The Negative Effects of Consumerism

Despite the rising cost of living and economic crisis in the UK, consumerism and consumer
spending appears to be slightly higher
than it was during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, this isn’t necessarily indicative of economic strength or stability, while the fact remains that
consumerism in its most basic form can have negative effects on the economy, households and even our natural environment.

But what exactly is consumerism, and what are its potentially negative consequences for the natural environment? Let’s find out!

What is Consumerism?

In simple terms, consumerism is the notion that increasing the consumption of goods and services is always a desirable objective and outcome, both from the perspective of economic growth and each individual’s mental wellbeing and happiness.

This is grounded in so-called ‘Keynesian’ economics, which state that consumer spending is a key driver
of economic growth and a prosperous state in which individual households and corporations can thrive.

It’s this branch of economic thinking that also promotes a low-tax economy, as this is thought to increase disposable income levels and the amount reinvested into the economy on a regular basis.

This is then though to create subsequent growth and prosperity for multiple parties, although there are
numerous challenges and hurdles to be overcome when reducing tax levies in an attempt to increase spending.

How Has Consumerism Grown Over Time?

Consumerism is often described in terms of consumer spending, which measures household expenditure over a predetermined period of time.

While this figure is in a constant state of flux, it has risen exponentially over time since Q1 1955, when final household consumption expenditure reached £66,618 million. By Q1 2022, however, this had increased to £345,472 million, having peaked at a shade over £350,422 million during the second quarter of 2019.

But what has caused consumerism to increase at such a pronounced rate during this time? Well, we do know that increased spending has come at the expensive of savings in the developed world, suggesting that rising consumerism has much to do with a decrease in self control (as lifestyles have changed) and much easier access to debt.

The rise of online spending and ecommerce has also increased shoppers’ access to goods, with 1.3 million UK women admitting to spending up to £1,000 on clothes per annum.

This highlights just how fashion retail is booming in the UK, with a staggering total of more than £21 billion being spent every single year on refreshing our wardrobes according to a recent study by women’s retailer Damart earlier this year.

The Environmental Impact of Consumerism

From an economic perspective, there are numerous issues with consumerism, especially as households spend more than they earn and become encumbered with mounting debt problems.

There’s also a potentially negative environmental impact of consumerism. This isn’t caused by consumerism itself, however, but more the fact that shoppers don’t believe there is an issue and continue to consume resources at a quicker rate than they can be replenished.

Similarly, increased consumerism and the rise of ecommerce means more goods being shipped internationally on a daily basis, with this creating an incrementally growing carbon footprint that impacts both the developed and developing world.

However, the aforementioned Damart study shows that things may be improving in these respects, with one-in-five (20%) of the 2,000 respondents suggesting that they at least think about sustainability when shopping. However, women are considerably more sustainably minded than men, with 51% of this demographic saying that they take this into account when shopping for new garments.

Interestingly, 9% of Brits try to shop in a greener way but struggle to find sustainable clothing that they like, suggesting that more must be done to provide second-hand or local garments on a
mass scale.

Certainly, the will is there to curb some of the environmental excesses of consumerism, and this is positive
news for the world around us!