Sustainable Consumerism: How Can We Buy Ourselves a Green Future?

by Megan Ross

Being a socially conscious consumer has many benefits for ourselves, our community, and the world at large.  It has been argued that “buying local” is the key for stopping the climate change forces which are rapidly reshaping our planet.  While making “green” purchases may not in fact be sufficient for achieving this goal, it certainly does contribute to making everyone’s lives a little bit healthier.

What Does Buying Local Mean?

At first glance, it is common to associate shopping at local, independent shops with higher prices.  This is sometimes true, but while the upfront expense may be more, all of the costs involved, including those for the environment, labourers, and community, make it the more advantageous choice.  Buying local is an easy two-step process which harmonizes your purchasing power and needs with more sustainable considerations.

Step One: Take responsibility for the money you spend.

Thinking about making a purchase or paying for a service?  Instead of focusing solely on what it is you’re looking forward to having, think about the labour and resources that went into its production.  Never underestimate the power of a dollar, spent or unspent.  Whether or not you are concerned for the environment for ethical reasons, investing in sustainable products and also the businesses that provide them, is crucial for protecting the environment.      

Result: Investment in your community.

When you make more deliberate choices about where you shop and choose to support your local or independent stores, that money stays within the community far more than shopping at the alternative.  Stimulating the local economy means employment for your neighbors, overall value and diversity of products and businesses, and develops a community with character and connection.  Just think of Broadway Avenue and how those business provide not only a service, but also a vibrant atmosphere.

Step Two: Buy smart.

When looking at specific items be mindful of how much wasteful packaging there is, the sustainability of the materials used to make them, whether they were produced locally or internationally, and beware of greenwashing.  Think about what impact the items you buy will have on the community and the environment, including their production, sale, use, and disposal.  Remember there are many other “life” stages of a product beyond the period of you owning/using it.

Result:  Enjoy your purchases and the positive effect they have on you and the world.

All of these things help decrease the carbon footprint of your buying habits, which benefits the environment and encourages sustainable business practices.  You’ll also be promoting the very businesses which are more likely to give back to their community in form of direct donations to local organizations.  And while all of the impacts that have been discussed so far have been external to yourself, at a level much closer to home, you and your family will be rewarded with healthier lives and a good foundation for making further sustainable choices in every area of life.  



More articles on Living Green:

Green Holiday Party Ideas

Live simply so others can simply live.
— Gandhi