America is facing an environmental crisis, but continues to ignore its approach. Following the culmination of the Second World War, Americans had developed a mindset of linear consumerism. During the war, the economy had a significant boost because of the emerging factories and production of weapons and bombs. When the need for weaponry had ceased, the economy had plateaued. Victor Lebow, and economic scholar, discovered that an increased society comes hand in hand with increased consumption. Ever since, the American government has pushed and even subsidized consumerism. As the holidays come to a close, it’s easy to recognize the consumerism push through all of the stuff we give and receive to our friends and family. Lots of these products will never go to use, even though it took so many materials, dollars, and people to create it. Product labels almost never mention where the materials were sourced from, how it was made, by what means it was distributed and finally how it should be disposed. These unspoken truths reveals a lot about how unsustainable the “linear consumerism” model is. For example, around 99% of products are disposed of just 6 months after purchase. After being used, a majority of these products are disposed of in landfills. This negative statistic is one of many related to our consumerism model.
I haven’t necessarily felt less inclined to buy products, especially because of the recent holiday shopping spree, but I have most definitely become more aware. Being more conscious about waste makes me more likely to think about the history of a product prior to disposing it. I have found myself being diligent about recycling and compost versus regular landfill disposal. Most importantly, in reflection of what I learned, I have become more excited about using our waste to create new products. Not only just in terms of recycling metals and paper, but also energy and plastics. If just one 40 minute period can excite innovation in a group of young learners, what’s possible when sustainability is taught to everyone?