The price of consumerism

Can we mitigate the looming dangers being predicted for the Earth just by using natural materials.

The Green Sense column focuses on eco-friendly designs and green buildings, yet occasionally feels the need to go beyond buildings. After all, the buildings are designed by us to take care of our needs and built to fulfil our aspirations. What if, attitudinally, we are not seeking eco-ideas? What if our dreams are aimed at immediate individual comforts, even if they are to cause future collective suffering? Can we mitigate the looming dangers being predicted for the Earth just by using natural materials and ensuring daylight?

Such questions become important in this “age of aspirations.” It is said that if every person living on Earth hopes to live like a North American, we need resources of four Earths, but we have only one! The average temperature in India is predicted to go up by two degrees by 2025, but we are feeling the impact already due to unpredictable weather conditions – dry monsoon, late spells of rains, fruit trees flowering at odd times, drought and flood virtually following each other.

Think before discarding

All multinational companies are landing up in India offering their services and products to capture the fast emerging market opportunities here, which incidentally is also among the largest middle class buyer groups in the world today. No wonder, the latest models of cars, computers, cameras, home theatres, cell phones, air conditioners and many other products outsell their own earlier model within months. The race of consumerism is here to stay. During the last 10 years, many people would have bought the above items for the first time, but most people who owned them earlier might have changed them many times. It is easy to find many urban residents who are using their third camera, running their fourth car or using their fifth mobile phone within a short span of 10 years, not knowing the fate of what they have discarded.

Add what else we discard – increased quantity of packaging that comes home every time we buy anything from vegetables to apparels; exchanging gadgets mostly in use in the guise of exchange offer; the market gimmick of free gifts which are possibly unwanted; items of daily use being replaced by new branded goods and many more of this kind.


It is important to ask if the building is sustainable, but equally important is to ask if our emerging lifestyle is sustainable. What if there is an energy efficient, eco-friendly house, but the residents and owners are consuming more resources than what the building design has saved? We may say the two are not related; hence the role of architects and engineers is to mind their business and focus only on the construction related decisions. This argument could be valid, for professionals are not dictating a lifestyle.

However, since it is the lifestyle that demands a certain building design, it dictates the desired design; hence the two, viz. design and lifestyle are connected. Green sense will be total when we do both: seek an eco-friendly home and live an eco-friendly living.


Posted on November 3, 2012, in fundamentals and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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