Our Consumer Society

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In today’s consumer society, when we buy a product and it wears out or becomes out of date, we often buy a new one. This has an impact on sustainability.

What do 'Needs' and 'Wants' have to do with Rubbish?

Our needs include:

  • food
  • clothing
  • shelter.

Wants are everything else like:

  • cars
  • TVs
  • fancy foods
  • phones
  • art
  • pets
  • fashion clothing
  • haircuts
  • makeup
  • jewellery.

In New Zealand we live in a "Consumer Society". We spend part of our income on goods and services that are not seen as needed for our survival.

Another word is "The Throw-Away Society". This is where people do not repair or re-cycle products but throw them away and buy a new one instead.

Our responsibilities as consumers

There are no laws in New Zealand about how to behave in ethical ways as consumers. It is up to each person to make up their own mind.

Before purchasing a product or service, a person who wants to behave responsibly in a Consumer Society could ask questions like:

  • How long will this product last?
  • Does this product contain any toxic materials?
  • How much energy does this product use?
  • How often will I use this product?
  • Where was this product made?
  • Is there an alternative?

Corporate responsibility

Today there is pressure on businesses to reduce wastage and the production of harmful products. An example could be a simple action like reducing packaging or using packaging that is easily recycled by consumers.

Audio Maori keywords: 

Challenges: Find the nearest industrial site to your school or home. Find out more about "The Demographic Transition". Find out more about "The Consumer Society".

Valuing the Community

The 5 R's of Waste Management


Everyone needs food to survive. Would the food on this picture be a need or a want? Image: LEARNZ.

Computers are an important part of our lives these days. Are they a need or a want? Image: LEARNZ. 

As a responsible consumer we have important questions to ask before buying goods. A responsible corporation making the goods can think of actions such as reducing packaging. Image: Public Domain.