When I think of the word consumerism I think of a PacMan character chopping away at the little ghosts – consuming them all up! I guess one could think of all of us that way. It helps tell the story of consumption. While we might not be eating it every time we unload our bikes, or cars with stuff into our homes we are like that little PacMan consuming away.
What if we knew how to consume that ensures that there was enough for everyone, forever? We might consume a little or a lot differently. So how do we do this?
Understanding Sustainable Consumption
I am a big fan of the Natural Step framework that outlines how we could live sustainably. Think of it has the care instructions for our planet. Watch this 2 minute video that defines what a sustainable planet looks like.
The 4 care instructions include
• Reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and heavy metals
• Reduce our dependence on synthetic chemicals that persist in nature
• Reduce our destruction of nature
• Ensure that we are not stopping people globally from meeting their needs.
So now that we have the care instructions for taking care of our planet – how do we translate that into our everyday lives?
Sweating the small stuff
First let’s think about how we shop. Most people buy things like groceries, toiletries, office and home supplies on a pretty regular basis. So we have an opportunity to make a positive impact right away.
It is a simple as adding another criteria into your decision-making process that considers the earth and people. Some ideas to consider:
Food – are you able to access local, organic or fair trade? Don’t worry so much about which is better and the trade offs to start – just learn and buy these the best you can.
Office and home supplies you might look for recycled content. Especially toilet paper – that’s one I strongly encourage purchasing recycled for. Or consider non-toxic options.
The big impacts
The other types of purchases are bigger ones that you probably don’t do on a weekly or even monthly basis.
And in the case of needing to buy something new – there are the same rules available as for your everyday purchases. Can you find products that are made with responsible materials – organic, recycled content, or meets a sustainability certification? And there are a lot – check out this list that showcases eco-labels that include criteria from the meat you eat to the refrigerator you store it in.
As more and more companies explore the impact of their operations, better more sustainable products are coming to market and you don’t have to compromise quality. Now sometimes they are more expensive and this gets everyone’s back up against the wall. But think about what you are buying and if you bought more of the good stuff and less of the bad, would it net out in your wallet?
The Big Shift
We do need to change the way we consume. Use the mantra – Buy Less, Buy Better. If you buy less we are using the resources that have already been extracted. This makes the best sense, but understandably we do need to buy some things. So for those things – Buy Better.
Use criteria to not only purchase products that are reducing their impact on the environment or even helping people live better lives, but support companies who are working towards these goals.
If you don’t know if companies are trying to embrace sustainability – check out their website, read through what they have… and ASK QUESTIONS, every company should have a customer support email, phone number and/or social media sites. Ask them what they are doing to reduce their negative impact on the planet and protect the workers and the communities their business affects.
Engaging in a conversation is the biggest impact all of us as consumers can do. If we believe that our choices make a difference then support those choices with conversations with your friends, family and the companies we buy from. We are all part of the system and have the opportunity to redefine consumption in a way that is productive and ensures sustainability for ourselves and the future.
~ Nicole Bassett, Director of Sustainability