Hey y’all,

So this will be more of a personal blog or ‘call to action’ than my other postings….

An idea I’ve enjoyed exploring recently has been that of personal choice and its relationship to sustainability… In America, we consume resources like no other country on earth.  We make up less than 5% of the global population, yet use over 25% of the world’s resources.  If every person on the planet went through natural resources like the average American, we would need 7 more Earths to support life…. Basically, we are treating the world as if it is a business in liquidation.

So our country is capitalistic and is based off of this consumerism… how can we as individuals effect change when we need to consume to survive?  A tough question, I’m not gonna lie…. For starters, you can’t expect this change to come from the government or authoritative level.  You as a consumer and citizen already have the tools to make a significant difference.  In fact, you can vote for the change you want to see.  Your ticket is not a ballet used every four years, it’s your dollar you use every day.  Every time you pull out a bill or swipe your card, you are approving of the product you are purchasing and how it was manufactured and distributed.

….I personally believe that people can be defined by the things they own and what they choose to buy…. Someone who shops Walmart generally doesn’t know that what they are purchasing is made cheaply with hazardous materials in questionable working conditions 20,000 miles away and will most likely end up in a landfill within the next year.  The only variable that matters to this type of consumer is $$$…. Obviously, no one consciously supports this system, but by continuously putting money into back into it, you are voting that it is not only acceptable, but encouraged…. Keep in mind that supply and demand work hand in hand, and if the public demands better products, supply will have to make them to survive….

Let’s consider some alternative ways to vote… here are a couple tips:

Quality over quantity… spend a couple extra bucks on that one thing you love that will last significantly longer.

Buy local: go to your local mom and pop stores, farmers market, craft fairs, etc.  Support your local economy.  Get to know your neighbors.

Reuse: check out your local Craigslist, Freecycle, classifieds, second hand stores, etc.  Avoid buying new things that require the use of virgin materials… Fix things up, get creative.  Create some conversation pieces.

Buy recycled:  Recycled products are everywhere these days.  Make a conscious effort to recycle and buy recycled.

Buy organic:  There are increasing number of organic food and clothing products available.  They are generally pesticide free, which helps keep toxins out of our water supply.

Use alternative transportation:  Live near your work, bike, use mass transit, walk… Eliminate that soul-wrenching commute.  If you need a car, get something that is fuel-efficient.

Support renewable energy: If you have the opportunity, put your money into the renewable energy grid.  Check to see if your local energy supplier has any clean energy programs.

….About a year ago, there was a small group of people in San Francisco (they called themselves ‘the compact’) who utilized their ‘vote’ by going an entire year without buying anything new (outside of the bare essentials)….  It blew the mainstream media’s mind, but participants suggested that not a whole lot of sacrifices needed to be made… A link to an article on them can be found here.  Some very interesting stuff!

The Lazy Environmentalist’s green guru Josh Dorfman has addressed the idea of ‘shopping our way to sustainability’.  A 9 minute audio clip of how he feels it can be done can be found here.


About Joshua Foss

Joshua is a leading voice for transformational change. He is the editor of Metro Hippie, co-founder and director of development of the Ecala Group, and adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also an ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, trade shows and summits.