J500 Media and the Environment

American Consumption Addiction by beccan

Growing up, my mom and dad made sure I knew the difference between needs and wants. We would go shopping and when I picked something up to show my mom she would ask, “Now, do you really need that or do you want it?” and I would hesitantly say, “want it” without any argument as to why I should get it. I just knew that it wasn’t going home with me. 

Photo courtesy of flickr.com

Needs v. Wants


As much as I dreaded that question as a kid, I now realize why my mother drilled that concept of needs and wants into my head. In the United States, we account for 5% of the world’s population yet account for 30% of the world’s resources. If everyone consumed like we do, we would need three to five planets to contain all of the waste.

For some strange reason, the idea that when we throw something away it simply disappears into thin air, has been engraved in our minds and is starting to affect our planet. We buy, buy, buy and do not see the damage that is being done or the consequences to our wastefulness. Our ignorance is killing our home and it is going to take a lifestyle overhaul to change it.

Having the newest phone, car, computer, you-name-it, is so important to us as Americans. The stuff that we have determines our social status and that status is so important in the American culture. Just think, when the U.S. was deep in the recession people freaked out, because they were not going to be able to consume mindlessly anymore. It made people crabby, because they couldn’t have all of the new stuff they wanted.

The internet has also made it easier to consume. We do not even have to get out of our chairs to buy new stuff anymore; it is delivered to our doorsteps. Advertisers tell us that to be “cool” in society we need to have the latest gadgets, styles and trends, which means we throw our barely-used stuff in the landfill to replace it with a new version of the same thing. This lifestyle has started to spin out of control. 

 There has been a consistent increase in the amount that Americans waste each year and the question is: can this be stopped or are we too far into our consumption addiction to turn it around? 

Becca N.

But my shoes are 9.5 by shemme

When I first started recycling I was thrilled to discover that nearly everything came in a container that had the little recycle symbol with a number on the bottom. I thought to myself, “Yeah, I’m going to recycle everything!” and so I rinsed and sorted all my recyclables and eagerly awaited the day that I would have enough to justify a trip to one of the drop sites around town.

When the day finally came, I went online and did a quick search to find out where I should take my recyclables and where I could get cash for my aluminum and tin cans. As I read through the list again and again searching for #5 and #7 plastics, my heart sank. Nobody in town accepted these plastics. How could this be? Each container had the recycle symbol on it – doesn’t that mean it’s recyclable? My misconceptions about recycling became very apparent to me that day and I wondered how many others had experienced this same disappointment.

Armed with more information, a weary eye to increasing consumerism and a skyrocketing world population, I thought I was savvier than the average environista. I now know to expect this to be proven untrue, sometimes on a daily basis. The day I took the Ecological Footprint Quiz was no exception.

It turns out that despite recycling, riding my bike to work, blowing paychecks on energy efficient light bulbs, loving organic milk, and occasionally digging through my roommates trash to pick out the bottles and cans it would still take 3.6 planets to sustain us if everyone lived like me. Can this be true? I’m willing to admit that I might not be as green as I would like to be, but it’s hard to believe that my ecological footprint is the equivalent of 16 acres. But then again, I do rent a room in one of the least efficient homes in Lawrence, have a penchant for meat products, and spend many hours in airplanes satisfying my lust for travel.

Perhaps this is my one and only time to feel proud about being “below average.” It’s easy to pat myself on the back for recycling and making small eco-friendly changes. However, it turns out these are only Band-Aids on a much bigger problem.

(Foot)note of the day: David Beckham has the biggest carbon footprint in the world

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