the Green Consumer.
Notes from a presentation by Julia Hailes,
co-author of "The Green Consumer Guide"
Green consumerism creates a balance between the expectations of consumer behaviour and businesses' profit motives. Points to be noted:
- Markets don't wait for slow movers. Businesses that innovate and respond quickly to consumer demands survive best.
- Everyone has a part to play, at various levels of administration, manufacture and use.
- A consumer has to realize that he/she not just buys 'a' product, but everything that went into its production, and everything that will happen in the future as a result of that product.
- All products have an environmental impact, however small. The idea is to reduce it to the minimum.
|" ... even green products have an environmental impact"
||"A 'cradle-to-grave' approach should be used to understand green products"
||"The greenest option: don't buy!"
Key impacts of green products:
- Consumers have been asking for green products, ie there has been a clear raise in demand for such products.
- Businesses have looked into the green process - generating corporate environmental profiles, monitoring and evaluating green performance, and improving corporate image as a result.
- Green products have also increased competition among businesses to generate more environmentally friendly products.
- Ecolabelling networks that monitor and evaluate green products have been developed in many countries. These networks have done life cycle analyses to understand the impact of products.
- Governments have also taken several measures that have supported and facilitated such moves by businesses.
|"Life Choices: Green consumerism is not just what we buy, but also how we live"
||"The triple bottom line: economically viable, environmentally sound, and socially responsible"
||"Consumer is a change agent and is proactive"
Key issues for the future include:
- Health: A sentary lifestyle combined with health impacts of environmental pollution and emissions, use and abuse of pesticides, anti-biotics etc.
- Population and consumption: Population increases, aging populations, consumption patterns - living beyond means, etc.
- Globalization: Transboundary effect and free trade have both advantages (efficiency, profits, opportunities, demand) and disadvantages (unemployment, footloose companies, weaker controls, unfair trade, small scale loses out) etc.
- Energy: Every source of energy has an environmental impact. Energy efficiency is not just technology, but also cutting back. There are enough cars to create a six-lane traffic jam to the moon.
- Water: Water use is increasing at twice the rate of population increase. Much can be done at the individual level.
- Chemicals: Use of pesticides and other hazardous chemicals. PCB?DDT has been found in mother's milk too! Ozone depleting chemicals, hormone-disrupting chemicals have long term effects on human health and well-being.
- Genetic engineering: Includes many ethical and moral issues, including misinformation. Not that genetic engineering is bad - but the consumer should be given the choice.
- Natural World: Considerable pressures put on the natural world due to population increases and rise in consumption. 40% of all plant growth consumed by humans! Somewhere, something should stop.
- Ethics: The treatment of other peoples. Issues of gender, children, animal welfare. Ethics of cloning, fertility et al.
- Fair Trade: Nee to look into working conditions (child labour, low wages, long hours, lack of safety, mass production v/s craft industries.
- Neighbourhoods: Development of a sense of community. Increase in financial wealth, but also of quality of life. Measure "gross national happiness"!!
- Childhood: Loss of 'childhood' due to societal pressures and expectations, knowledge and skills, etc.
|"Green consumerism involves actions from the government sector, the private sector and the civil society"
||"If everyone in the world lived a lifestyle like Japan, then we would need three planets"
||"20% of the population use 80% of the resources"
The Year 2000 - Creating a future we want:
- make intelligent life choices
- use people power for positive change
- act as well as think
- set clear priorities
- fight for the right to know
- understand the bigger picture
- respect the living world
- expect the unexpected
- happiness cannot be bought
- practice give-and-take
- Presentation notes based on a talk given by Julia Hailes , co-author of the 1988 book "Green Consumer Guide", at the International Symposium on Consumption and the Environment on 26 February, 1998 in Tokyo, Japan. [Note: emphasis and images created by Hari Srinivas]