PURCHASING TRENDS change what’s available on the shelves of supermarkets and we all cast our votes every time we buy something.
Where demand lies, supply follows
If our spending can shape the market, then we consumers can change the world.
Sometimes becoming more eco conscious is simple, as certain actions align with some of our other social values or preferences.
But sometimes they don’t, very few people will give up everything they love for the planet, but most of us do want to do something — that’s a great place to start.
Last month I explored the consumption of animal products, and the heavy environmental impacts of that industry.
I understand that reducing meat consumption seems unfathomable to some, so this month let’s look at some of the simpler things we can do to be kinder to the earth and benefit the future of humanity.
Where does your food come from?
Many of us already like to source fresh produce that is grown locally, as we prefer to support our local businesses, and the Australian economy.
Home vegie gardens, local farmers’ markets and food co-ops are thriving, with more and more people also wanting to avoid foods sprayed with herbicides and pesticides.
A side benefit of locally grown produce is that the reduction of transport required to deliver produce (known as “food miles”) also reduces carbon emissions.
Energy use relating to refrigeration of fresh fruit and veg is also reduced or eliminated by buying from local farmers — eating what is “in season” within our regional climate is a great way to keep it local.
Food wastage is a major source of methane emissions from landfill sites; composting food scraps can be a great way to nourish your vegie garden, while reducing these emissions.
Importantly, compost needs to be turned every week, to allow oxygen in; If not, methane-producing microbes become active in anaerobic (no oxygen) conditions, just as they do in landfill.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
After years of this mantra, most of us are pretty good at recycling our rubbish, the biggest issue is often working out what should and what shouldn’t go into the recycling bins (look this up on the local council website).
But we are still not so great at reducing consumption, or reusing things
Apart from excess packaging, we don’t often consider wasted resources when we purchase.
How often are we really going to use that thing? If not very often, we could consider hiring or borrowing one locally instead.
Perhaps we can buy a second-hand one, then pass it on afterwards.
Unlike some other parts of the world, Australia has not fully jumped on board with the sharing ideology of “collective consumption” yet, despite Time Magazine calling it one of the 10 ideas that will change the world.
This concept will reach the Uberesque critical mass at some point soon and we will see a great leap forward, with an online platform for local sharing economies within the next few years.
Let’s be honest, there are times when we — women at least — just feel like a bit of retail therapy, we can avoid the “fast-fashion” industry, and seek out a unique piece (or bag full) of pre-loved clothing at the Op Shop, or on the Warrandyte Secondhand Page.
When we recycle clothing, we reduce the energy and water consumption, pollution and land-clearing impact of the textiles industry.
Rather than encouraging wage exploitation of people in developing countries, which is usually the method of producing “cheap” clothes and appliances for mass consumption, we can instead give that money to charities through op-shopping.
You are not just a number
Western capitalist society is not designed to encourage this sort of consumer.
The ideal citizen seems to be one who spends all their hard-earned cash in our retail economy, constantly trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Life becomes an endless pursuit of happiness, chasing your tail hoping the next purchase will give you that satisfaction you are longing for.
But material things very rarely bring lasting fulfilment; how quickly the “new car” or “new phone” feeling wears off these days!
We have seen powerful ethical swings effect real market change, for example through the mass boycotting of cage eggs.
Conscientious consumers are now prepared to spend more for better treatment of animals; many people choose recycled or sustainably sourced paper to avoid the destruction of our native forests, or elect to support renewable energy ahead of coal power.
More and more of us are taking responsibility for the future — and the more numbers creating demand for a higher standard, the more the market will supply that standard.
Where to start?
We mere-mortals do struggle to adjust our behaviours, like remembering to take our green bags into the supermarket.
How about practicing other things that can prompt us to reduce waste, like getting a quality refillable pen, a nice drink bottle, and some rechargeable AA or AAA batteries?
Check out how good you feel and for how long after spending $100 at the op shop.
Grow some organic vegies at home, picking as you need avoids waste and gardening is good for our health by reducing stress levels.
Consider borrowing that random tool rather than buying one next time — I’ve just joined Peerby, and hope that you locals hit me up for a lend of any of the excessive “stuff” I have.
I find that purchasing consciously and congruently with the future I want, brings me a greater sense of fulfilment than anything I might purchase for a short-term gain.
For more information on how to lighten your carbon footprint, get on board the Victorian Governments new “Take 2” program.