The folks over at Earth First are pointing out a cool chart showing just how much more stuff we have acquired, and increasingly consider to be a base standard of living, over the past century. The image is from Visualizing Economics and you'll probably want to view a larger version to see it better. (There's only so much one can see in a 468px width.)
"The Age of Consumption"
Earth First makes the eminently valid point that perhaps all of that consumer consumption isn't so good for the planet. However, the thing I'd like people to think about isn't the aggregate impact of all of this consumption (though that is the ultimate problem), but what you can do about it in your own life. Look at the chart: What items could you do without? What items could do double duty with others? What items could you share with relatives or neighbors? I'll go first:
My apartment building has a laundry room, so I share those facilities with perhaps 100 other people. And while I would not be happy to give up my clothes washer, not using the clothes dryer is hardly a sacrifice. Clothes dry just as well on a line or on a drying rack, both of which require no energy usage whatsoever.
Less Energy Intense Options
Air Conditioning? Personally I find fans a much more enjoyable and less energy intense option for cooling. The added benefit is that by switching from using air conditioning to a fan my electric bills dropped by a two thirds in the summer.
Most Energy Efficient Methods
Dishwasher? It may be counter-intuitive, but dishwashers are probably more resource efficient than washing by hand. Just make sure you're running it on the most efficient setting and when filled entirely.
Dual Use Items
Color TV, VCR (or DVD player), Computer, Internet? Convergence of capabilities in electronics products makes it easier to use fewer items. Just make sure to recycle them properly and resist the urge to upgrade every time a new model is released. And I probably don't have to remind TreeHugger readers about turning off the electronics you do own when not in use, right?
So what do other people think? What do you do to do more with less? Has product convergence allowed you to eliminate some electronics from your life?