Since the beginning of my sustainable living journey I have been very aware through study and research that the biggest environmental problems we face today are a result of our consumer culture.
There has never been a point in human history where there were so many people on this planet consuming this many natural resources. In 1800 there were around 1 billion people walking this earth, less than 2 billion in the early 20th century, to 3 billion in 1960, all the way up to more than 7.5 billion these days.
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. So it seems population is still on the rise, or at least very high.
I just read an article which states that two-thirds of tropical rainforest are destroyed or degraded globally. 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 for carbon stocks, rainfall (forests produce as much as 90% of all moisture in the atmosphere) and biodiversity.
It's called eco-SYSTEM for a reason, because it won't only affect that region but an entire system reaching as far as the earth's atmosphere that we all share. In other words, the consequences will not only be felt locally, but globally. It's an interconnected network. It affects water security as well as food security, amongst other things. 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.
Tropical rainforest are just one example. Here are a few 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.
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.
So 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 purchase 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.
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. Luckily conscious consumerism is on the rise.
There is a whole other level to this, which will hit closer to home and that's 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.
I think the greatest lesson that 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. It's a great and necessary practice run.
This is a new scenario. The world never had to come together in this way other than in major world wars. This is part of globalization, which started with the internet and who would have thought it would reach so far and deep. There is also no point in fighting it because there is no turning back. 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. As we can see it affects 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.
So many people are looking for purpose in their lives. I can't think of any greater purpose than being a conscious human 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