Extent of Pollution from Consumerism

Having had a brief idea of what pollution from consumption entails, today we will share about the extent of pollution caused by consumerism.

“Most of the environmental issues we see today can be linked to consumption,” said Gary Gardner, director of research for Worldwatch.

According to National Geographic, there were approximately 1.7 billion people in the world in the consumer class* in 2004. More than a decade on, the number of people has sure increased tremendously given the massive economic growth enjoyed by the rapidly developing economies – especially China and India.

*Consumer class refers to the group of people whose diet consists of highly processed food, with a desire for more and bigger houses and cars, as well as a lifestyle that is highly devoted to the accumulation of non-essential goods (Mayell, 2004).

With an expanding consumer class, we see a rise in the consumption of luxury goods. While the increased consumption of luxuries helps to improve one’s standard of living, it also adds to the amount of pollution in our environment.

Atmospheric pollution
In terms of production, the expansion of the consumer class leads to a higher demand for consumption goods – both necessities and luxuries. A higher demand meant that more resource input is needed to increase production. With a large amount of energy (often) derived from fossil fuels being used in the production process, it contributes to atmospheric pollution in the form of greenhouse gas emissions, specifically carbon dioxide (CO2).

Indeed, a recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2020) stated that the global average atmospheric CO2 levels today are much higher than at any point in time over the past 800,000 years.

As seen from the graph above, CO2 levels reached a high at 409.8 parts per million (ppm) in 2019. This was the result of the widespread use of fossil fuels for energy where the combustion of these carbon-rich resources emits CO2. With their ‘heat-trapping’ effect, CO2 contributes to atmospheric pollution through its role in enhancing the greenhouse effect.

Aquatic pollution
Post-production, the improper disposal of production waste such as wastewater could lead to aquatic pollution. For instance, in the production of clothes within the fashion industry, many chemicals are used in the manufacturing process – from fibre production, dyeing, bleaching and wet processing. The discharge of this chemical-heavy wastewater (especially those without compliance to discharge regulations) into waterways introduces harmful chemicals to the affected water bodies, causing irreparable damage. Even when wastewater is discharged in compliance with the discharge regulation, chemicals are still present in the wastewater, even in trace levels.

As depicted in the study by Paraschiv, Tudor & Petrariu (2015) on water pollution from the textile industry among the G20 countries, the textile industry contributes between 3% and 33% of water pollution.

Such data reflects how our consumption of necessities such as clothes can contribute to a form of pollution in the environment.

During consumption, the widespread use of plastics as packaging contributes to aquatic pollution too! Every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations (Parker, 2019). In addition to the harmful effects of plastics in its physical form – such as the risk of ingestion by aquatic animals, plastics in their chemical form – with their added additives to make them stronger, more durable, and flexible – can also contribute to pollution through the introduction of toxic chemicals adsorbed on the plastics into the water environment.

More on the use of plastics in various industries will be shared in time to come!

In the coming weeks, we will share more about how consumption under each theme – food, fashion, beauty products, cleaning agents, e-wastes – contributes to pollution, as well as some mitigation we can undertake as consumers to prevent more pollutants from venturing into our beloved environment.

Stay tuned for our next update!


Lindsey, R. (2020, August 14). Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide: NOAA Climate.gov. Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide

Mayell, H. (2004, January 12). As Consumerism Spreads, Earth Suffers, Study Says. Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2004/01/consumerism-earth-suffers/

Nabeerasool, A. (2019, November 14). How is fast fashion polluting our water? Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/how-is-fast-fashion-polluting-our-water/77704/

Paraschiv, D., Tudor, C., & Petrariu, R. (2015). The Textile Industry and Sustainable Development: A Holt–Winters Forecasting Investigation for the Eastern European Area. Sustainability, 7(2), 1280-1291. doi:10.3390/su7021280

Parker, L. (2019, June 07). The world’s plastic pollution crisis explained. Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/plastic-pollution/

Consupollution : What constitutes pollution from consumption?

Hey consupollutants!

…Still harsh?

Fret not, our goal is to bring you with us in our blogging journey to transition effectively from a consupollutants to a mindful consumer. As such, for this post, we will delve deeper into what constitutes pollution from consumption. Meaning, what products do we buy in our daily life contribute to environmental pollution?

From our previous blog post, we explored the history and development of consumerism and how that led to the massive purchase of products in our daily lives. Hence, we end up knowingly and unknowingly polluting the environment when we bite into the demand for such products that we consume daily. How do we reduce this?

In this blog, we will focus on specifically on the following in order :

  1. Pollution from Food Consumption
    • We will explore pollution arising from Food Consumption. This includes food packaging, fast food, poultry, seafood and the difference between the pollution from farmed crops and modern ways of farming.
  2. Pollution from Fashion
    • There are many types of pollution arising from fast fashion – from the production all the way to the improper disposal. This section will explore the various types of pollution in the various stages of the clothing cycle.
    • In addition, we will also talk about possible alternatives to fast fashion.
  3. Pollution from Beauty Products
    • Chemical pollution as well as plastic pollution arises from the consumption of beauty products. Such beauty products include makeup, haircare, body care and skin care.
  4. Pollution from Domestic Cleaning Agents
    • Everyday household items also play a part in environmental pollution arising from consumption. This section will explore the dangers of certain products and what we can do to reduce this without implicating our daily use.
  5. Pollution from E-wastes
    • Lastly, we will explore pollution arising from consumption of various electronics.

All these are examples of the prominent categories that we consume on a daily basis – and this is apparent in the way we dispose these items and how the various pollutants brought about by these items are affecting our physical environment as well as us health-wise.

The following posts will talk about all of these in great detail.

See you!

Consumerism: What, and how

Ever heard of ‘consumerism’? What are your thoughts about it?


Let’s see if we are on the same page regarding what is consumerism! From Pattberg and Zelli (2015), consumerism broadly concerns consumption. However, consumerism is also often used to specifically refer to a culture of excessive consumption of goods without regard to the negative impacts on people and towards the planet.


Sounds scary? Well, many of us seem to be quite guilty of it given our pursuit of luxury goods, the latest gadgets and more!


But… How did this happen? Have societies worldwide been like this since time immoral? Definitely not! Let me tell you how as we travel back in time.


  • Before the 1600s, the modern concept of consumerism is not to be found, at best, limited due to the focus on ‘cottage industry‘, and hence, the lack of capital for purchase.
  • In the 1700s, consumerism took flight with the Industrial Revolution.  Originating from England, the Industrial Revolution soon spread other countries in Europe, as well as North America.

Diagram: how Industrial Revolution can lead to increased consumption and further consumerism – an economic cycle [Source: Jocelyn]

  • From then onwards, consumerism continued to grow and developed across the world into the 20th and the 21st century. It has become so intertwined with our lives that one cannot imagine how life was like in the past without the presence of a wide range of goods and services to consume.

For an animated view of the history and development of consumerism, check out this video:


History of Consumerism. (n.d.). Retrieved September 03, 2020, from https://www.historycrunch.com/history-of-consumerism.html

P. H. Pattberg and Zelli, F. (2015). Consumerism. In Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Governance and Politics (pp. 9-15). Elgar Publishing.




What is Pollution?

C o n s u p o l l u t i o n
[kon – su – puh – lew – shun]
(n.pollution from the
active consumption of humans
of products in the economy

Hello fellow consupollutant! (A very harsh term, no?)

The word consupollutant is a mix of the words Consumption (Consumer) and Pollution (Pollutant)

In this blog, we recognise and acknowledge that all of us are active consumers of products in the market. However, more often than not, we as consumers are not aware or find ourselves indifferent to the product cycle of the things that we purchase. Most of what we purchase are actually active pollutants of the environment! Some of which are our everyday clothes, beauty products and even the food that we eat. Hence, the term consupollutant. However, we want to bring all of you together with us (Eliza and Jocelyn) on a journey to transform ourselves from Consupollutants to Mindful Consumers.

So what is pollution anyway? 

Pollution comes from the Latin word ‘pollutionem’, which means ‘to desecrate, defile’. This broadly fits National Geographic‘s definition where Pollution is seen as the introduction of harmful and toxic materials into the environment. Most of the time, this is the result of anthropogenic factors.

There are many types of pollution – air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, etc. This blog will discuss how certain products that we consume in our daily lives pollute the environment , be it atmospherically, in the oceans or rivers, and even the food that we eat.

Tune in for the next post about the history of consumption!

For now, here’s an interesting video on pollution 🙂

References :

National Geographic Society. (2012, October 09). Pollution. Retrieved September 04, 2020, from https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/pollution/

CrashCourse . (2013, January 15). Pollution: Crash Course Ecology #11 [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdDSRRCKMiI