The word consumerism means the consumption of resources by the people. It is a process and habit of the chronic purchasing of new goods and services, with scant attention to the true need, durability, origin of the product or the environmental impacts during manufacture and disposal.
Modern societies that are based on using large amounts of goods, especially those that are manufactured for one time use, are extremely wasteful. The current consumption patterns are depleting non-renewable resources, poisoning and degrading ecosystems, and altering the natural processes on which life depends.
People in the industrialized countries make up 205 of the world population but consume 80% of the world’s resources and produce 80% of wastes. This is due to a pattern of economic development that ensures that people go on consuming even more than they actually need.
India is rapidly moving into this unsustainable pattern of economic growth and development. It is seen that today’s consumption patterns are not only depleting natural resources at a rapid rate, but also widening the inequalities in consumption in different societies. Money is not the only way to measure the cost of an item that we use.
When one adds up all the raw material and energy that goes into the manufacture of goods or the services provided by nature that one uses during a day’s activities, the toll on the environment is large. When this cost is multiplied over a lifespan, the amount is staggering. If one considered the over-utilization in each family, city or a country, the impacts are incredibly high.
The new generation grows up without knowing what quality goods are. Friendship and family relations are promoted only as a vehicle of giving and taking gifts. Mother’s day, Father’s day, Valentine day, Brothers’ day, Sisters’ day and Akshaya Thrithya are celebrated as a part of consumerism.
Consumerism is related to the constant purchasing of new goods, with little attention to their true need, durability, product origin, or the environmental consequences of their manufacture and disposal. It is driven by huge sums spent on advertising designed to create both a desire to follow trends, and a personal feeling of satisfaction based on acquisition.
The mega shows sponsored by manufactures of automobiles, televisions, refrigerators, air-conditioners. Cosmetics, Soaps, detergents, textiles with prizes and other incentives kindle passion and unquenchable desire to have the latest items in their fold.
Thus vital materials and energy resources are squandered for various sections of the society. Once used, the goods are thrown as wastes. So energy and space required to dispose those used articles triggers energy crisis and shortage of land. Pizza huts, vending places for coke, Pepsi, Kentucky chicken and such other items are other sign of consumerism. Plastics are yet another item that creates more problems now.
The fast changing population trends influence consumerism of natural resources and generation of waste lands.
Two types of conditions of population and consumerism exists:
1. Overpopulation of People:
Overpopulation of people results in having more people than available supplies of water, food and other important resources in the area. The excessive population problem causes degradation of limited resources and there are poverty, undernourishment or mal-nutrition and starvation deaths.
This mainly occurs in less developed countries (LDC). In such countries, due to large number of people, enough resources are not available for all. So, there is less per capita consumption, though overall consumption is high.
2. Consumption overpopulation:
This problem occurs in more developed countries (MDC) where population size is smaller and resources are plenty. Due to luxurious life style, per capita consumption of resources is very high. More the consumption of resources more is the waste generation and greater is the degradation of the environment.
The consumerism varies from country to country. United States of America (USA) is known for maximum consumerism. The population of India is nearly 3-5 times more than that of USA but its overall energy and waste products generation are less than one-eighth that of USA. Therefore, we can infer that more consumerism leads to more waste production and also pollution.
We can utilize the waste products for our benefits as summarized below:
1. Paper from agricultural wastes
2. Cellulose from sugarcane bagasse
3. Medicines from agricultural wastes like corn, oat hulls and bagasse.
4. Medium density fibre from dry agricultural stalks
5. Proteins and sugars from cellulose waste
6. Use of fly ash for making bricks, tiles and extraction of alumina