y aprendí de amigos mexicanos y franceses quienes en su mayoría que estaban felices y satisfechos con los “conceptos básicos”, realmente comencé a cuestionar mis habitos de consumo.Hay cuatro formas clave en que los estadounidenses (y ahora muchas partes del mundo con clase media, como Mexico) consumen en exceso:
- La agricultura industrial, especialmente la carne (todas ellas: carne de res, pollo, cerdo y pescado) y los alimentos procesados, incluidos los refrescos / pop. Puse esto bajo hiperconsumo porque consumimos MUCHO MÁS que lo que necesitamos
- Moda rápida (piense en Zara, H & M, Forever 21, Top Shop, Target, Macy’s, Gap, etc.)
- Compra impulsiva (toda la mierda hecha de plástico y otras tonterías en los puestos de venta y todo lo que dice “hecho en China”)
Discutiré la moda rápida en detalle a continuación ya que este es uno de los impactos menos conocidos para la vida responsable. Todos hemos oído hablar del impacto de la agricultura industrial en el clima, la salud y los animales (lo abordaré más a fondo en mi sección de salud), pero muchos de nosotros no somos conscientes de los grandes impactos (globales) del rápido Moda. A continuación, encontrará otros enlaces a videos que cubren el tema del hiperconsumismo.