Sustainability will be achieved when both population and consumption levels are within the biosphere's ecological capacity. Reducing population to sustainable levels will not do it alone. Nor will only reducing consumption. We must do both!
There are several organizations doing excellent work on educating and inspiring people to reduce their consumption:
Center for a New American Dream
The Center for a New American Dream helps Americans consume responsibly to protect the environment, enhance quality of life and promote social justice. The Center works with individuals, institutions, communities and businesses to conserve natural resources, counter the commercialization of our culture and promote positive changes in the way goods are produced and consumed.
Their website is excellent and has lots of information on consumption and taking action to live a life with more fun, less stuff!
Redefining Progress, an environmental nonprofit, has developed a powerful tool, the ecological footprint, to measure humanity's demand on nature. By calculating your ecological footprint, you can determine the area of the Earth's surface - both land and sea - that is needed to provide the resources for your lifestyle.
By using ecological footprint accounts, Redefining Progress has determined that humanity is exceeding the biosphere's ecological capacity by over 20% using 1999 data.
The New Road Map Foundation is a nonprofit volunteer-driven educational and charitable organization that provides people with practical tools and innovative approaches for managing and mastering basic life challenges. Through their publications, speaker's bureau, and the media they promote simple living. One of their publications, "All Consuming Passion: Waking Up from the American Dream," (developed in cooperation with Northwest Environment Watch) is chocked full of startling facts about our consumptive lives:
Facts and Figures from All Consuming Passion
Percentage of Americans making over $100,000 a year who agrees with the statement, "I cannot afford to buy everything I really need": 27%. (1)
Compared with their parents in 1960, Americans in 1995, on average, own almost twice as many cars and drive over 2.5 times as far. (2)
Median size of a new house built in the U.S.:
Employed Americans spent 142 hours more per year on the job in 1994 than they did in 1973. (5)
60% of families have so little savings that, if they lost their jobs, they could sustain their lifestyles for only about a month. The next richest 20% could only hold out for 3.5 months. (6)
Percentage of the world's goods and services consumed by the world's richest 20%: 86%
The amount of energy used by one American is equivalent to that used by:
Producing a computer chip generates up to 4,500 times its weight in waste. (9)
Share of employed Americans who would trade a day's pay for a day off: 45% (10)
Between 1990 and 1996:
Share of Americans who say they want more balance in their lives: over 66%
1. Juliet Schor, The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting, and the New Consumer (New York: Basic Books, 1998).
2. Based on Federal Highway Administration, Highway Statistics: Summary to 1995 (Washington, D.C.: 1997), also at www.fhwa.dot.gov.
3. Alan Durning, "Redesigning the Forest Economy," in Lester Brown et al., State of the World 1994 (New YorkL W.w. Norton, 1994).
4. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1997 (Washington D.C.: 1997).
5. Larry Mishel et al., The State of Working America 1996-1997 (Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute 1996).
6. Juliet Schor, The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting, and the New Consumer (New York: Basic Books, 1998).
7. United Nations Development Program, Human Development Report 1998 (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998).
8. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1997 (Washington D.C.: 1997).
9. John C. Ryan and Alan Thein Durning, Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things (Seattle, Wash.: Northwest Environment Watch, 1997).
10. Based on John P. Robinson and Geoffrey Godbey, "The Great American Slowdown," American Demographics, June 1996.
11. Juliet Schor, The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting, and the New Consumer (New York: Basic Books, 1998).
12. Juliet Schor, The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting, and the New Consumer (New York: Basic Books, 1998).