Excessive consumption in the land of plenty

Photo by Sara Schmitt

If you have ever gone out to eat with me, you know that if I cannot finish my food, I will either take it to go or make you finish it for me. It was ingrained in me from a young age to not take for granted the food and resources that were so readily available to me — not just in the financial sense, but in the sustainable sense.

While minimalism may seem like an unachievable lifestyle, it is important for society to adopt the mindset that we should use only what we need and move away from mindless consumerism. In this culture of seeming excess, it is difficult to understand that resources are finite. While we tend to implement the concept of recycling, the two other tenants — reducing and reusing — tend to be overlooked.

Walking into a grocery store, it is especially difficult to internalize the concept that resources on this planet are finite. We are presented with options upon options of snacks, gallons upon gallons of milk and rolls upon rolls of toilet paper. We consume as if the resources will never be depleted — because it does not look like they will be. One of the hardest parts about creating a sustainable planet is changing society’s mindset, because the concepts that we know of as everyday tasks — throwing trash “away,” switching on the lights, buying more food than what you need when it’s “on sale” — are all social constructs.

We need to learn to think deeply about what really happens to our waste think about the fundamental cycle of natural resources.

In this age of excess, the pressures on society are not poverty but the distribution of wealth. Economist Kate Raworth describes this pressure through a framework depicting the relationship between environmental, societal and economic boundaries. According to Raworth, “humanity is currently using natural resources far beyond what the planet can take … it’s wealth not poverty that’s putting the planet under pressure.”

Society must collectively make some drastic changes to divert humanity from mindless consumerism. In order to do this, a mindset must be adopted to tackle the issues that we currently face. The first step to practicing a sustainable lifestyle is becoming cognizant of the finite resources on our planet. Then we can take steps to ensure prosperity in the future, in the realm of ending poverty, mitigating the effects of climate change and creating social structures that will allow for the peaceful interaction between all communities.