Hyperconsumerism and How to Give Sustainably This Holiday Season

Hyperconsumerism, or hyperconsumption, has become one of the most damaging human habits in the modern world. Most of us contribute to hyperconsumerism on a daily basis without even realizing it, and it’s far too easy to become influenced by society to buy things we really don’t need, or buy things for the wrong reasons.


But as we’re becoming more aware of things around us, many of us are understanding that the needless buying of stuff is creating problems for us, and for our environment.


In this article, I’ll discuss the problem with hyperconsumerism; I’ll talk about the art of sustainable gift giving; and I’ll give you some thoughtful sustainable gift ideas for the holiday season.



What is Hyperconsumerism?


According to Wikipedia, hyperconsumerism, hyper-consumerism, hyperconsumption or hyper-consumption is the consumption of goods for non-functional purposes and the associated significant pressure to consume those goods, exerted by modern capitalist society, as those goods shape one's identity (1). Simply put, we’ve become a society that buys things that we want, rather than just buying the things we need.


Hyperconsumerism is determined by a set of characteristics. These are:


Personal Identity

Our personal identity has become less to do with who we are as a human being, and more to do with the things we have. Particularly when we are younger, we try to “fit” into certain social boxes. 


This can create insecurities in people if we don’t buy the latest fashion, wear the latest makeup, or use the latest technology. Even the food we choose to eat and the skincare we use all play into our identity. 


Product Lifecycle

Every season brands bring out bright shiny new products, and they market them in such a way that the consumer simply “must” have it. Tying into the last point, if a person wears clothes from three seasons ago, depending on the circle they hang out with, it can have negative effects on their emotional health. 


Yet, buying novelty products every season is incredibly wasteful, especially if that product is designed to only last a short period; think, fast fashion. Anything that is a trending fashion item is going to go out of trend at some point in the near future. When the season is done, the item is pushed to the back of the closet, or discarded after only a handful of wears. So the resources that went into making that garment are essentially wasted.


Conspicuous Consumption

Horstein Veblen coined the term conspicuous consumption in 1965. It refers to the display of easily recognizable expensive goods when cheaper functional equivalents exist (3). According to this study, humans have a preference for bonding with wealthy and high-status individuals and thus treat them more favorably in social interactions. 


Many of us classify ourselves by the car we drive, the shoes we wear, the handbag we carry (3) . The issue with conspicuous consumption is that the sustainability and ethics of high end luxury brands is insufficiently addressed (4). 


Religious Characteristics

The fourth characteristic of hyperconsumerism is religious. Hyperconsumerism has been compared to a new religion, which reveres consumerism. Going to church is replaced with going to the mall; longing for a better afterlife is replaced with desire for a better life now; penance is replaced with shopping sprees; and jewellery and accessories are worn as religious symbols.



The Environmental Issue with Hyperconsumerism

I don’t think I need to point out the environmental cost of hyperconsumerism, but I will anyway. Because we are a society that wants to buy things we don’t necessarily need, it creates a lot of waste. Think about how many things you’ve bought this year that you never used, or only wore once. 


Someone put effort into making that Gucci dress you bought for that one dinner event you went to three years ago. They used resources and labor, and the environment was impacted as a result. But now the dress sits in the back of your closet collecting dust, and while it may end up in a Thrift Store someday or re-gifted to a friend, the issue is that we are conditioned to spend a high price for items—for stuff—that we won’t even use to its full potential.


Fashion—particularly fast fashion—is one of the worst industries for our environment. One study (6) done on fashion’s production to consumption found that water use, chemical pollution, CO2 emissions and textile waste were some of the worst out of all industries. Impacts from the fashion industry include over 92 million tonnes of waste produced per year and 79 trillion litres of water consumed.


Our obsession with buying the latest trends is one of the biggest reasons why our environment suffers. But with societal pressures, it’s difficult, particularly as a young impressionable person watching TikTok all day, and idolizing the Kardashians; our priorities are skewed.




Sustainable Gift Giving

There are ways we can combat the hyperconsumerist lifestyle many of us have built for ourselves. To be clear, going against hyperconsumerism doesn’t mean you miss out on buying things, as I’m sure some of you may be thinking. It just means that you purchase things more thoughtfully, more mindfully, and you take into consideration the entire life cycle and sustainability of that product.


The key reasons why you should be buying sustainably are:


Durability

Sustainable means products have been made to last longer, with better quality components. The shorts you bought from Reformation will generally outlast the ones you bought from H&M simply because they have been made with higher quality fabric. Or the sofa you buy from Wayfair is not going to be as durable as a boutique furniture store who handmakes all of their furniture.


Ethics

Another key difference in buying sustainably made products is that the company making said products are more often than not more ethical in the way they operate. Brands need to jump through many hoops so that their products can be considered sustainable. This means the sourcing of ingredients or materials needs to be sustainable and ethical; the packaging needs to be sustainably and ethically made; and the brand itself needs to be ethical in the way they manufacture, produce, and operate. This means no harm is done to humans, animals, or the environment.


Thoughtfulness 

Something you may not have thought about is how much more effort goes into sustainable products, thus making them a more thoughtful gesture as gifts. Sustainable products—like artisanal and handmade gifts—are much more thoughtful to give someone. Giving someone a gift that is made sustainably shows that you value them and you want them to have a product that will last, and that is high quality. 


Personal Touch 

To add on to the thoughtfulness of giving a sustainable gift, this gives you more opportunity to gift something that is more personal. The disparity between getting a common gift that you know has been mass produced, over receiving something from an Indie brand that has been handmade is night and day. So giving something that is more sustainably made will ultimately feel more personal.

 


4 Sustainable Gift Box Ideas to Give This Holiday Season

As we come into the holiday season, it’s likely that you’ve started thinking about gifts to buy your loved ones. So I’ve come up with four sustainable gift ideas that take the guesswork out of gift giving this holiday season. These are all handmade, artisanal, and sustainably made gifts that I’ve hand picked just for you.



Self Care Box

Lip Treatment Kit by Three Ships 

Everyone longs for more luscious lips. Three Ships have a beautiful little duo; a lip exfoliator and a lip mask. Give the gift of softer lips.


Passion Eye Serum by Earthwise Beauty

Next, add Earthwise Beauty’s Passion Eye Serum. With sustainably sourced botanicals, like andiroba and rosehip oils for antioxidant protection, coffee oil for reducing puffiness, and sea buckthorn berry for minimizing fine lines, this eye treatment will have your loved one looking fresh and bright eyed.


Rose Gold Applicator & Acupressure Tool by Earth Harbor

Your loved one can apply their eye serum using this applicator, while also performing acupressure therapy to help further ease puffiness and eye stress.


30 Momme Silk Pillowcase by Fait avec Coeur

Complete your self care gift with a 30-momme silk pillowcase by Fait avec Coeur. And if your loved one suffers from acne, select the 30-momme silk pillowcase with silver ion-infused technology instead, which will treat their breakouts and inflammation while they sleep.



Skincare Essentials Box

Silk Premier Cleansing Oil by M.S.Skincare

Teach your loved one a simple skincare ritual of double cleansing. First get the Silk premier Cleansing Oil. This oil will emulsify makeup, dirt, and excess oils without stripping the skin.


Pa’akai Cleansing Cream by Honua Skincare

Then add this gorgeous cleansing cream to balance and nourish their skin. This cleanser contains Hawaiian botanical known to cleanse, purify, and balance, leaving skin soft.


Tidal Rose Crystal Hydration Toner by Earth Harbor

Another staple essential in a skincare ritual is a toner. The Tidal Rose Crystal Hydration Toner will further balance and hydrate skin, while giving an immersive and relaxing experience.


Radiance Grape Stem Cell and Squalene Day Cream by Three Ships

A ritual is not complete without a moisturizer. This moisturizer will repair and nourish the skin’s on a cellular level, without weighing it down. Perfect for the cooler months.

Makeup Essentials Box

 Bioblender by EcoTools

For the makeup lover, get them a Bioblender, the world’s first biodegradable beauty blender. This will effectively blend makeup, just as the original beauty blender does, but doesn’t cost the earth.


Joshua Tree Eyeshadow Palette by Āthr Beauty

My favorite eyeshadow palette is the Joshua Tree Palette by Āthr Beauty. It has a range of colors that suit any skin tone and any occasion. They’re also formulated with sustainably sourced and made ingredients, like conflict-free mica and crystals. The palettes are 100% recyclable, too.


Highlighters by Axiology

Give your loved one a Highligheter by Axiology. These gorgeous crayons can be used anywhere on the face to highlight high points. They’re formulated with natural, cruelty-free ingredients, and are housed in recyclable paper—zero plastic.


Zero Waste Mascara by Izzy

The future is circular and refillable. Izzy has innovated the first refillable mascara on a subscription model. Just send your finished mascara back to Izzy where they recycle and sterilize the mascara tubes and wands on site, and send you a new, sterile mascara.


Lip Balm by River Organics

My absolute favorite lip balm is by River Organics. They come in a paper tube, and are formulated with 100% natural butters and oils that are sustainably sourced. They come in six colors, and are a perfect way to complete a natural makeup look.



Home Essentials Box

Bamboo Bedding by Fait avec Coeur

If you’re after something more luxurious, get Fait avec Coeur’s Bamboo Bedding Set. Bamboo is one of the most renewable and sustainable natural resources available on the planet. It’s naturally antibacterial and hypoallergenic, and is super soft on skin. 


Silk Blanket by Fait avec Coeur

Finish the gift off with a 100% Silk Blanket. This blanket is made using only the finest strands of mulberry silk. It is naturally biodegradable, hypoallergenic, antibacterial, thermo-regulating, and is incredibly soft. Everything about this blanket is luxurious, and it has also been sustainably handmade by artisanal silk spinners. 


All of Fait avec Coeur's silk products are OEKO-TEX®BSCI, and ISO certified.

 


Conclusion


It isn’t difficult to be more sustainable in the things that we buy. What can be difficult is recognizing that we are contributing to hyperconsumerism, and then taking action to change habits. Hopefully this article has given you some insight and some ideas into how to be more sustainable this holiday season.



Emma Masotti is an Australian now living in Austin, TX, and has been a trained esthetician for over 15 years. She is a sustainable skincare writer, educating and building awareness around proper skin health that doesn’t cost the earth.

 

Some of the products promoted in our blog are from our online store. Many others are brands we have researched and found to be great examples of sustainable, ethical, and innovative brands in their field, and we don't make any profit from mentioning them in our blog. #CollaborationOverCompetition

 

 

 

 

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperconsumerism
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3306667/
  3. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0170216
  4. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijmr.12195
  5. https://www.nature.com/articles/s43017-020-0039-9