Purchasing decisions usually reconcile short-term costs with relatively short-term benefits for a given product or service. A growing number of consumers are looking beyond these considerations to the impact their spending has on people and the planet around them. The products we buy have a history and a future beyond their immediate use. Whenever money is spent a tacit endorsement is made for the full lifecycle of impacts associated with that product. Conscientious consumption is an ethic that acknowledges the power of consumer activism in the movement towards sustainability. When consumers neglect to consider where their products come from; how and by whom they are made; what they require and do when in use; and where they go when obsolete; manufacturers, in the absence of effective legislation, are effectively given permission to exploit people and the environment.
Conscientious consumption requires satisfactory answers to three simple questions:
- Where does is come from?
- How is it used?
- Where will it end up?
A growing number of third-party certifiers help to answer these questions. Other measures of product sustainability are the percentage of post-consumer and industrial recycled content, whether the product is recyclable or compostable, and if the product was sourced under conditions of fair trade. In effort to make conscientious consumption easy, TheGreenOffice.com has developed a comprehensive system for screening the office products and services you use most.
- Buy products made with post-consumer recycled material.
- Buy organic.
- Buy products that are biodegradable or compostable.
- Buy products with reduced chemical content.
- Buy products that are third-party screened.
- Offset carbon emissions.
- Purchase renewable energy.
Where the ideals of conscientious consumption meet the real world, the practitioner may find that going green is not usually the path of least resistance. Success in the transition to a more sustainable lifestyle takes trial, error, and persistence. Here are a few tips:
- Set realistic goals and take one step a time.
- Make commitments with family and friends to go green.
- Inform those close to you about your decision (teach, but don’t preach!).