Buy Less

The answer to the environmental mess is to buy less. Warning!! This post is a bit utopian. Read it at your own risk.

The answer to the environmental mess is to buy less. That simple. That difficult. I know; this is bad news. Nobody wants to hear about it. But I have to try…

In order to reduce our environmental impact…we simply have to consume less. Sounds obvious, but is not. Some people think that by buying energy efficient electric lights, or fuel efficient vehicles, we are doing our part. Wrong.
What do we do with the money saved? We don’t burn it or bury it. We go back to the mall and buy something else. Consumption is back. So, it doesn’t help.
There are only two ways to reduce global consumption levels:
  1. Reduce the number of people.
  2. Work less, produce less and buy less.
The reduction of the number of people would be complicated to implement. For obvious reasons it must be done long term. Establishing birth control policies, as in China, would be the way. Many people think that the problem of overpopulation concerns mainly the developing world. This is not a fair statement. On average, the consumption level of an American new born baby is equivalent to 20 babies in Mozambique 1. To be fair, population reductions should be 20 times greater in developed countries than developing ones. As per my calculations, we should not be more than 3 billion people worldwide 2,3. Reachable.
The consumption per capita reduction would be even harder to achieve. The poor want to escape from hunger and want to lead lives of dignity and security. They want to join the consumer class. And they will. We cannot expect any savings from them. It is not only fair, it is also right.
Therefore we, the consumers of the developed world, must bear the brunt of consumption reduction. As per my calculations, we should reduce our consumption levels by 40% 2. That would be like returning to mid-1980’s US consumption levels. Work 40% less, produce 40% less and buy 40% less. Bearable.
It is proven that, once the basics are covered, additional wealth and consumption does not mean more satisfying lives. In order to achieve a better quality of life for all, the economy of the Twenty-first Century needs a different focus, not production, but minimal environmental harm 1. Feasible.
Of course, none of this would be necessary if people would stop buying silly and unnecessary things. Impossible.

  1. Environmental Impacts of Consumption.
  2. Based on 1.9 hectares of biologically productive land per person. Lower consumption levels would allow for higher human population, and vice versa.
  3. World population in 1959 was 3 billion people. Not too long ago.


  1. You could also tap into the feel-good factor that comes with having less things. Owing just enough is no easy task, but it is certainly rewarding. Less stuff, less clutter, less worries, less needs, and you get to enjoy that which you own more.

  2. Thanks Molgar. I will certainly tap into it. I don't know if you have read the book The Poverty of Affluence. Quite refreshing.


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