August 27, 2012

Sustainable Consumption Monday

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:
  1. made locally with local materials?
  2. 100% recyclable at the end of its useful life?
  3. free of toxins?
  4. produced by happy workers?
  5. necessary?
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.


  1. e.a.f.8/31/2012

    One of the problems I see in our society is the need to purchase a new electronic gadget every time one comes on the market. I wonder what happens to all the enviornmentalists are when they are lining up for the latest phone, ipad, etc. I still use the same cell phone I had 5 yrs ago because it works. People neeed to think about their purchases of t.v.s every year or so. The picture doesn't improve that much! We need to ask ourselves did it improve the quality of my life? T.V.s can last 5/10 yrs & you can save a bundle if you don't buy one every few yrs. Same goes for home appliances, etc. A good question might be do I need this new item or could I better use the money to buy christmas presents for a needy kid, or put it in the bank so I can retire earlier.

    1. Corporations suck us in with "upgrades", most of which the average user will never, ever need.

      "Make it last" is the way to go. So I can, after your comment, add two more questions to ask.

      Is the product (or service):

      1) going to improve the quality of life for myself and others?
      2) the most important thing for me to purchase at this time?

      And we could add, "Does buying this get me closer to early retirement?"


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