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4 Examples of Overconsumption

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Overconsumption is consumption of a resource or good that produces net negative value. The following are illustrative examples.


The consumption of a renewable resource to the point that it can no longer be renewed. This is extremely wasteful, destructive and irrational. For example, in the Gilded Age the American Bison was hunted to near extinction from a herd of around 25 million down to less than 100. This eliminated the livelihood of the Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains that had consumed this resource at a sustainable pace for around 15,000 years.

Economic Bads

Consumption that creates economic bads such as pollution that exceed economic benefits can be viewed as overconsumption. For example, a widget sold for $1 that produces $32 in air pollution to manufacture. In order to reduce overconsumption, the price of economic bads could be included in the cost of goods. This would provide incentive to remove the economic bads to reduce prices and gain market share.

Carrying Capacity

The carrying capacity of the Earth is the theory that the planet can only support a fixed number of people for a given level of consumption per person. This is greatly influenced by the efficiency of this consumption. In theory, goods could be fully reused and recycled and energy fully renewable such that carrying capacity could be extremely high. However, if societies are inefficient such that each person consumes significant resources and produces large amounts of pollution, carrying capacity will be much lower.


Consumerism is the observation that people appear to become obsessed with consumption such that they consume a great deal more than is required to secure a reasonable quality of life. This is largely based on the commoditization of experience whereby people use goods to substitute for elements of the human experience. For example, a luxury handbag that represents social status as a substitute for earning respect from others with your behavior.


The following is a basic overview of overconsumption with additional examples.


Where consumption causes extinction, negative value approaches infinity as the resource is permanently lost for all future years.
Overconsumption isn't a judgement call on what people truly need but is rather identified by the problems that it creates.
Government policies such as placing a cost on waste and pollution can reduce overconsumption. In some cases, these policies are more costly to low income earners than the wealthy. This can create environmental injustice.
Overview: Overconsumption
Consumption of a resource or good that produces net negative value.
Related Concepts
Next: Scarcity
More about sustainability :
Adaptive Reuse
Broken Window Fallacy
Carbon Concrete
Cascading Failure
Circular Economy
Clean Air Zone
Clean Label
Climate Engineering
CO2 Per Capita
Coal Power
Comparative Risk
Creeping Normality
Cultural Lag
Cycle Highway
Deep Water Cooling
Disaster Preparedness
District Heating
Do No Harm
Do Nothing Farming
Dollar Voting
Economic Bad
Electric Boat
Embodied Energy
Environmental Issues
Environmental Justice
Environmental Problems
Existential Risk
Farm Robots
Fertilizer Tree
Fire Ecology
Food Sovereignty
Forest Dieback
Fruit Bagging
Global Change
Global Issues
Global Warming
Green Facade
Green Facades
Green Industry
Green Roof
Green Walls
Happiness Economics
Happiness Index
High-Speed Rail
Holocene Extinction
Human Scale
Jevons Paradox
Keyhole Garden
Keystone Species
Land Footprint
Light Pollution
Living Street
Market Failure
Material Diversity
Missing Market
Moral Hazard
Natural Capital
Natural Resources
Nearly Car Free
Noise Pollution
Ocean Plastic Cleanup
Outside Context Problem
Particulate Matter
Passive Design
Point Of No Return
Precautionary Principle
Product Transparency
Quality Of Life
Race To The Bottom
Rainwater Harvesting
Repair Cafe
Resilient Cities
Right To Know
Safety By Design
Slow Design
Slow Movement
Smart Glass
Social Responsibility
Soft Engineering
Soil Carbon
Space Junk
Sunlight Transport
Sustainable Design
Sustainable Economics
Sustainable Lighting
Sustainable Materials
Tactical Urbanism
Uneconomic Growth
Urban Density
Urban Design
Urban Heat Island
Urban Reforestation
Waste Is Food
Water Security
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