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Monday, December 13, 2010

Tackling Overconsumption vs. Sustainable Products

What is our answer? 

I think we can all agree that our environment is in some serious danger. I think where we tend to disagree is how to mitigate this danger, which is precisely the argument going on now in Cancun. The problem with Cancun is that loads of politicians are stuck dabbling back and forth and I’m genuinely concerned that no serious strategy will even come out of it all. What if our leaders don’t devise a solution at the next Environmental Summit? What about the one after that? 

It seems us citizens don’t have much control over the decisions made at these conferences, and if that’s the case, allow me to bring to your attention an environmental strategy argument that we consumers can absolutely take ownership of: 

I’ve been contemplating this for a while. Do we focus our attention on battling overconsumption, or do we channel our support towards sustainable product manufacturing? In an ideal world, we would have both strategies working simultaneously. But I’m trying to really delve deep here and think realistically, since our personal time and resources typically limit our arena of focus.

I am a huge supporter of the manufacturing of sustainable products. I truly see them as an investment (with my rate of return being as invaluable as the air we breathe). I believe there is absolutely room for growth in this market, but my concern is that this sustainable-product boom continues to contribute to our terrible overconsumption habits. The more I read about these habits, the more frightened I become about our world 20 years from now. 

Check this out: 

Global oil production is currently about 81 million barrels a day and is predicted to fall to 39 million barrels a day by 2030 due to diminishing resources. 

Click here for image source
• The world's annual consumption of plastic materials has increased from around 5 million tonnes in the 1950s to nearly 100 million tonnes today

• The food we eat now typically travels between 1,500 and 3,000 miles from farm to our dinner plate. The distance had increased by up to 25 percent between 1980 and 2001.

• The average American buys 53 times as many products as someone in China and one American's consumption of resources is equivalent to that of 35 Indians. Over a lifetime, the typical American will create 13 times as much environmental damage as the average Brazilian. 

These are just a few examples of the thousands of ways our overconsumption habits are causing some serious damage. SO, as consumers, should we be investing more of our time, energy, and money feeding our consumption norms with sustainable products, or should we work on flat-out buying less? 

I don’t have a set opinion on this yet; this issue is vital for our environment’s survival and deserves more of my learning attention. I am unsure about whether we can even tackle this deeply engrained habit, and if it’s not possible, then maybe we should turn to green products for the answer. What I do know, however, is that our habits determine our destiny; I know that I am thinking more carefully each time I make a purchase. 

As one of my incredible past professors would say: 

“Almost everything you do is determined by your habits. We are all creatures of habits. Fortunately, all your habits are learned, learnable, and “droppable”. A habit is an automatic response to a stimulus and is (good or bad) something you do without much thought or effort. Once formed, your habits do not go away. They can only be replaced by new habits. You form your habits then your habits form you."

Overconsumption is one of the most difficult problems our global community must overcome to build a sustainable planet. If we listen to my professor, and we really do have the ability to replace our current habits...all we need to do is to start.

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