Ethical Consumerism can steer sustainable living

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Earth squirming under seven billion population, vanishing natural resources, increasing global warming and environmental hazards all need a savior to protect our species and prolong the symptoms of the world soon coming to an end. The reckless exploitation, ignorant and vulnerable consumer behavior needs awakening to be sensitized towards the environment and choose products wisely and adapt to a greener lifestyle.

Taking a step in that direction is Green Decisions, an online venture in the US set up by two digital-savvy entrepreneurs from the advertising and marketing worlds. The site allows consumers to source any appliance for their home, where they can find not only the cheapest purchase price, but can also see the total cost of ownership over a number of years, via energy consumption figures, combined with local energy tariffs. This additional cost allows them to explore the energy efficiency of the product once it is set-up and plugged in.

The site also tells you the amount of carbon that the appliance will emit over that period, and the number of trees required to absorb that output. It may sound basic, but that is what we need to start simplifying the web of problems human race is confronted with. To bring a real change we need to transform attitudes and behaviour towards not just environment awareness but to imbibe that awareness in day to day activities and buying pattern.

It might seem to be a sort of marketing strategy for brands to meet consumer needs, wants, and desires in conjunction with the preservation and conservation of the natural habitat. While there has been a rise in the availability of “environmentally friendly” consumer products, at present, little is known about the nature and level of pro-environmental point of purchase consumer behavior.

Social labeling or eco certifications attempt to increase consumer awareness and knowledge of pro-environment ethics. Marketers use eco-labels to convey information about a product’s environmental benefits and to differentiate among competing products and thus giving a sense of responsible contribution to the buyer. Eco-labeling programmes increase awareness of pressing issues, set high standards for firms to work towards, and help reduce consumer uncertainty regarding a product’s environmental benefits.

Ervin Laszlo, philosopher and scientist, suggests that “only by redesigning our thinking and acting, not the world around us,” can we solve our problems. Whether through regulation, processes, incentives, policies or structures, mainstream approaches to behaviour change are focusing on external influences with limited effects. Recycling paper at work because the recycling bin is closest doesn’t necessarily transfer to recycling paper at home.

People need to be engaged in a way that creates a change of heart so that their choices come from their deepest values and become integral to their lives. What is missing is that we are not yet calling forth people’s internal willingness to change. We are not yet uprooting the deeply entrenched personal and corporate attitudes that impede our ability to act with speed, purpose and rigour. The absence of the ability to change attitudes in the fabric of society leaves us nudging our way towards sustainable behaviours and increases the need for fiscal incentives, prohibitive legislation and social marketing. Improving people’s attitudinal intelligence requires educational interventions.

There can be no sustainable living without enabling people to make these ethical changes for themselves and for future generations.

(Sources –, Guardian)

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