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Conscientious Consuming

-- Every dollar spent is a vote of support. Who and what do you $upport?

The enormous affluence and abundance in North America has given rise to the culture of conspicuous consumption. This culture has abounded since the 1950's and has not necessarily brought a greater sense of well-being to our lives. The destructive effects of excessive consumerism extend to all of God's creation. The poor and the planet suffer as a result. And those of us who "benefit" from this conspicuous consumption have experienced a decline in our spiritual and cultural values. It is time we start to examine consumer craziness and start to put our dollars toward real, sustainable alternatives that support the Christian values of serving the earth and the poor!

Biblical Basis

Luke 12:15,23,24
And he said to them, "Beware and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has abundance does life consist of his possessions. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

Mathew 6:24
No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Isaiah 5:8
Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field until everywhere belongs to them and they are the sole inhabitants of the land.


  • Television has so successfully spread the religion of conspicuous consumption, that the world consumed as many goods and services since 1950 (the launching of TV) as had all previous generations put together.1
  • North American children in 1995 spent over $10 billion and influenced over $150 billion worth of family purchases.1
  • Since the 1950's global advertising spending per capita has steadily increased from $15 to $50 per person.1
  • Every year the average American child watches 40,000 TV commercials.1
  • The New York Timesestimates that the average American is exposed to 3,500 ads a day.2
  • Advertising helps to keep consumers dissatisfied with their mode of life, discontented with "ugly" things around them. Satisfied customers are not as profitable as discontented ones. While the products may differ, the message is the same: Buying Things will make your life better.3

Astounding Facts

  • In 1955, Economist Victor Lebow wrote in the Journal of Retailing, "Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption a way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, replaced, and discarded at an ever-increasing rate."4
  • 93% of American teenage girls say shopping is their favorite pastime.5
  • Each day, an armada of trucks, trains, ships and planes haul 20,000 tons of food into New York City - amobilization comparable in size to a military invasion.Every day a separate armada hauls 26,000 tons of solid waste out of NYC.6
  • 82% of Americans agree with the statement, "We buy and consume far more than we need."1
  • Among industrialized nations, America is number one in private consumption and last in saving.7
  • McDonalds spent 2.5 million on one ad aired during the1994 SuperBowl.8

Lessons from Christ... Go Against the Flow

  • You cannot serve both God and Money
  • Love you neighbor as yourself
  • Take up your cross and follow me
  • Store up your treasures in heaven
  • Trust God for your needs
  • Give Freely
  • Fill your life with prayer, love, fellowship
  • Know your mission
  • Community is important
  • Care for the poor
  • Focus on needs not material desires

What are the alternatives?

1 Tim.6:6
"Paul says contentedness with Godliness is great gain."

  • Take walks with loved ones in a park rather than a mall.
  • Make things yourself - meals, gifts, clothes, cards, etc.
  • Garden with friends or neighbors.
  • Buy Second Hand, Rent, & Borrow.
  • Trade services with friends and family.
  • Give services as gifts.
  • Nurture spiritual needs verses materials wants.
  • Repair rather than replace - Buy Quality over Quantity


What are we "just doing"?

Nike pays basketball legend Michael Jordan more money in one year to appear in their commercials than they pay allthe workers in allthe factories who make Nike shoes in Indonesia combined.9

Are we using more than our fair share?

The affluent west -- 20% of the world's population -- consumes 80% of all natural resources. The average North American consumes five times more than a Mexican, ten times more than a Chinese person and 30 times more than a person in India.10

What are we really buying?

Our ability to consume more and more has not brought a higher quality of life. Since 1960, the U.S. GNP has tripled, but during that same time, there has been a 560% increase in violent crime and a 200% increase in teen suicides.11

What aren't those fast-food commercials saying?

Amount of increase in global cattle populations during the last 40 years: 100%. It takes 16 pounds of grain and soy to produce one pound of beef (as opposed to one pound of grain for a pound of pasta!).12

What do you do with your waste?

Industrial countries only use only 11% of their organic garbage.13 Composting is an effective way to make nutrient rich petrochemical-free fertilizer and reduce waste

Stop The Madness! -- What You Can Do

  1. Support Buy Nothing Day -- Observed the day after the US Thanksgiving (the most heavily shopped day of the year).
  2. Turn off your TV. Watch only programs you plan to watch rather than vegging in front of it. 
  3. Mute the TV during commercials or record programs and fastforward through commercials.
  4. Distinguish between your wants and your needs. Then ask if yourself if your "need" is truly needed.
  5. Keep yourself informed - read/join Adbusters, E Magazine, Alternatives for Simple Living (see resources below).
  6. Support local markets and merchants rather than big chain stores.Vote with your dollars and buy products with a high recycled content - not just things that can be recycled.
  7. Support environmentally and socially just companies. 

These organizations promote a fair wage and a fair product:

  • Real Goods 800-762-7325
  • Co-op America 800-872-5307
  • Aveda 800-328-0849
  • Equal Exchange (coffee) 617-830-0303
  • Fair Trade Federation 508-355-0284


  • Handwork of India, 1455 Ashland Ave., Evanston IL, 60201-4001
  • Southwest Indian Foundation, PO Box 86, Gallup NM, 87302-0001, 505-726-8329
  • Deva Lifewear, 110 1st Ave. W., PO Box 7A, West Hope ND, 58793, 800-222-8024
  • African Market, PO Box 271380, West Hartford CT, 06127, 888-Timbuktu
1. E Magazine, Jim Motvalli, April 1996, "Enough!," pp."28-35.
2. Christianity Today, Rodney Clapp, October 7 1996, "Why The Devil Takes Visa," pp."19-33.
3. Marketing Madness,Laurie Ann Mazur and Micheal Jacobson., 1995., pg."76.
4. Victor Lebow, The Journal of Retailing, Spring 1955, p. 7, as quoted in Michael Jacobson Marketing Madness,1995, pg."191.
5. E Magazine April 1996, "E's Consumption Index" pg."34.
6. WorldWatch Magazine, Toni Nelson, Dec. 1996, "Closing the Nutrient Loop," pp."10-17.
7. Adbusters,Cecile Andrews, Autumn 1997, "The Simplicity Movement," pp."44-46.
8. As quoted in Nontoxic, Natural, and Earthwise,Debra Lynn Dadd, 1990, pg."23.
9. Sojourner's mailing.
10. Adbusters, Autumn 1997, "Celebrate Buy Nothing Day," pg."51.
11. GreenCross, Mark Walden and Frank Cougar, Summer 1996, Volume 2 #3. "Structures Which Institutionalize Overconsumption," pp."9-12.
12. Earthsave, "Realities for the 90's," pg."3.
13. State of the World 1998,Gary Gardner, "Recycling Organic Waste," pg."103.

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