Consumerism

"While the economy is growing exponentially, the earth's natural capacities, such as the ability to supply fresh water, forest products, and seafood, have not increased. A team of scientists led by Mathis Wackernagel concluded in a 2002 study published by the National Academy of Sciences that humanity's collective demands first surpassed the earth's regenerative capacity around 1980. Today, global demands on natural systems exceed their sustainable yield capacity by an estimated 25 percent. This means we are meeting current demands by consuming the earth's natural assets, setting the stage for decline and collapse." - Lester R. Brown, Plan B 3.0, 2008

What You Need To Know

One of the common threads of American culture is that "more is better" and that the production and consumption of more "stuff" will lead towards a happier and more satisfied life.  This idea has boosted the American economy, but according to studies, it has not made us any happier than we were before the boom beginning in the 1950's. Instead, it has produced two very harmful results:

  • American families are drawn into a work-and-spend lifestyle that values belongings above belonging. We have allowed intentional marketing to set the standard that our value as human beings is measured by what we have rather than by the content of our character.
  • Our current rate of consumption is environmentally unsustainable as it uses more resources than the planet can reproduce. In fact, our rate of consumption is denying the children of the future their fair opportunity for comfort, security and a healthy environment.  

Why Is Consumerism An Issue Of Faith?

The United Church of Christ asks its members to examine their own lives and their own consumption patterns to reflect non-material values like justice, peace, fairness, community, health, diversity, and legacy. We believe that relationships and experiences, family and friends, and access to adequate food, shelter, and security are important for all of God's children. We believe that a sustainable web of life can only be maintained in step with the earth's capacity to sustain and celebrate life's natural and human diversity.

What You Can Do

We encourage individuals and congregations to use resources such as those produced by the Northwest Earth Institute called Choices for Sustainable Living and Voluntary Simplicity to begin the conversations and the commitment to follow the words of Francis Lappe "to live simply so that others may simply live." The first step for many individuals, families, and congregations is honesty about what we need and what we want, so start by making two lists and see where your priorities are. Working and studying with others is one of the best ways to reinforce new commitments and habits.

Some folks recommend behavior modification techniques like putting your credit cards in water in the freezer, so that in the time they need to thaw, you have time to reflect on whether a purchase is a "need" or a "want." Others recommend purchases that promise long-term quality over short-term "flash." The questions that must be addressed are:

  • Does this purchase add positive value to my life, my home, or my community?
  • Does this purchase harm or help the natural environment ?
  • Could I do without this purchase?
  • What else could I spend this money on or could I save it for the future?

Links and Resources

  • Choices for Sustainable Living and Voluntary Simplicity, Northwest Earth Institute.
  • Simple Prosperity, Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle, David Wann.
  • The New Frugality, How to Consume Less, Save more, and Live Better, Chris Farrell.
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CONTACT INFO

Ms. Meighan Pritchard
Minister for Environmental Justice
United Church of Christ
700 Prospect Ave
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-3722
pritchardm@ucc.org