The lifestyle choices we make impact the quality of our lives, of the environment, and of the world we create for future generations. We can make a difference by:
making informed choices as consumers,
preventing waste and pollution, and
creating more sustainable yards, homes, and workplaces.
You are probably doing many things already, such as recycling, adjusting your thermostat, and keeping your vehicle in good running condition. We applaud your commitment. Your cumulative efforts are helping to conserve farmlands, forests, wetlands, and oceans. We act based on our values, but our choices are influenced by our affluence. Do you consider yourself affluent? In relation to much of the world, Americans are well off. We comprise about 5% of the world population, yet use 1/3 of the planet's resources. The average American produces twice as much waste as the average European.
Through advertising and the media, people are encouraged to want what they don't need. This strategy fuels markets, but resources are not infinite and cannot provide for unsustainable consumption.
For those who have enough for survival and comforts, quality of life means having time for what matters most: family, friends, meaningful work, leisure, healthy living, community, spirituality, learning, thinking, creating, enjoying beautiful wild places; whatever you value. Is our affluence, in some ways, distracting us from deeper, non-material sources of fulfillment? By simplifying the material side of life, we find time to cultivate happiness. The more things we have, the more it costs in terms of money, maintenance, space, and ultimately, our valuable time. If you feel trapped in a cycle of work-and spend, consider this:
Money not spent equals resources conserved, in terms of both human work hours and natural resources.
Use your Purchasing Power
We need your help to shift away from a consumer culture, our culture's current emphasis on over-consumption, and to adopt a more conscious consumption. Before purchasing a product, ask yourself, "Do I really need it?" Often, more is not better, when the costs to nature and quality of life are calculated. Secondly, we can make discriminating choices that curtail the use of environmentally degrading products and packaging.
- Choose durable, high quality, energy efficient products made from recycled or sustainable materials. Avoid products that are fabricated with persistent chemicals, such as vinyl, PVC's, CFC's. Seek out sources of earth-friendly, least-toxic products.
- Support good companies that produce well designed and made products and that use recycled or sustainable materials. Their products may warrant added costs. Contact companies that don't. Request improved products and reduced packaging.
- Pre-cycle: avoid or limit purchases that are wasteful of the earth's resources, such as disposables. "
- Avoid products that use excessive packaging, and avoid packaging that does not decompose or that cannot be kept in the recycling loop, such as aerosol cans and polystyrene foam. Buy in bulk and reuse containers, including your own durable shopping bags.
- Support local enterprise, coops, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA's). By purchasing locally produced products and food, we promote a local economy and reduce the need for energy-consuming shipping. Also, shop at stores that are known for their environmental practices.
In lieu of a scientific product analysis, here are some simple questions that will help you evaluate a product, based on information that may be apparent or on the label:
Is it safe? (Read the label.)
Is it from recycled or renewable materials?
Will it last?
Is it produced locally?
Is it produced in a sustainable manner?
(Organically grown, certified wood.)
Support legislation that requires ecological labeling of products, so that consumers can be informed and can choose to patronize companies that are environmentally responsible.
- Share, borrow, use the library, use the internet;
- Re-use: hold a yard-sale, buy second-hand, donate;
- Exchange services;
- Repair, rather than throw away;
- Invest in socially responsible portfolios. Entrust your funds to companies that support your values;
- Evaluate the foods that you routinely eat in terms of sustainability. Some types of seafood have been over-fished, while some types of meat production are considered resource-intensive.
The most effective and inexpensive way to care for natural resources is to PREVENT waste and pollution.