Buy Cheap Buy Twice: The Effect of Consumerism on The Modern Landscape

Buy Cheap Buy Twice: The Effect of Consumerism on The Modern Landscape

You may have heard the phrase “Buy cheap, buy twice.” The aphorism has always been true, but consumerist behaviour is at an all-time high. Fast fashion, short-lived trends and the rise of disposables exacerbate the search for short-term savings over long-term value. Consumerism leads to repeat purchases, more waste in landfills and incomprehensible environmental and societal impact. So, what is happening and what should we do about it?

Reasons for the Surge in Over-Consumption

Social Media

The link between social media usage and the rise of over-consumption is undeniable. Social media usage is at a record-breaking high with over 62% of the world using a social media platform.

Social media enables the rapid emergence and spread of trends, pushed out through influencers, friends and family. As social media garners more attention for items than regular use ever could, trends spread quickly, driving purchases.

Social media has also fuelled a recent embarrassment or aversion surrounding re-wearing clothes. Since influencers on these platforms have to wear something new to gain traction, viewers rarely see repeat outfits. Consumers are replicating this behaviour and are purchasing more clothes than necessary. This is unsustainable, and it drives over-consumption.

Over-consumption has been so normalised that re-wearing clothes, as intended, has become its own trend. HuffPost UK commented on this phenomenon. London model, Hayaat Nankya Kagimu, who the team interviewed, said that outfit repeating becoming a trend shows how “lost we are in the influencer-capitalist society.” Clothes were never designed for one use, and these attitudes are dystopian, unsustainable, and detrimental to our planet.

The Effect of Consumerism on the Planet

The Environment

Our consumer habits are driving climate change and environmental damage. Buying mass amounts of goods leads to more emissions, pollution, and material waste in landfills.

Exploitation of Workers

The market for cheaper goods often results in the exploitation of labour in developing countries. Sweatshop labour is becoming an increasingly prevalent problem with over-consumption. Workers are paid poor wages and subjected to unethical working conditions. This perpetuates a cycle of poverty and hinders economic development in these regions.

Market Saturation and Declining Quality

Our dramatic increase in consumption of fast-fashion and one-use products is saturating the market, making it harder for sustainable brands to grab a foothold. This can lower overall product quality and promote a culture of disposability. To compete with the vastly lower prices, sustainable brands are either lowering their quality to lower prices or are increasing prices to stay afloat.

Cost of Living Crisis

Many are already struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, related to the high inflation rates following Covid-19.

As higher-quality products continue to increase in price, many people are forced to purchase fast fashion, whether they like it or not.

Small Businesses Struggle

The focus on affordable goods can also weaken local economies. Small businesses struggle to compete with big corporations that capitalise on economies of scale, resulting in job cuts and economic uncertainty in local communities.

Mental Health

The relentless pursuit of the latest trends and products is contributing to stress and anxiety. Not to mention the pressure to continually buy and replace goods can lead to financial strain and diminished well-being.

Cultural Homogenisation

When goods are mass-produced, they tend to lack uniqueness and detail to enable fast and mass production. Eventually, this causes global homogenisation, with all things looking the same. The long-term impact of this will be diminished detail, crafts, and cultural diversity.

Consumer Behaviour and Values

The prevalence of inexpensive, disposable goods encourages a culture of instant gratification and superficial consumption. This shifts societal values away from sustainability, craftsmanship, and durability towards convenience and short-term satisfaction. Long-term, this could negatively impact work ethic and societal values.

Moving Towards Sustainability

It is clear that our consumption rates are not sustainable long-term, so what should be done about it?

Think Twice Before You Buy

Try to avoid short-lived trends. Before buying an item, consider whether you truly need it. When it comes to clothing, think about how well it complements your existing wardrobe. Are you buying it because it’s trendy, or because you genuinely like it? If it is fast fashion, can you find a similar item that is more ethically produced? A good rule of thumb is if you cannot see yourself wearing it in a year, don’t buy it.

In an ideal world, everyone would be able to shop for new sustainable items, however, sometimes this is not feasible. If you would like to shop sustainably on a budget, second-hand clothing is a great option, and it’s even more environmentally friendly than buying new. You can use platforms like Vinted, eBay, Depop, and Facebook Marketplace, or try vintage sales and charity shops!

Remember, it might feel like you’re saving money when you buy cheap, but cheaper products hold hidden costs. Lower prices usually signify lower-quality materials and craftsmanship. Often you spend more on replacements than you would have spent on the higher-quality counterparts. Second-hand, higher-quality items will usually last much longer than cheap lower-quality items. This applies to things like furniture, as well as clothing.

Choose Reuse

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to improve sustainability is to choose reuse. Many companies pride themselves on recyclability and while recyclable materials are good, reuse is the best method. Try to maximise the use of existing items, whether it’s glass jars, furniture, or your existing wardrobe!

Case Study – A Sustainable Exhibiting Solution

Over-consumption and unsustainable practices are widespread problems; they are not specific to the fashion industry.

Unsustainable practices and waste are endemic in the exhibition industry; specifically, because of traditional custom-built exhibition stands. These wasteful one-use stands, also known as “build to burn” stands, consume valuable resources that end up in landfills after just a few days of use.

Despite efforts to introduce reusable solutions to combat the industry’s waste, they have struggled to compete with the design freedom offered by custom-built stands. However, Quadrant2Design, a UK-based exhibition stand design and build contractor, offers a solution which solves this fundamental industry flaw. It’s modular, reusable, and reconfigurable exhibition stands allow for customisable and bespoke features and an eye-catching 100% graphic look that effectively communicates marketing messages, branding and logos. The flexible model allows for unlimited design freedom and challenges traditional custom-builds.

Taking sustainability a step further, Quadrant2Design offers a Free-hire Plan, allowing clients to invest in graphic panels while hiring the aluminum stand structure free of charge. This model maximises the use of valuable resources, and it’s cost-effective! Additionally, Quadrant2Design’s customers take advantage of a Lifetime Free Design service, enabling them to reconfigure the stand for different spaces and update the design for free. Not to mention, the reuse of graphics ensures brand consistency across all shows, making exhibitors instantly recognisable to visitors.

This reusable and versatile exhibiting solution bridges the gap between custom-builds and modular exhibition stands, challenging traditional solutions through sustainability and innovation. Keep an eye out for other companies like Quadrant2Design that address sustainability issues in their industries through innovative and sustainable solutions.


The impact of consumerism and over-consumption is widespread and detrimental, affecting not only the environment but also labour conditions, mental health, and societal values.

To address these issues, individuals should think twice before purchasing, reject fast fashion, and social media trends, and prioritise long-term value over short-term satisfaction. Look for businesses that provide sustainable solutions and share them to help others find them!

Choosing reuse and supporting sustainable brands can also contribute to a more sustainable future. A shift in consumer behaviour and values is necessary to mitigate the negative effects of over-consumption.

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