Why are people against consumerism 1

The downside of consumption

There is no shortage in German households

A look at the tables of the Federal Statistical Office shows that there is no shortage of consumer goods in Germany. On average, every household has three telephones, one and a half flat-screen TVs and a little more than one car, according to the statisticians for 2017.

Every second household also has a game console and a navigation device, and every third household has an exercise bike. In total, there are an average of 37 electrical entertainment devices in each household.

For most people, increasing possessions also means increasing wealth. Indeed, many consumer goods make life easier in the short term. Families do not have to agree on what television programming to watch when there are multiple devices.

Anyone can call anyone at any time and anyone who has an exercise bike can jog or ride a bike even when it's raining or dark outside.

The price of the good life

In the long term, however, we pay a high price for our consumption. The more we consume, the more we damage our livelihoods.

Important raw materials such as crude oil and phosphorus are becoming scarce, the soils are leaching out, the water table is sinking, toxins from garbage pollute the environment, forests are being cut down and are no longer used as CO2 stores. Some scientists are already warning of wars of distribution over dwindling resources, especially arable land and fresh water.

This concern is not unjustified. If we do not change our consumer behavior, the earth's natural resources will no longer be sufficient for everyone. The citizens of the western industrialized countries have been living far beyond their means for decades. If in purely mathematical terms every person on earth is entitled to 1.7 hectares to cover consumption, they usually need more than twice as much.

The negative front runners are the people in the US who need eight acres to cover their lifestyle. But in Germany, too, the population is 5.1 hectares, well above the proportion to which they are entitled. Our daily raw material consumption alone is 200 kilograms per capita. At the end of the 1970s it was still half.

Disastrous ecological balance

Some lifestyle and consumption habits have a more negative effect than it seems at first glance. One example is the consumption of meat, especially beef from factory farms.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has calculated that one kilogram of beef requires 6.5 kilograms of grain, 36 kilograms of roughage and 15,500 liters of water. At the same time, around 310,000 hectares of rainforest are cleared every year, among other things to grow fodder. That corresponds to the area of ​​the whole of England.

Smartphones, on the other hand, contain up to 30 metals that are washed out of the rock with highly toxic chemicals. In order to win a single gram of gold, with which one can equip around 50 smartphones, a whole ton of ore has to be blasted off and ground up.

The ecological balance of mineral water is also devastating. Compared to tap water, its production requires a thousand times more energy because the bottles have to be produced, labeled and filled with mineral water, which is often brought in from other regions in trucks.

Anyone who builds a house for their family also increases their ecological footprint enormously: a new building consumes twice as many raw materials as the renovation of an existing building. And before the stones, the earth and the wood can be built, they have to be conveyed, processed, stored and transported.

A pair of jeans even used 12,000 liters of water and traveled around 50,000 kilometers before reaching the store.

The get-and-go mentality

In addition, the ever shorter service life of products makes raw material reserves a problem. In the past, people used the devices for as long as they held them, but today they sort out many devices much earlier and thus reduce the efficiency of raw materials.

The metals in the cell phone or laptop are first laboriously removed from the rock - and then used for just two years before the devices end up in a drawer and are replaced by new ones.

Many tube TVs will still work when they are replaced by flat screen TVs. Likewise, many electric stoves and pots are still intact when they are replaced by an induction cooker and the associated cookware.

Also unforgettable is the scrapping bonus, which led to thousands of functioning cars ending up in the scrap press in Germany.

Often the manufacturers intentionally bring about the shorter useful life. It is controversial whether they build weak points into the devices for this purpose; in any case, after a relatively short time there are usually no more spare parts.

Introducing new software or new apps that only run on the latest generation of devices is an effective way of getting consumers to buy a new laptop, smartphone or tablet.

A new device often costs less than a repair. As a result, raw materials are unnecessarily worn out and environmental damage increases rapidly.

Consumer responsibility

Sometimes companies are forced to overproduce and throw away. Many consumers expect that they can get all kinds of bread by evening and that the bread is fresh every day. That is why 80,000 tons of bread end up in the garbage every year in Germany.

Most consumers also disdain crooked vegetables, fruit with small bruises and goods with crushed or torn packages. Overall, half of all food is thrown away by consumers, markets or producers.

This creates a dubious cycle: on the one hand, valuable resources such as fertile soil and water are used to grow grain, fruit and vegetables that nobody eats. At the same time, a lot of energy is used to destroy the overproduction again.