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Over consumption

Over consumption

Issue 2 Nov / Dec 2003


A Bottomless Pit or Scraping the Barrel?

As you are reading this, how many lights do you have on? How many miles have you driven today? How many pieces of rubbish have you thrown in the bin? There are so many actions which we do automatically without thinking, but the repercussions can be huge when multiplied by the six billion people who inhabit our planet. In the Qur’an, people are advised to eat and drink but not to be excessive; ‘God loves not the wasteful’ (7:31). Humans are renowned for ‘taking more than they need’, and the combination of materialistic consumer-driven lifestyles and an increasing population is putting a massive strain on the Earth’s resources and natural systems.

A prime example is waste. Approximately 400 million tonnes are produced in the UK each year. In 2001/2002, 522kg of household waste was collected per person, as many everyday products such as food are over-packaged and this unnecessary paper and plastic is simply thrown away. The majority of this goes to landfill, but this is fast becoming an unfeasible option. Not only is there a lack of space to use land for waste disposal, but the decomposition of biodegradable materials such as paper and food in the absence of oxygen produces methane. This is a greenhouse gas which contributes to global climate change, as the UK witnessed with record-breaking temperatures this summer.

Another major contributor to global climatic change is the burning of fossil fuels. Apart from industry, vehicle emissions are the biggest source of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, as well as sulphur and nitrogen dioxides which contribute to air pollution and acid rain. Over consumption of energy due to increased demands for goods and services, income growth and higher levels of car ownership are all linked to dramatically increasing emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) predicts an increase in global temperatures from between 1.4 to 5.8ºC over the next 100 years, which will lead to a variety of impacts from flooding of low-lying land to the wider spread of diseases such as malaria.

Land degradation is also a major problem, as the demand for food increases, intensive agriculture has become more prevalent. As well as deforestation of large areas to make way for the rearing of livestock and planting of crops, overuse has led to desertification of land. The use of fertilisers and pesticides in intensive farming pollute water supplies and disturb natural ecosystems. It is important that we do not subjugate nature. Human development seems to have clashed with the carefully balanced global environmental equilibrium, Corruption has appeared in the land and sea, through what men’s own hands have earned, that God may let them taste some part of that which they have done, and haply they may return (30:41).

Each and every one of us has a responsibility; the role of mankind on Earth is that of a khalifah which can be translated as steward or vice-regent of God, It is He Who hath made you (His) agents: inheritors of the earth (6:165). This trusteeship can be combined with the concept of akhirah, or accountability. Hence it is our duty to look after God’s creation and carefully consider the consequences of our actions on the environment. Is a polluted and degraded environment the price we are willing to pay to maintain our present lifestyles?

A practical guide on how to cut down on consumption

All it takes is a moment of extra thought, here are some simple and inexpensive but very effective ways on cutting down on consumption:


Every time you intend to make a car journey, ask yourself, is it really necessary? Try walking, cycling or using public transport.

If you really have to use private transport, try car-sharing to cut down on the number of trips made and hence lethal emissions produced.


Remember this phrase, it can make a real difference. For example, don’t ask for another carrier bag when shopping if you already have one, and reuse carrier bags when going to the supermarket instead of using fresh ones every single time.

Donate old clothes to charity instead of throwing them away.

Separating of waste and recycling saves landfill and cuts down on raw materials used for products - have different containers for paper, aluminium cans and plastics by your regular rubbish bins in the house and at work.

Avoid disposable cutlery, plastic cups and paper plates.


a resource we take for granted but which is incredibly valuable. Installing cistern dams or water displacement devices will reduce the volume of water required to fill the cistern after each flush.

Up to 43% of the water used in office buildings is for flushing WCs, low and dual-flush toilets reduces this drastically.

When brushing your teeth, don’t run taps continually.


Switch off electricalappliances such as televisions and videos at the set, standby can use as much as 10-60% of the electricity used by the device if it was switched on.

Buy energy efficient light bulbs, although slightly more expensive, they can last as much as ten times longer than normal light bulbs.


Turning your thermostat down by just 10C can cut as much as 10% off your heating bills. The ideal room temperature is between 18 - 21ºC.

Fit draught excluders to doors & windows. Up to 15% of heat can be lost through draughts.

Check your loft insulation, over 25% of heat generated in your house is lost through the roof.

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