We live in an era of high consumerism. We buy products, goods and services almost faster than we can use them.

Consumerism is the social and economic order that encourages individuals to acquire more stuff in ever-increasing amounts. Sometimes it seems like we just can’t buy enough - and then we can’t get rid of it all quick enough, not even on Facebook garage sale sites.

One example I found stated that consumerism is not the idea of “one man, one voice” anymore, but instead it is “one dollar, one voice.” Whether we want to admit it or not, money talks, and every time we spend a dollar on a certain item, we are speaking mountains about what is important to us.

I read an article that stated our outrageous appetite for products and goods has caused an ecological imbalance in the world. What does that mean? That means, the more products we buy, use and consume, the more trees that get cut down, and the more buildings that get built, and the more pollution there is in the air, in the water, and on the land. We are killing our planet because we consume so much stuff.

So, as I read all of this I had to wonder, what is the value of consumerism then, and why do we want to nurture this value in the 21st century? It seems like we have over nurtured it up to this point.

Advocates of consumerism say that increased spending creates more jobs, and more jobs reduces unemployment. Increased spending leads to the creation of more goods and services and therefore a rise in the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and this drives the economy forward.

The Industrial Revolution of the 20th century spurred mass production of products, leading to an overabundance of stuff. The supply of goods created was more than people demanded, wanted or needed. It wasn’t about consumerism. Instead, it was all about production. What can we make, how fast can we make it, and how much can we produce in one day, or one hour? They didn’t care if people bought them or not. Well, eventually they cared when all those products were just sitting in warehouses unsold.

So, the value of consumerism then is that we as consumers have a huge say in what type of and how much product is produced by how much we demand to buy. The more we demand a product the more the business will produce, and the more new-startup businesses that will be built. The less we demand it, the less they will produce. We really do have power as consumers. We can control the market by our purchases or rather, by our non-purchases.

As consumers, we have the right and the responsibility to make wise choices in what we buy and deem worthy. We need to make choices that reflect our values. Good consumerism stimulates growth in the community and the economy as a whole. Increased demand will increase the need for workers, giving people jobs who need them. Additional need for good workers can lead to higher wages. Higher wages are good for everyone, even business owners. When people make more money, they spend more money, and they just might spend it at your store buying your product or service.

As local consumers, we have the ability to shop local and support our local businesses. Yes, we need to encourage responsible consumerism in our community. Local consumerism is good for our entire community. I bet there is more than one local shop or restaurant that most of us have never been in. Go visit that place this week just to look around. You never know the treasure you might find right in your own community.