Ed. Note: We are happy to share this reader response, which is part of a series submitted by undergraduate students at Loyola University Chicago from a course called ENVS 363: Sustainable Business Management.
“Less is more.” This holds true regarding an infinite amount of simple things in life, such as toilet paper use, applying make-up, adding salt to a recipe, and so on. Has this phrase been forgotten? The average American home owns over 300,000 items and has more televisions than people in their homes. Americans are consuming more than twice the amount of goods than they were in the past 50 years. Also, there are more shopping malls than high schools in America, and women will spend over 8 years of their lives shopping. People keep buying more and the world cannot keep up with it.
The issue of overconsumption is directly correlated with gross domestic product (GDP). GDP is the total of everything produced in a nation, like consumption, government investments, and government spending. The mindset of a nation being successful based on high GDP needs to be altered because there are other ways to measure success, such as the genuine progress indicator (GPI). GPI measures the economic, environmental, and social aspects of a society. Economic aspects measure unemployment and inequality. Environmental aspects measure issues concerning pollution of air or water, climate change, etc. Social aspects measure higher education, volunteer work, crime, etc. GPI is a better alternative to measure the success of a nation than GDP because it focuses on the well-being of a nation, as opposed to the size.
The world is stuck in a linear economy that has a “take, make, and dispose” model. Members of the linear economy are ignorant to the long-term destruction they are causing the economy, due to failure of reusing products or finding better alternatives to eliminate waste. A circular economy needs to arise, where products are being redefined to be more sustainable. Services in a circular economy consist of eliminating waste through innovation, renewable energy sources, and are building economic, natural, and social capital. By living sustainably and reprioritizing issues such as education, healthcare, and basic human rights, a circular economy can drastically enhance the quality of life right now, as well as for future generations. Prioritizing the betterment of members of an economy is essential to accomplish change. With better education, people would be conscious of overconsumption and production. People would be healthier and happier by having access to better healthcare. More importantly, if people were treated equally with respect, the world would be a better place in every single aspect.
“Less is more.” This simple phrase could help transform the current, rapidly growing economy, to a sustainable economy. The only way that the economy can change is if the members are willing to partake in such adjustment. By substituting GDP with GPI to measure success of a nation, switching from a linear to circular economy, and reprioritizing issues such as education, health care, and basic human rights, one can live in a sustainable economy without continuous economic growth.