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Ethical consumerism

The Eco-Conscious Consumer Part II: Closing the Loop

The Eco-Conscious Consumer Part II: Closing the Loop

It's no secret that the excesses of modern-day consumption are at the heart of the current environmental crisis. Overwhelming demand for cheap, often disposable goods is rapidly depleting the earth's finite resources while filling up landfills, producing air and water pollution, and littering our oceans with chemical-laden, non-biodegradable materials. Environmental advocates and economists alike increasingly recognize that an economy built upon continued growth in consumption rates is fundamentally unsustainable. To truly reduce the environmental impact of our consumption we need to rethink our approach to consumerism altogether.

            In Part I of my Eco-Conscious Consumer series I argued the importance of supporting businesses that prioritize sustainable practices and using consumer power to pressure giant corporations to operate in ways that are environmentally responsible. But truly mindful consumption requires more than just picking and choosing the companies we buy from; it requires us to examine how our own consumer behaviors contribute to the environmental crises we face today. Ask yourself: How often do you buy things you don't really need? What did it take to make those things? And what happens to those things when they're eventually discarded?

            Here, I'll explore the steps consumers can take toward promoting a closed-loop system wherein the earth's precious resources are used as efficiently as possible. A note of warning: being an NYC resident, many of the services and organizations I highlight are New York-based. New York is far from perfect, but we do have a strong coalition of nonprofits and city initiatives that offer a host of resources for living a low-impact lifestyle. For readers outside the Big Apple, don't hate – investigate! Find out what kind of comparable services exist near you. If the options are sparse, considering using the examples here as templates for your own eco-conscious venture. 

The Eco-Conscious Consumer Part I: The Case for Voting with Your Dollars

The Eco-Conscious Consumer Part I: The Case for Voting with Your Dollars

Whether we care to think about it or not, every purchase makes a statement. Too often that statement is “I don't care who gets my money.” But we should care. Many of the companies we routinely hand our hard-earned dollars over to are the same ones who have polluted our air and water, exposed us to dangerous chemicals, and poured billions of dollars into lobbying against environmental protections. They are also the same companies who have created the false narrative that economic prosperity and environmental conservation are mutually exclusive goals. And while we may vehemently disagree with these company's actions, most of us, knowingly or not, continue to support them, often with the assumption that we have no other choice.

         The good news is we do have choices. More and more companies, big and small, are recognizing that their continued existence depends on embracing sustainable practices; moreover, the wonders of technology offer a host of new ways to for consumers to learn about a company's environmental practices and to discover alternatives to polluting conglomerates.

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