Although Cyber Monday has provided a convenient (and far less chaotic) alternative to Black Friday, I am always surprised by the number of people I know who still trek out to the mall at ridiculous hours after Thanksgiving to shop.
In this country, we spend an entire day giving thanks for what we have and on the following day, we buy more things for ourselves. I’m fairly certain that most of these purchases are not made out of necessity, but rather because the prices advertised seem too good to pass up.
Across the globe, America is known as a nation of consumers. The items we buy have come to define our values, and the act of shopping has become the most popular use of leisure time for Americans (tied with watching television).
Granted, not all of this is entirely our fault. Many companies employ the principle of planned obsolescence, or designing products to break down in the shortest amount of time, to keep consumers buying. Unfortunately, the profits these big corporations make pale in comparison to the footprint they leave on the planet and the populations through resource exploitation, chemical emissions, waste production and employment of underpaid workers.
However, as consumers, we do have control over how vulnerable we are to perceived obsolescence, or the hypnosis of advertising. Very often, the clothes, hair color, cars and furniture we have is completely adequate, but we are made to feel as though it is out of season or not good enough, because of the thousands of advertisements to which we are exposed. We have been programmed to be unhappy with what we currently have.
The average American produces 4.3 pounds of garbage daily, yet it’s so easy to forget that, once we drag our trash bags to the end of the street (or drop them down the garbage shoot in the dorms), that waste does not just disappear.
Shockingly, 99 percent of the products Americans buy are trashed within six months of purchase. The cycle of production, consumption and disposal is a difficult one to break, because many of us are used to the comfort of buying everything we need and want as soon as we need or want it (and then some). But it will be significantly more difficult to repair the damage caused by the cycle than to break from it.
Excessive leisure shopping can easily be curbed if we simply keep the planet in mind, owning only what we want and wanting only what we need.
Nayna Shah is a freshman majoring in music composition.