How Consumerism Can Change The World
Let's start by agreeing that consumerism can change the world. We know it can! Consumerism leads to innovation, new solutions and potential riches for its inventors. In the US alone, we spend over $4 trillion a year on stuff. Every day items to gifts to wild wishes. But still stuff.
Why the endless appetite? Consumerism is supposedly correlated to happiness. As in the more we buy the happier we will be. And if that was true, that every dollar spent guaranteed a vote for happiness, then imagine if that spending power and influence could result in exponential happiness for others as well? That would be the absolute ideal case for the power of consumerism to reach beyond purchases and Do Good. But to understand how that could unfold in a wish-fulfilled environment in which people are constantly in search of the next big thing, we must first recognize the cause and effects of consumerism.
1) Choice and Opportunity- We are a very motivated society and consumerism breathes life into our goals and desires. From health to travel to entertainment to fashion to technology to cars, we are always aiming to have more and be better. Our purchases also give us the chance to make a statement. There are endless choices of size, color, whistles and bells- all to show who we are as individuals.
2) Sustainability- Many of the products we buy are single-serving or disposable. In fact, we found that close to 30% of the items we use around the house are meant for an average of three or less uses. One small example are paper bags. Buying them means that 14 million trees will be cut down. Every year!
3) Synthetics - There has been much press and debate lately about the ways that companies cut corners to keep up with demand. As recently as yesterday there was news about horse meat being mixed with beef, that 60% of fish are mislabeled and, then there are the dreaded Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's).
4) Personal relationships - Many things drive us to want want more, whether it is in our best interest or not. Economists and sociologist alike debate if our possessions become more important to use than our relationships. If people are willing to lie, cheat and steal to get the things they want, what does that say about honor, values and integrity?
5) Health - Consumerism is seen as a western philosophy so, we decided to take a look at two factors that would determine how our way of life compares to folks around the world. What I found was an interesting correlation. The US ranks 12th in happiness and 29th in healthiest populations globally yet we are ranked 23 (out of 25) in work-life balance. More interesting, the top 10 happiest countries were also the top 10 in work-life balance.
Coincidence? If spending more actually did make us happy, then do we ever reach a level of satisfaction? Sadly, no. The minute we buy an iPad 3, Apple announces the iPad 4. The cycle never ends.
There is a solution and it points directly to social enterprises like DoGoodBuyUs. Fortunately more and more social ventures are emerging and we are seeing first hand that business can achieve great success while simultaneously doing good.
For consumerism to change the world, our votes need to start going in different directions. We need to use our dollars to support social enterprises and prove to the world you can do well by doing good.