How Much is Enough?

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“We have a problem with Stuff. We use too much, too much of it is toxic and we don’t share it very well. But that’s not the way things have to be. Together, we can build a society based on better not more, sharing not selfishness, community not division.”
–Annie Leonard

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Did You Know?

“If everybody consumed at U.S. rates, we would need 3 to 5 
planets.” –Citied in several sources, e.g., Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff;; State of the World 2006, Worldwatch Institute

“The average U.S. person now consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago.”
 –Betsy Taylor and Dave Tilford, 
“Why Consumption Matters” (2000)

“In the past three decades, one-third of the planet’s resources, its ‘natural wealth,’ has been consumed.”
–Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism (1999)

“The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but consumes 30% of 
the world’s resources and creates 30% of the world’s waste.”
–Figures citied in several sources, e.g., Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff; John L. Seitz, Global Issues: An Introduction (2001); (Miller 1998) quoted in Global Environmental Issues by Frances Harris (2004).

“The average American today uses about five times as much electricity as Americans did 50 years ago.” –GRACE Communications Foundation (2016)

“Ninety five to ninety eight percent of forests in the continental United States have been logged at least once since settlement by Europeans.” –Lester Brown, Michael Renner, Christopher Flavin, Vital Signs 1998, Worldwatch Institute

“Today, 40 percent of our nation’s rivers are unfishable, unswimmable, or undrinkable.” –America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 1998 Report, American Rivers

“On average, Americans today eat almost 600 more calories per day than we did in the 1970s and we waste an amazing 40 percent of our food supply.” –GRACE Communications Foundation (2016)

“Americans trash 40 percent of our food supply every year, valued at about $165 billion.” –Natural Resources Defense Council (2012)

“The average American family of four ends up throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food.” –Natural Resources Defense Council (2012)

“Food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in US landfills.” –Natural Resources Defense Council (2012)

“80% of all antimicrobials sold in the US are administered to livestock in order to boost growth rates and compensate for crowded, unsanitary conditions. This practice promotes the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which threaten public health and reduce the effectiveness of medicines used by humans.” –GRACE Communications Foundation, Sustainable Table  (2016)

“In 2005, U.S. residents, businesses, and institutions produced more than 245 million tons of municipal solid waste, which is approximately 4.5 pounds of waste per person per day.” –U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2007)

“For every one garbage can of waste you put out on the curb, 70 garbage cans of waste were made upstream to make the junk in that one garbage can you put out on the curb.” –John Young and Aaron Sachs, The Next Efficiency Revolution: Creating a Sustainable Materials Economy, Worldwatch Institute (1994)

“Every day Americans throw out more than 350,000 cell phones and 130,000 computers, making electronic waste the fastest-growing part of the U.S. garbage stream.” –GRACE Communications Foundation (2016)

“Average U.S. house size has doubled since the 1970s.” 

According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, “between 1990 and 2000 the population in the Chesapeake Bay watershed increased eight percent, yet the amount of impervious surface increased 41 percent.”

“Each of us sees more ads alone in one year than people of 50 years ago saw in an entire lifetime.” –Cited in DMNews magazine (1997)

“In the U.S., we spend 3–4 times as many hours shopping as our counterparts in Europe do.” –Gary Cross, Time and Money (1993)

“…one out of every 10 households in the country rents a [storage] unit,”—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. –New York Times Magazine (2009)

“25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle.” –U.S. Department of Energy

“British research found that the average 10-year-old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 daily.” –The Telegraph (2010)

“3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally.” –UCLA (2014)

“Shopping malls outnumber high schools. And 93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favorite pastime.” –Affluenza (2005)

“Unnecessary expenditures related to disorganization (last minute shopping at premium prices, buying duplicates of misplaced items, rush charges, late fees, finance charges, etc.) can cost as much as 15% to 20% of your annual budget.”

“…the AFL-CIO released data … stating that American CEOs in 2013 earned an average of $11.7 million–an eye-popping 331 times the average worker’s $35,293.” –Forbes article on the AFL-CIO PayWatch 2014

study, conducted by Nobel Prize-winning Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Angus Deaton, defines economic emotional well-being as “the emotional quality of an individual’s everyday experience, the frequency and intensity of experiences of joy, stress, sadness, anger and affection that make one’s life pleasant or unpleasant.” The idea being that more money makes people happier but only to a certain point − and $75,000 a year is a key threshold. After that, additional income doesn’t have as much of an impact on happiness. (2010)

“In the U.S. our national happiness peaked sometime in the 1950s.” –Bill McKibben, Deep Economy (2007)

Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing 

“Herein lies the essence of our environmental crisis. Persistent trends in key ecological variables indicate that we have not only been living off the interest but also consuming our ecological capital. This means that much of our wealth is an illusion. We have simply drawn down one account (the biosphere) to add to another (material wealth).” –Dr. William Rees

“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” –Edward Abbey

“What people don’t understand, they won’t value. And what they don’t value, they won’t protect; what they don’t protect they will lose.” –Charles R. Jordan

“We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living but not a life. We’ve added years to life, not life to years.” –George Carlin

“Most people are willing to pay more to be amused than to be educated.” –Robert C. Savage

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” –Albert Einstein

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” –Mohandas K. Gandhi

“Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites.” –William Ruckelshaus

“I am not quite sure what the advantage is in having a few more dollars to spend if the air is too dirty to breathe, the water too polluted to drink, the commuters are losing out in the struggle to get in and out of the city, the streets are filthy, and the schools so bad that the young perhaps wisely stay away, and the hoodlums roll citizens for some of the dollars they saved in the tax cut.” –John Kenneth Galbraith

“Racial injustice, war, urban blight, and environmental rape have a common denominator in our exploitative economic system.”
–Channing E. Phillips

“Armaments, universal debt and planned obsolescence—those are the three pillars of Western prosperity.” –Aldous Huxley

“Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.” –Abraham Lincoln

“Much of the consumer and political world is created by for-hire mouthpieces in expensive neckties.” –Unknown

“Madison Avenue is a very powerful aggression against private consciousness. A demand that you yield your private conscious- ness to public manipulation.” –Marshall Mcluhan

“This empire, unlike any other in the history of the world, has been built primarily through economic manipulation, through cheating, through fraud, through seducing people into our way of life, through the economic hit men. I was very much a part of that.” –John Perkins

“[The] men of the technostructure are the new and universal priesthood. Their religion is business success; their test of virtue is growth and profit. Their bible is the computer printout; their communion bench is the committee room.” –John Kenneth Galbraith

“Failure seems to be regarded as the one unpardonable crime, success as the all-redeeming virtue, the acquisition of wealth
as the single worthy aim of life. The hair-raising revelations of skullduggery and grand-scale thievery merely incite others to surpass by yet bolder outrages and more corrupt combinations.” –Charles Francis Adams

“So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes but to build up great fortunes, to increase luxury and make sharper the contrast between the House of Have and the House of Want, progress is not real and cannot be permanent.”
–Henry George

“The gap in our economy is between what we have and what we think we ought to have—and that is a moral problem, not an economic one.” –Paul Heyne

“Forethought and temperance are the virtues which produced thrift, and with thrift the economic progress of society. And those are the virtues which today are gravely compromised.” –Adriano Tilgher

“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” –Oscar Wilde

“Oh, for the good old days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they ran out of money.” –Unknown

“Once again, we come to the holiday season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.” –Unknown

“You can never get enough of what you don’t need to make you happy.” –Eric Hoffer

“Ours is a world where people don’t know what they want and are willing to go through hell to get it.” –Don Marquis

“You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.” –Vernon Howard

“The only reason a great many American families don’t own an elephant is that they have never been offered an elephant for a dollar down and easy weekly payments.” –Mad Magazine

“There must be more to life than having everything!” –Maurice Sendak

“Mammon, n.: The god of the world’s leading religion.” –Ambrose Bierce

“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh** we don’t need.” –From the Movie Fight Club, based on the Novel by Chuck Palahniuk

“He who buys what he does not need steals from himself.” –Unknown

“Who covets more, is evermore a slave.” –Robert Herrick

“For many men, the acquisition of wealth does not end their troubles, it only changes them.” –Seneca

“Many wealthy people are little more than janitors of their possessions.” –Frank Lloyd Wright

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”
–William Wordsworth

“Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions.” –Peace Pilgrim

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” –Henry David Thoreau

“We are not rich by what we possess but rather by what we can do without.” –Immanuel Kant

“Fortunate, indeed, is the man who takes exactly the right measure of himself and holds a just balance between what he can acquire and what he can use.” –Peter Latham

“That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.” –Henry David Thoreau

“Guard me against the arrogance of privilege, against the indulgence of feeling that I don’t have enough, and the poverty of spirit that refuses to acknowledge what is daily given me. Keep me truthful in knowing where I spend, where my values actually are.”
–Gunilla Norris