From CopperWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Overconsumption is consuming more of something than can be tolerated by the biosphere, thereby causing environmental degradation. Such unsustainable actions of individuals cause more and more damage to the environment. In many nations consumption has skyrocketed. Though production has increased many folds it is still behind consumption


Why should I be aware of this?

Consumption is much higher in the developed nations. They have a higher material standard of living, use more consumer durables than those of the rest of the world. Yet in these countries there are higher instances of family breakdown, stress, loneliness and depression. This is both a result of and a cause of increased economic activity, leading to overconsumption.

Obesity is a direct result of over-consumption. By 2000, two thirds of Americans were overweight and the proportion is still rising. Self-destructive overconsumption applies to many aspects of society, especially in 'developed' countries. More and more people in many countries devote hours every day consuming digital culture while families no longer spend time together.

However, although such overconsumption is counterproductive for the individuals involved, it represents a virtuous cycle for the economy, which benefits from increased levels of consumption.

All about overconsumption

A fundamental effect of over-consumption is a reduction in the planet's carrying capacity. Excessive unsustainable consumption will exceed the long term carrying capacity of its environment (ecological overshoot) and subsequent resource depletion, environmental degradation and reduced ecological health. In the long term these effects can lead to increased conflict over dwindling resources and in the worst case a Malthusian catastrophe.

Consumption beyond basic needs

Our consumption has gone beyond basic needs to include luxury items and technological innovation. Such consumption beyond minimal and basic needs is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, as throughout history we have always sought to find ways to make our lives a bit easier to live. What is important to bear in mind in discussing consumption patterns is the underlying system that promotes certain types of consumption and not other types.

Inherent in today’s global economic system is the wasteful use of resources, labor and capital. Waste is not only things like via not recycling etc; it is deep within the system.

Mothers joining the workforce

Today’s families have more to spend than a generation ago. Year after year hundreds of thousands of mothers marched into the workforce, shifting the number of earners in median income families from one to two.

Even as family incomes have risen dramatically over the past generation, there has been a decrease in the family savings.


  • Global inequality in consumption, while reducing, is still high. [1]
  • In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifth just 1.5%. [1]
  • Breaking that down slightly further, the poorest 10% accounted for just 0.5% and the wealthiest 10% accounted for 59% of all the consumption. [1]
  • Runaway growth in consumption in the past 50 years is putting strains on the environment never before seen. [1]
  • China has an area comparable to that of the USA. China's population density is 4.7 times higher than that of the USA, but its per capita energy consumption is 9 times lower than that of the USA. So in spite of its larger population, China uses only half the amount of energy consumed by the USA. [2]


  • Overconsumption and health
  • Consumerism & Altruism
  • Consumption and Consumerism


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Consumption and Consumerism
  2. Over-consumption