Our overconsumption is literally costing us the earth. It not only detracts from our ability to save and build a financially solid future for ourselves, it is also quite literally diminishing the sustainability of this planet.
When we think about how we are impacting earth we often consider the main culprits to be our household electricity and water usage and possibly our poor recycling commitment but it goes way beyond this. In fact the electricity we use in our houses accounts for only 18% of the greenhouse pollution we create. Food and consumer goods such as clothing, appliances, furniture and electronics require a large amount of energy, water and materials to produce and this is where our ongoing demand is damaging our planet.
China’s massive industrial sector is fuelled to a large extent by the enormous Global demand for cheap products and as a result the country generates more carbon emissions than anywhere else in the world, a huge contributor to the smog and airborne pollutants various parts of that country are literally suffocating in.
A research article published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology studied 43 countries identified as the primary consumers of produced goods and concluded that more than 60% of the Worlds Greenhouse gas emissions and 80% of Global water use was as a result of the secondary impacts of meeting the demand for these consumer goods.
The researchers found that the richer a country is, the more its citizens consume and the greater the impact on the planet. Food was highlighted as one of the primary culprits with rich nations consuming more meat, dairy and processed food than their poorer neighbours. The production of these items particularly places huge demands on land and resources.
It goes without saying that simply changing our consumption habits could drastically positively impact our environmental footprints.
What are easy consumption habits to change?
Ditch Disposable Fashion
An easy but effective step we can take is to cut back on fast fashion, a clever marketing ploy by clothing retailers to get us onto a cycle of constantly buying new trends and literally throwing out old ones. This disposable fashion results in 15 million tons of textile waste ending up in landfill per year.
Half of these clothing items are typically made from modified cotton sprayed with pesticides which harm neighbouring non GMO crops, pollute water and directly impact our health through its potentially carcinogenic effect.
The fast fashion industry is built on cheap clothing and cheap labour which in a lot of cases means cheap child labour. This is the rotten part of our over consumption at its worst. Consider shopping less, buying vintage or looking into clothing swop schemes. You will be benefiting your back pocket and global society as a whole.
Unplug your electronics
Our devices continue to draw on energy when they are plugged in AND powered down. Anytime something is connected it is draining energy. Unplug and save up to 15% of your electricity bill just by cutting out standby power usage.
Eat less Meat
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (“FOA”) the methane released from cows, along with deforestation and fertilisers used for all livestock, creates as much greenhouse gasses as the world’s cars, trucks and aeroplanes combined. A 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found that Industrial agriculture and overfishing are one of the main contributors to animal, fish and insect extinction.
Even if you don’t buy into the argument that meat production is harming the planet, there is a reasonable connection between overindulgence on a significant scale and the ability of the planet to sustain an ongoing supply. The FOA estimates that the average consumer in developed countries eats 80 to 90 kgs of meat per year, the equivalent of 50 chickens or half a cow each. The US, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina top this average at over 100kgs per year.
Beside the impact on greenhouse gases the insatiable meat production is drastically increasing water scarcity with one single pound of beef using over 5000 gallons of water to produce. It doesn’t require becoming a vegetarian to save the planet but a reduction in consumption could make a drastically positive impact.
Take the opportunity to make your commute part of your exercise regime. Walk, cycle or even run your daily commute. If this is not a viable option try making your commute a more sociable endeavour by carpooling, taking the bus or some other form of public transport.
Eat local and seasonal
Whenever possible stick to locally produced seasonal produce to cut down on your food miles. Try to avoid items that have been subject to toxic pesticides or processed foods which are both not only detrimental to our health but to the planet as well.
Whether you live in a house or apartment start a small garden of herbs, veggies and bee friendly flowers. You will have a lovely little garden that looks good, tastes good and does good.
Watching our spending is so much more than managing a budget. It goes beyond out household to the wider world and every small positive conscious change we make has a small positive impact Globally “One small step for man, one giant step for mankind”,