I’ll be honest, I’ve been guilty of the overconsumption of material items but I am trying my best to change these habits. I know how exciting it can be to know that you have a package on the way in the mail, or to go to the mall and walk out with multiple bags, but these little habits can have long term effects on our environment that many may not be aware of. There is nothing wrong with treating yourself to a new item, but we must be conscious of the amount that we are consuming and the possible dangers of overconsumption. 

Think back to the things that were trendy online in 2020. How many of these things do you still see regularly online? Definitely not many at all. Trends are changing at a rapid pace, and social media is partly at fault for this. With influencers promoting numerous new products every day, it’s no wonder that no one can seem to keep up with all of the trends. This rapid promotion of items online leads to the issue of over consuming material items. People are so desperate to keep up with what is currently trending, but when these trends change so quickly, it leads us to buy products and then forget about them when the new big thing comes out a few weeks, or even days, later. Things such as influencer collaborations with brands or coupon codes make consumers feel as though they need to act quickly to purchase the item before it sells out or the deal has expired. They buy these items before they have the chance to think about if they really need it. 

Every time I scroll through TikTok or Instagram I see people participating in these trends and I think to myself “how long until people completely forget that this product exists?” or “when will this product no longer be on trend?” One thing I see far too often on TikTok is massive Shein hauls. Now, I know that Shein is not the only fast-fashion brand out there that is bad for the environment, but its extreme rise in popularity since 2020 has made it a major concern. Many fast fashion brands have been criticized for their labour practices, and Shein is no different. Workers are forced to work extremely long hours for unlivable wages, all so that people can purchase a cheaply made piece of clothing. Shein’s unfair wages for their workers and the low quality of their clothing allows them to price their items lower than most clothing stores. This results in people buying massive amounts of items from them because it’s so affordable. Many of these pieces of clothing fall under the category of micro trends in fashion which are items that become extremely popular, only to be forgotten about a short while later. Buying massive amounts of these items that will only be worn less than a handful of times before the owner considers them no longer in style is an unsustainable way of consuming. Shein also individually packages each item in it’s own plastic bag, adding to the amount of waste that is produced. Another concerning trend in fashion that I see often online is people purchasing full brand new outfits specifically to wear to one event. Of course there are instances where this may be necessary, such as formal events, but for casual events such as a party or music festival, it is important to try and wear something that you already own, or to purchase something that can be worn again after the event. 

Another instance of overconsumption of products that has been circulating online lately is the excessive purchasing of reusable water bottles. At the beginning of this year I even saw people online making TikToks asking about what the water bottle trend of the year is going to be. There is nothing wrong with owning multiple reusable water bottles or cups, but there is a point where it becomes excessive. Nobody needs to own five different colours of the same Stanley water bottle. Overconsumption of reusable water bottles somewhat defeats the original purpose of these reusable bottles. They are made to reduce our use of single-use plastics, but when we are constantly buying new ones when a new trend begins, our wasteful habits live on. It’s important to use your reusable water bottles as often as possible and for as long as they last in order to reduce waste.

Something that has gained popularity on TikTok lately in an effort to reduce material overconsumption is the idea of deinfluencing, which is the opposite of online influencing. Deinfluencing is the process of users making videos convincing their followers that they don’t need to buy every item that they have their eye on. In these videos, they often talk about popular products that they didn’t like and convince their followers that these products may not be right for them either. They try to encourage people to think about whether or not purchasing these products will really improve their life and that it will probably not live up to the hype that surrounds it. Another way that they attempt to deinfluence is by directly responding to advertisements. There are many products that are promoted online that are marketed as being life-hacks but are actually completely useless. Deinfluencers are there to remind you to not be fooled by the illusion that it will change your life and that it actually is probably just a waste of money. This new trend of deinfluencing is extremely important for reducing this period of overconsumption that we are living in today because of social media and I believe that it is going to make a major difference in our consumer habits. 

In order to attempt to reduce your consumption habits I want to propose some methods that you could try and integrate into your life. The first one is shopping second hand. This is something that I have become a major fan of in the past few years. There are so many options for second hand shopping such as thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, or Depop. This method is great because you’re not only saving the planet, you’re saving your bank account too! Instead of buying a mass amount of clothing from Shein for cheap, you could buy second hand clothes for cheap that will likely be greater quality and will hopefully stay in your wardrobe for a long time. Another way to try and consume less is by doing a clothing swap with your friends. This way you can spruce up your wardrobe without even having to spend money. If you aren’t able to give your friends your old clothes, another option is to donate them. If your clothing is undamaged, don’t throw it away! Donate it to a thrift store or charity so that someone else can use an item that you no longer use. Another way that you can be more sustainable may sound obvious, but it is to buy less. Try your best to get as much use out of your items as possible before replacing them. Clothes are made to be reworn, and reusable water bottles are supposed to last, so do your best to get as much use out of your items as possible. By making these small changes, we can begin to make a real difference.

About the Author

Hi! I'm Megan and I'm a fourth year English major. This is my first year writing for WEW and I'm really excited about it! Some of my favourite things to do in my free time are watching movies, reading, and baking. My favourite movies are La La Land (2016) and Little Women (2019) and my favourite book is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I'm looking forward to sharing my ideas with everyone and also learning about new topics from the other writers!