We are all consumers.We will die if we don't consume things. However, there is a big difference between being a consumer, and engaging in the cult of consumerism. At some point between consuming to meet basic needs, and full blown capitalist consumerism, we begin to descend into unethical territory.
Is it when we consume more than our fair share of the planet's resources? Or is it when we consume for vanity and status rather than need? While we can't stop consuming, we can adopt healthier consumption habits.
Ethical consumerism is a movement started in the 1980s as a way to reduce the impacts of consumeristic behaviours. It sounds like an oxymoron to me, like military intelligence. 'Ethical', 'conscious', or 'green' consumption, while a step in the right direction, may not go far enough. If it isn't sustainable, it isn't going to get us to where we need to be.
We like to talk about a kinder, gentler consumerism, but can it be maintained in the long run? The ecological productivity of our planet is already overdrawn at current levels of consumption, and we are now borrowing from our children's global resource account. Also, a new high consumption class is being recruited across the globe with a billion new middle class consumers coming on stream in 'developing' countries.
Now is the time we should be talking about sustainable products and consumption patterns.
We can move closer to sustainability when we ask ourselves several questions before making purchases.
Is the product:
- made locally with local materials?
- 100% recyclable at the end of its useful life?
- free of toxins?
- produced by happy workers?
By asking these questions, and being honest about the answers, we could cut about 80% of our purchases and our waste right off the top. The remaining 20% represents a one-earth, sustainable style of living that the planet can handle.
If we don't consume anything we will die. But if we continue to consume everything, our end is just as certain.