How Is the American Lifestyle Bad for the Environment?

You may have heard the statistic that if everyone on the planet consumed like those of us in the United States, it would take 5 Earths to support humanity. It doesn’t take much to realize that that’s a problem. But what’s causing us to consume so much?

The typical lifestyle in the United States is pretty wasteful. Even as we try as individuals to make it better, there’s a lot to be done as a nation.

Carbon Production

The average person in the United States is responsible for 27 tons of carbon production annually. The world average is 5.5 tons per person. That right there is a lot of the problem we’re causing. There’s a lot you can do as an individual to limit how much carbon you’re responsible for.

Start by simply consuming less. Don’t shop for things you don’t need. Buy used when it’s reasonable.

Drive less, and try really hard to avoid flying.

Compost your yard waste and appropriate food scraps, or at least participate in any local composting programs if you don’t want to do it yourself.

Reset your thermostat. You can deal with your home being cooler in winter and warmer in summer. Dress appropriately, and make sure your home is well insulated.

Water Use

We’re very fortunate in the United States to have such great access to clean, cheap water. So many countries don’t. But our own water supplies are facing challenges due to overuse in many parts of the country. As a southern Californian, I’m very aware of the situation.

It doesn’t take much to cut back on your water use. Little things like shorter showers and turning off the water as you brush your teeth are common pointers made.

Even more important is how much water you use in your yard. Not only are yards, especially lawns, a major part of excessive water use, but they tend to be treated with chemicals that contribute to water pollution. This makes it still harder to have clean water available, and is damaging to plants and wildlife.

Really think about what you grow in your yard. The better suited your plants are to your local climate, they less you’ll need to water them, fertilize them or kill pests on them.


The United States could be called the land of consumerism. Most people buy far more than they really need, even for a comfortable lifestyle. Just think how often people replace electronics that are still working. Or how many clothes people buy that they almost never get around to wearing because they have such a huge wardrobe.

There’s nothing wrong as such with wanting to be comfortable. It’s when it goes to such extremes as we take it that it becomes a problem.

So much of our lives are defined by what we own. Never mind that you can be happy with less. We see what others have, and that competitive side takes over, and folks start wanting to keep up with what friends, neighbors and the Joneses have.

Really thinking before you buy can help quite a bit. Just walk away for a little and think about if you really need that new whatever. Don’t replace your cell phone, computer or television just because you love the shiny new model that came out.

Think about buying used. When you buy something used, nothing new had to be made to support your purchase.

It’s amazing the quality you can find in used products, particularly in clothing. Lots of people use things very minimally before giving them to charity or sending to a resale shop. You can take advantage and save money while reducing your effect on the environment.

It’s Not All Up to Individuals

Not everything that needs to be done in this country to improve how we treat the environment has to be done at an individual level. In fact, huge chunks need to be done by businesses and government.

But that doesn’t make your individual contributions unimportant. In fact, they’re hugely important, even when their overall environmental impact is tiny.

Your individual interest in protecting the environment is what gets the attention of businesses and government. The more that individuals insist something be done, and live a lifestyle that proves their interest, the more businesses and government will be encouraged to take steps themselves. If we don’t care, why should they?