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Consumerism Culture Is Destroying Nature: Businesses Must Change

Consumerism culture as we know it today has brought many tangible benefits to society and mankind in general. The constant demand for more goods and services has rejuvenated flailing economies post World War One, creating millions of jobs and improving the quality of life for millions of people. The capitalist structure exists to encourage investment, growth and private ownership with minimal government intervention. It is the prevailing economic system of the western world. But while the benefits of consumerism are clear, the obvious danger of this culture is coming into focus.

Forests are being destroyed to make way for agriculture, our rivers and oceans are being polluted and the Earth's natural resources are depleting. The evidence shows that human activity - and the ever-increasing market demand for more products - has directly contributed to the destruction of our natural world. For decades, global companies have been shirking their obligation to reign in their carbon footprints and become environmentally friendly.

Unsplash: Plastic waste polluting the Indonesian River.

In recent years, the climate crisis has become a major issue in the minds of consumers and this has resulted in changes to purchasing behaviour. A recent study found that two-thirds of adults surveyed across 28 countries say they have made changes to their buying habits in response to climate change. These shifts in consumer trends are notable because as consumer needs change so must the practices of businesses. More people now expect businesses they shop with to have environmental standards and responsible practices. Indeed, those who don't live up to these expectations are often the focus of media and public backlash. For instance, Amazon is constantly in the news for bad environmental practices such as destroying and sending millions of unopened goods to landfills that haven't been sold including smart TVs, laptops and hairdryers. As a result of consumerism, it was cheaper for Amazon to dispose of the surplus of stock rather than resell it.

Due to the public outcry, Amazon swiftly announced it plans to cut out waste completely and has since launched a program known as "FBA Grade and Resell" which will allow third-party sellers to list their products on Amazon, grading the condition from "new, used, Very-good" and so on so that the product can be sold for cheaper, preventing waste.

While Amazon is by no means the sole perpetrator of the damage done to nature they are a huge contributor and must do more to limit its harmful impact on the natural world. Moreover, I believe that it will be consumers who ultimately stop the advances of consumerism culture as it will have a detrimental impact on future generations. As is the nature of free market capitalism, the market dictates supply and demand. The lower demand for frivolous luxury, the lower the level of supply that will be needed. It is in the hands of consumers to apply pressure on businesses and governments to make the changes necessary to avoid the worst of climate change and safeguard the natural world and its resources and inhabitants.

It won't be easy and it will take time but I believe placing limits on consumerism will protect our precious world as it is ultimately the most valuable commodity we could ever hope to have.


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