The green movement has created many options to help the environment, including green consumerism, which entails buying products that are more environmentally friendly than their conventional counterparts. The theory behind this idea is, since we have to buy products, we might as well buy products that hurt the planet less. But is this concept fatally flawed? Doesn’t the whole culture of consumerism go against the green movement, which emphasizes using fewer materials, not more? A New York Times article points out how even though people may buy green products, our level of consumption is still dangerously high. “Buying as much as we want because we can” has been a staple of American culture for some time and green consumerism continues to fuel this. Is it truly helpful to the environment for us to encourage such behavior? More importantly than what we purchase is how much we purchase.
As the article points out, most complaints against green consumerism don’t come from major green organizations, like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. This is probably because green consumerism does do something beneficial: brings the environment and global warming to people’s attention. Even if they aren’t dedicated to the environment as activists, at least they are aware of the problems it faces when they pick up an organic cotton t-shirt instead of one made out of conventionally grown cotton. Businesses also argue that green consumerism can be beneficial because they are more effective at solving climate change than governments since they are more focused on the long-term and don’t face reelection every four years. They were not clear on the how, but they emphasized that the solution to our environmental problems is economic growth fueled by eco-minded consumers.
My conclusion from all this is that green consumerism is a good strategy, but it is not the solution in and of itself. If people need and want to buy products, they might as well buy those that are better for the earth than those that are not. Green consumerism isn’t the only answer to our current environmental situation, but it can help. Hopefully, by becoming aware of part of their purchasing habits (what they buy) people will also become aware of another part (how much they buy).
Photo Courtesy of Holos: Ecologia Integral blog