Almost everything we do requires some sorts of materials that once had to be extracted, processed, transformed, bought and sold, and often transported for miles. Our economy is built around these raw materials - like trees, gas, oil, metal ores and water. The desire for raw materials has grown in the last years - from 1970 to 2010 our consumption of resources has more than tripled.
But this behaviour of consuming, also so-called ‘overconsumption’ has worsened the climate, our environment and our capacity for natural resources.
What exactly is overconsumption?
Overconsumption describes a situation where the use of resources has outpaced the sustainable capacity of the ecosystem. The continuation of overconsumption leads to environmental degradation, and ultimately loss of resources.
In general, there has been a discussion for the reason of overconsumption paralleling with the overpopulation of people. However, even when meaning more people consume more raw materials, overconsumption is not just affected by the raw number of people. In fact, population growth has been more “in control” than it has been for the past 50 years. The global rate of population growth has been declining from just over 2% per year in 1970 to 1.05% in 2020.
So the greater factor for overconsumption is our lifestyle, including our overall affluence and use of resources, and especially the pollution it generates.
While the population rate has decreased, resource consumption hasn’t. For instance, if we look at the use of fossil fuels from 1970 onwards, it has not decreased, hence it is not comparable with the population.
Fossil fuel consumption has increased significantly over the past half-century, and roughly doubled since 1980. Also, the division of fossil fuel use shows that it is not equally divided. In 2019 an average American used almost twice as much oil than someone in Japan, and almost 350 times as much as a person living in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Further, currently the richest one percent of the world's population is responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 3.1 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity.
But why do we consume so much?
In agricultural societies, the reality of people was to work hard but consume little.
This has changed tremendously with the rise of global affluence and the Industrial Revolution. This increased the money people received - the disposable income- and so they could consume much more than just the essentials like food and shelter.
This disposable income led to more social mobility. People were using their money for leisure activities, better homes and luxurious lifestyles, also in the desire to show off their status. The rise of the middle class was happening and so the need to work harder and earn money to get where everyone else seemed to be. At this time the slow but steady economic growth went hand in hand with the modern era of cheap global shopping and runaway consumption.
This was a great situation for businesses, using modern communication technologies to create a desire for more goods and services.
Today, we still see this on the internet, with users being exposed to luxurious lifestyles of celebrities or influences. It is also very simple nowadays, through online shopping, to buy clothes of an admired influencer in just a few clicks. Nearly 40% of Twitter users say they’ve purchased as a direct result of a Tweet from an influencer.
What is the impact of overconsumption and what can we do?
Unfortunately, our over consumerism has caused great suffocation to our planet and people. The fashion industry, especially fast fashion, is a great example of the negative impact of over consumerism. The rise of polyester garments not only rises global warming, but sheds microfibres that adds to the increasing levels of plastic in our oceans. Additionally, billions of clothes end up in landfills. The impact on people and especially garment workers was evident during the Rana Plaza incident.
The zero-waste movement is one great source of inspiration to create a less consuming lifestyle. It can help when wanting to become more conscious about one’s amount of waste processed by consuming, not only focusing on reducing plastic waste but also food waste and from goods. In general, a great way to start consuming more consciously, for instance when buying new clothes, is to always check whether you need new clothes, if they can also be bought second- hand or if you already own something similar. Above that, you can always question your buying choice by applying the Buying Hierarchy of needs illustration by Sarah Lazarovic.
How does Kleiderly contribute?
At Kleiderly, we are aware of the little resources left in our ecosystem, and the big role over consumerism plays here, especially when looking at fashion. That is why Kleiderly wants to make people aware of the great and already existing resources we can make use of, such as unwanted clothes, by giving them a new life.