*A story written by Odile Tezel conservationist and intern for Fuze Ecoteer*
From simple consumerism to sustainable consumption habits
At Fuze-Ecoteer, we believe that we have a responsibility towards our planet and its inhabitants: humans, animals and plants. That is why we carry out awareness campaigns, develop conservation projects, and fight against poaching activity and illegal exploitation of natural resources.
Of course, big scale actions count: in order to reverse the trend of global warming and the depletion of natural resources, dramatic changes will need to take place at corporate and governmental levels. However, I wonder: surely, preserving the environment should not only be politicians, global payers and NGOs’ business? Isn’t it crucial to change the way we live and the way we consume as well?
Nowadays, developed societies rely on a lifestyle made of abundance and overconsumption of resources. All the process that comes before and after consuming a good is invisible to our eyes and, therefore, we lack a broader vision of the real environmental impact of our consumption on the planet.
For example, did you know that the meat industry is more polluting than transportation? It also requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef and cattle rearing is responsible of 80% of the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest: as we lack space we transform huge portions of forests into grazing land. Therefore, by cutting meat out of our diet or by only reducing our daily intake, we can participate in preserving clean air and water resources.
Also, we waste a huge amount of electricity by leaving electrical appliances on standby. Figures show that 8% of the total electricity used in our homes comes from appliances that we did not completely turn off. So by turning them off, you would not only save energy but also money!
Let’s take another example. You might have heard about the tremendous amount of food wasted every year. Here are the numbers: 41200 kilos of food are wasted every second around the world. It means that, every year, we waste 1.3 billion tones of food. Not only it is a lot of wasted energy, but also, this food could have gone to people in need.
Therefore, I am personally convinced that part of the answer to the problems currently afflicting our planet lies in the way we consume. Given the urgency of the situation, we have to realise that the abundance of resources our lifestyle relies on is an illusion. Living standards in developed countries are completely out of proportion compared to the limited resources of our planet. And the only reason we have been able to sustain this lifestyle until now is because a lot of countries are still not part of this exponential development. If every inhabitant on this planet would consume the way western countries do, we would need three or four other planet Earth!
So what should we do about that? Well, we can stop being simple consumers and adopt sustainable consumption habits!
Being a simple consumer means that desire and convenience are the only things that guides our consumption choices. This behaviour is influenced by marketing campaigns and social pressure, however we can easily change that. By detaching ourselves from these external influences and by asking ourselves how necessary a good is before consuming it, we can go back to reasonable and responsible consumption habits. It might mean consuming less things, but also consuming better things. And in the long run, it also means saving money!
Moreover, in order to make responsible and informed decisions, we need more information: by informing ourselves on what we consume and the way it was produced, we make choices that fit our expectations for our planet’s future. At first, it can seem hard, but the information is out there, we just have to go and look for it. A lot of Smartphone applications can actually help you in the process (here are some application examples: Goodguide, SeafoodWatch, Oroeco, Farmstand.
Finally, by doing everything on our own, we can easily feel powerless and start doubting of the efficiency of our actions. But nowadays, several movements are appearing all over the Internet, companies are more and more innovative and constantly developing alternatives to mass consumption’s products and technologies to give us the possibility to be more environmentally friendly. Those initiatives bring people together and give strength to this silent revolution. To make a difference, but not doing it alone, you just need to join them.
Here are some of my favourites:
Fairphone: maybe you have heard about the monstrous environmental and social impact of electronic devices. Well, the company Fairphone is well aware of it and has decided to launch a mobile phone without rare metals coming from countries afflicted by war, assembled in factories that give decent working conditions to their employees, and it is designed so that everything can be replaced, modified and fixed. The company sold 60.000 of those so far and the second version of the Fairphone is already available.
Plastic Free July: disposable plastic products are an integral part of our daily life, but they are also an aberration in terms of environmental protection: we only use them for a few minutes and they stay in nature for hundreds of years! By joining the Plastic Free July movement, you will say no to disposable plastic products for one month and raise awareness about this issue. Of course, it is up to you to completely cut them out of your daily life!
I-boycott: this online platform will be launched in France on June 6th, 2016. The idea is to transform spontaneous and individual boycott actions in collective and change-making dynamics. Therefore, if, for this or that reason, you are already boycotting a brand, you will be able to let people know about it on I-boycott and invite them to join you.
We can all be responsible consumers. I am not saying that it is easy, but, above all, it is necessary. At the end of the day, if we fight for the environment to be protected, it is not to save the planet, it is to save ourselves: planet Earth does not need us to exist, but we surely need it to survive!