The biggest environmental problems we face today are a result of our consumer culture. Never in human history have there been so many people on the planet consuming this many natural resources. Around 1 billion people lived on earth in 1800, less than 2 billion in the early 20th century, 3 billion in 1960, and more than 7.5 billion today.
Industrial and technological developments have led to a constant decline in death rates and increased life expectancy. Through technology and trade, humans were able to grow beyond the carrying capacities of their local natural environment and ecosystems.
Even though there is discussion about decreased birth rates in developed countries, it is not necessarily the case in developing countries. It seems population is still on the rise, or at least high.
A recent article stated that two-thirds of tropical rainforests worldwide have been destroyed or degraded. Most of it occurred in the Amazon and bordering rainforests, with a football field’s worth of forest vanishing every 6 seconds. That's terrifying news for carbon stocks, rainfall (forests produce as much as 90% of all moisture in the atmosphere) and biodiversity.
Those ecosystems won't solely affect that region, but an entire system reaching as far as the earth's atmosphere we all share. In other words, the consequences will not only be felt locally, but globally. It's an interconnected network that affects water security as well as food security and more. It's a chain reaction.
Tropical rainforests provide a wide range of ecosystem services such as food, medicine, shelter (wood), cleaning (tropical forest oils, gums, and resins), cosmetics (tropical oils) and more.
Rainforests are only one example. Our excessive and unsustainable consumer behavior is responsible for many problems.
Here are a some facts and figures taken from the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns:
Each year, an estimated one third of all food produced – equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes worth around $1 trillion – ends up rotting in the bins of consumers and retailers, or spoiling due to poor transportation and harvesting practices.
If people worldwide switched to energy efficient light bulbs, the world would save US$120 billion annually.
Land degradation, declining soil fertility, unsustainable water use, overfishing and marine environment degradation are all lessening the ability of the natural resource base to supply food.
Should the global population reach 9.6 billion by 2050, the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles.
If the planet's capacity to support human and other forms of life is increasingly diminished through the degradation of natural ecosystems then this must be of concern to you. For that reason you want to care about conscious consumption.
What is Conscious Consumption?
As a conscious consumer you vote with your money by buying ethical and environmentally sustainable products, avoiding unethical companies and instead buying from companies that meet high standards of verified environmental and social performance and public transparency. It also sometimes means not to buy at all because it's not necessary. Conscious consumerism is making purchase decisions that have positive social, economic, and environmental impact.
Certified B Corporations are a fantastic example of companies that balance profit with purpose. They use profits and growth as a means to a greater end: to reduce inequality, lower poverty levels, and create a healthier environment, stronger communities, and jobs with purpose. To learn how to find them and buy their products click here.
Looking at the state of the world it has become clear that governments and nonprofits alone can’t solve our most challenging problems. Consumers and businesses alike have to roll up their sleeves to build a more inclusive, sustainable and circular economy. Conscious consumerism is on the rise.
On a personal level it greatly impacts your health. Environmentally sustainable sourced products also ensure the integrity of the product itself. With the guidance of certification labels the consumer can be certain that the products in question are free of toxins that could be harmful to their health. More on that topic in our next blogpost.
The greatest lesson the COVID-19 pandemic and even climate change are teaching us is that we are global citizens and need to work together to tackle the problems we face.
This is a new scenario. The world never had to come together in this way other than in major world wars. This is another level of globalization. Not only experienced through the exponential growth of technology and the internet, but now also through massive planetary changes and shifts, as well as consequences of large scale pollution and degradation of ecosystems. Fighting against it is useless. Systems and ideologies that promote separation and polarization are outdated and won't solve our problems. The sooner we wake up to this truth and stop navel-gazing, the better off we will be.
Our global challenges affect every single area of our lives, from the air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods we eat, the environments and climates we live in, to social interactions and environments, - it's omnipresent.
A lot of people are looking for purpose in their lives. I can't think of any greater purpose than being a conscious human being leading a conscious life, caring for and protecting the earth we are all so heavily depend on to survive and thrive. We are nothing without nature.
“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” - Unknown