Tuesday, August 01, 2006

How to Buy More Sustainably

Note a version of this will be published in Dane County's Sustainable Times Newspaper. The authors are myself and my friend Mark Daugherty.

Conventional economics is not structured to guide our society to make the proper choices. It was developed when human activity was a small part of the total ecosphere. It places no value on maintaining the health of the plant on which we depend for survival.

Conventional economics does not consider global climate change. Much of the US is under drought conditions. Soon another hurricane season will be upon us. Large portions of North America forest are on fire. Climate change is transforming where and if plants and animals can live. The Gulf Stream is being pushed down into the ocean by a layer of fresh water coming off the melting Greenland icecap.

Conventional economics does not consider our rapid consumption of the earth’s treasury of mineral resources and fossil energy. The recent doubling of gasoline prices has not turned the behemoth global economy toward using less gasoline or toward sustainability. Instead gasoline use continues to increase.

We have created a lifestyle dependent on cheap mineral and energy resources. A life style that is dependent on imports of energy, food and products from the other side of the world, from often politically unstable portions of the world. A lifestyle where a neighborhood, city or state can no longer survive on its own. A lifestyle that has plunged all American’s deep into debt.

Individuals, governments and businesses of the world must begin making choices based on sustainability rather than economics.

To make your own or your businesses purchases more sustainable, here ten questions to ask:
1. Will it be thoroughly used? Perhaps you do not really need it.
2. Could you borrow or get a used one instead?
3. Was it made or produced by someone in your community?
4. Will it last long? If not can it be reused, recycled or composted?
5. Is it maintenance free or low maintenance? If not can you or someone in your community easily fix it?
6. Does its production, operation, maintenance and recycling keep air, water, and land clean?
7. Could you get a smaller one?
8. Does it bring joy to those who made, sold, used, and recycled it?
9. Does it require a lot of space?
10. Does it support the strengthening of your community

A few purchases are relatively easy from a sustainable standpoint: such as locally grown- food or locally-brewed beer. Others are much more difficult: such as a new car. Subjecting your purchases to these questions will show you how far we have to go to get to real sustainability.

We have been trying to ask ourselves these ten questions during our recent purchases. It is hard. The ten questions are beginning to change how we purchase goods. But it will take some time.

If you ask yourself these ten questions, you will purchase less… and then you can work less – which is good for the environment.

Neils, Great as per usual. I may well use your comments to get some of my chem and physics classes thinking, eh? And I am doing my part to drink locally here in Berlin. Chris
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