Consumerist lifestyles need to stop being wasteful

October 29, 2009 — by Cullan McChesney and Robin Liu

Excess. This word has defined American culture since the inception of industrialization. No where else in the world exists a place where citizens consume so many manufactured goods. Many parents in Third World countries wake up worrying whether they can provide enough food to feed their children, while in America people are constantly subjected to mass production.

Anyone who has sauntered down the endless isles of Costco can only begin to grasp the overwhelming amount of energy and resources spent catering to the “American dream.”

We have been taught to expect comfort and security in our daily lives. Americans consume 24 percent of the world’s energy but constitute only 5 percent of the world’s population. The average American will contribute 52 tons of trash to landfills by the age of 75.

Out in the Pacific Ocean, an enormous garbage patch twice the size of Texas continuously circles between America and Asia—a floating reminder of America’s excess waste.

These days, people buy way more than what they need, and all the surplus ends up in the dump or as litter.

The need for luxuries is high on the list of the average American’s priorities. In many places, there are more shopping malls than high schools.

In the fight against excess waste, California is one of the leading states and has taken the first steps in moving toward a sustainable society. While other states have been increasing their energy consumption, California has started a revolutionary system of rewarding those who cut down on their energy usage. This system encourages people to conserve energy and experiment with new types of green technology. In addition, California is making electric utilities limit carbon emissions and increase the use of renewable resources.

The federal government should use California as an example to bring the rest of the country in line. It should look for more diverse forms of green energy such as harvesting the byproducts from Algae, which not only provides oil but ethanol gas. The consensus seems to be that wind and solar power are optimal, but these technologies are still limited by production procedures and unattractive manufacturing designs.

It’s not like solar and wind are dead-end technologies; it’s just that as a nation people need to be open-minded to diversity in the field of green technologies. As more resources are wasted, innovative technology may not even be enough, leaving it up to the people to adjust their lives. For those who can’t afford solar panels and low-energy appliances, there are still countless ways to decrease consumption. Even the simplest acts, such as buying items only out of necessity or recycling resources or buying used items can help lead the planet to a brighter future.

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