The emergence of new conscious consumption dynamics means the informed and influential individual balances personal satisfaction with sustainable living.
Every Little Bit Helps
Individuals have a crucial role to play because their purchasing decisions impact companies and the products they manufacture. Even the smallest gestures – when undertaken by a very large number of people or by organisations – can cause major change.
Living to Consume
Helio Mattar, President of the NGO Akatu Institute in Brazil, said in 2008: “People live to consume, they don’t consume to live. Today 20% of the world’s population consume natural resources at a rate which is 30% more than the planet can renew. The remaining 80% of the world consume at a very basic level or below. If everybody in the world – 6.6 billion people – consumed at this level, we would need four planets to supply all of the natural resources needed.”
A Better World Network
The objective of UN’s Climate Change Summit was to make reduced consumption a global priority by identifying the key challenges and establishing common global goals for 2020. Finding greener, non-polluting technologies is part of the answer. Government and corporate engagement in open discussion, education and empowerment about consumption is vital, so too are grassroots consumer-led initiatives such as the Freecycle network – with almost 7 million members globally it is powerful.
Guiding and Educating People
We already know that personal values are shaping consumption decisions. Inspiring and guiding people to better spend their resources in order to improve environment, health and quality of life will be a natural way of doing business. In recognising that our actions (positive or negative) impact the economy, the environment, social relations and us, we make a huge step towards global sustainability. Conscious Consumption covers not just choosing what to buy and where to buy it from, but also how to use what we buy and dispose of waste.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every everyone’s need, but not every everyone’s greed” – Mahatma Gandhi
* The Happy Planet Index 2.0 reveals the ecological efficiency with which human wellbeing is delivered. With the highest levels of reported life satisfaction, and the highest happy life years – Costa Rica stands out in the HPI even before considering its ecological footprint. What is remarkable is that it is achieved with a quarter of the footprint of the USA.
– * The Future of Ecological Leadership: Achieving an ecologically intelligent future will depend not on the actions of politicians, but company executives who embrace radical transparency as a core business strategy. Harvard Business Review
* The Good Guide: Industrial ecologist Dara O’Rourke, University of California developed GoodGuide. His hope for this information system is “to provide a giant lever that shifts markets to prod manufacturers incrementally to get better across the board.
* 10:10: What are the most carbon-intensive activities in your day to day life? How does your overall carbon footprint compare to other people in the UK and further afield? What does a 10% cut really look like?.
* Sales of green technology account for 3.5% of Denmark’s GDP a report reveals. Its closest competitor Brazil’s green sales amount to 1% of GDP, while the figures for the runner-up countries Germany, Spain and Finland are all below the 1% mark. (WWF 10_2009)
* Freecycle: Is made up of 4,882 groups. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns.
1. Norwegian Cottage
2. Louisiana Holbœk, Denmark
3. The Happy Planet Index Diagram