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Our Overconsumption Habits

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This week is alumni week at Proakatemia, which is a wonderful time to meet new teampreneurs and alumni at the same time. One paja I had the chance to join was about the topic of sustainable entrepreneurship, more specifically focusing on the four categories: economic, environmental, social and cultural sustainability. As most people know, environmental sustainability is the most popular and highlighted one out of the four. The dialogue and direction of the conversation during the paja was really fascinating, and I am very glad I chose to join this specific paja.  

The one topic that stood out to me the most was circular economy. Essentially, circular economy is the idea that all products would eventually be recycled back into the economy and markets again. In the past, we have focused on the more consumerist style economy, where everyone must own everything themselves and keep buying more to keep up with the markets. In that model, none of the pre-existing products and materials are being recycled, so we just keep adding to the issue. This easily ties into environmental issues as well, which as I mentioned, is the most popular category of sustainability. When humans keep purchasing and overconsuming goods, we will run out of room for garbage, and we are wasting natural resources that are cannot be replenished.  

A circular economy would provide longer-lasting solutions to the world’s current market problems. Many countries, and most of the world, are still living in a capitalist style economy. This means that producers are constantly giving consumers reasons to keep buying unnecessary items. Eventually, this planet will not be able to support our overconsumption habits. This is why it is important for future entrepreneurs and the younger generation to start brainstorming solutions to this before it is too late. It is hard to see now, but the market will provide hundreds of new jobs just to fix our past unsustainable mistakes. These new career options will be directly linked to creating more responsible habits, stopping overconsumption, and helping the slowly deteriorating environment. In my eyes, it will become inspiring to start companies that help the situation of the world. 

Unfortunately, there is an even bigger cloud looming over our world. Almost everyone is familiar with the concept of social media. It was made to be addicting, it feeds on our weaknesses, and benefits the money-makers of the world. Now more than ever due to the covid-19 pandemic, there has been a massive spike in social media use. Having a post go viral or get views is easier than ever, because of the volume of people who use social media platforms daily. I will admit, I use social media daily, and I probably have fallen victim to being targeted or believing in something I read online. However, even though most of social media has become advertisements, one of the biggest contributors to overconsumption are today’s influencers.  

A social media influencer’s job revolves around social media. This also means they have gathered a large following over time and have good support for whatever they may post. It doesn’t require a lot of effort for an influencer to persuade someone to purchase something or invest their money into a single-use item. For example, if a fashion influencer were to collaborate with a popular brand, like Zara or H&M, and create content that is sponsored by those brands, people would then proceed to order those mentioned clothes. Many influencers don’t even require sponsorships to promote products. The combination of a large following and persuasive reactions about a certain product will equal consumption.  

Consumption isn’t bad. The economy thrives on it and needs it to survive. A real-life example is the impact covid has had on the global tourist industry. With a lack of travel, cultural sustainability and the educating of outsiders shrinks. However, overconsumption is where the problem starts to occur, ordering massive amounts of poor-quality clothing and then not using all of it is wasteful. Then, when people opt for donating their poor-quality clothes to their local thrift or secondhand store, the impact of overconsumption grows. Buying second hand is a more responsible alternative, but when the clothing itself becomes more and more cheap, the more often one needs to visit the thrift store, which then also equals overconsumption. Less fortunate communities often rely on secondhand stores for clothing and miscellaneous items; however, it isn’t sustainable for them to have to keep returning and spending money on cheap items that don’t last.  

Influencers are a new concept, and not all of them can be branded as causes for overconsumption. If these influencers started redirecting their “influencing” towards more important causes or issues in the world, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a change in direction. Bringing light towards small businesses, social sustainability, or waste management across the world would be more responsible and longer lasting when it comes to our future. Directing wallets to causes and change, rather than online stores would make a difference, even small.  

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