A society, such as our own, which produces excessive amounts of disposable products and is in the grip of consumerism, is commonly referred to as a throw-away society. Although there have been several attempts to move towards Green Consumption (Hardliner and Rice 89), the average person in a Throw-Away Society has little regard for the garbage he produces, the raw materials and energy he wastes, and the environment that he harms as part of his daily routine. A study relating to the concern shown by consumers about solid waste issues showed that respondents have a selfish attitude when it comes to consuming; they care most about how toxic the product is and least about product packaging (Ebreo et al. 107).
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As compared to a hard-copy based work environment where most documentation was in print form, today, with the advancement of technology and connectivity, we can reduce the amount of paper usage to a minimum by resorting to virtual backups and sharing of information; thus reducing the paperwork involved in updating files. In addition, consumers who are aware of the wastages involved in small-sized, individually packed items, go for the wise choice of ‘economy packs’ and bulk purchasing options which not only save resources (in terms of packaging materials) but also save money. Lastly, the increasing value of antiques makes one think twice about whether our society is a throw-away society; if indeed we had no value for ancient artifacts, would auction houses still be around? Would people be willing to pay exorbitant amounts for an item that has little or no utility in today’s world?
We do live in a throw-away society
Despite the strong refuting arguments stated above, I believe we do indeed live in a throw-away society. Technological advancements, an array of disposable items available on the market, and planned or built-in obsolescence (Guiltinan 19) by many a brand have appealed to the tech-savvy who dispose of their gadgets at the drop of a hat in favor of one that has simple cosmetic or soft-ware changes made to it. The driving force behind such consumer purchase decisions is the media and advertising scene. Advertisements promote a shameless consumerist society and appeal to the emotions of gullible consumers, thus trapping them into throwing away useful items and purchasing new ones to ‘fit’ into the crowd. Another supply-side contributor to such a society is the vertical integration that has taken place in many an industry; it allows firms to retain control over products and services provided by the—repair is only possible from the original manufacturer and would cost a lot of the product has passed its warranty period. Thus consumers prefer junking a faulty appliance or cell phone instead of repairing it. Looking at this issue from the demand-side, we can notice that the values of society have changed; a person is recognized by the material possessions he has and success is often measured by the car we drive, the cell phone we carry, or the jewels we wear, rather than our humility, sensitivity, and regard for the underprivileged.
While this is not an option for most of those who occupy the lower rungs of society, they too aspire to such a shameless disregard for the environment; however, circumstances prevent them from acting similarly to the affluent. If such trends continue in society, it will be near to impossible to sustain the limited resources we have left as a result of our plundering through the natural resources; the very resources that sustain life on earth.
Ebreo, A., Hershey, J., Vining, J. “Reducing Solid Waste: Linking Recycling to Environmental Responsible Consumerism.” Environment and Behaviour, 31 (1999): 107–135.
Guiltinan, Joseph. “Creative Destruction and Destructive Creations: Environmental Ethics and Planned Obsolescence.” Journal of Business Ethics 89, (2008): 19-28
Hardner, Jared and Rice, Richard. “Rethinking Green Consumerism.” Scientific American, (2002): 89-95.
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