We live in a world that is doomed to face disastrous consequences if we don’t do something impactful soon enough to stop the threat of global warming. One of the tools in the toolbox of solutions is green consumerism, which has received massive traction in the past years. Companies like Apple or Zara making promises of introducing more sustainable products on the market seemed like a good thing initially, but let’s see the implications of this measure that hide behind the veil of advertising.
There is a parasite currently attached to our society and implicitly wired into our brains -it’s called consumerism - the belief that limitless material acquisition is giving us an uplifting state of happiness. Mass consumption has been enhanced by the advertising culture, making people believe that their lives are not complete without certain products. We are all witnessing an ever-present competition between which company has the best advertising campaigns, with big brands like Apple spending $1.8 billion in a year on this. Not only do they focus increasingly on advertising, but they also focus less on quality, making products resist less so as people would buy more frequently. The cycle of supply of unnecessary goods does not stop as long as people are stuck into the habit of always buying stuff, thus creating demand. It has been estimated that the average consumer is buying 60 percent more clothes than 15 years ago, but those clothes are only kept for half the time. The negative effects of consumerism include the depletion of natural resources and pollution of the Earth.
So then the question that arises is what do we do to tackle this problem?
Green consumerism has recently appeared and has been marketed to transform our economy into a more sustainable one by replacing some of the harmful fabrics or materials that presumably pollute more. I do think that choosing to buy greener products, whether you do it for your health or the planet, is good. But the problem with adopting green consumerism as the main solution for combating climate change is that it doesn’t tackle the underlying issue: people still desire to buy way too much stuff. Making a series of small, ethical purchasing decisions makes people feel better about themselves, but it comes at the cost of ignoring the structural incentives for companies’ unsustainable business models. In some cases, it even increases consumerism, people believing they are absolved of guilt if they buy green. A recent report revealed that certain categories of products with sustainability claims showed twice the growth of their traditional counterparts. Consequently, the smarter decision would be to buy less instead of buying green.
But even buying less is not enough to tackle climate change. The government and businesses collude to make you unconsciously destroy the environment, whether you choose to use metal straws or not or you stop buying them altogether. The 20 fossil fuel companies that exploit the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves are responsible for more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era. When it comes to combating climate change and pollution, we need to take the money, time, and effort and put it toward something that really matters.
Instead of buying expensive ecco products, donate that money to organizations fighting to preserve ecosystems destroyed by oil spills or those who are lobbying governments to limit the carbon emissions of big oil companies. Focusing on the individual behavior of consumers (to buy green, to recycle, to not eat meat) takes away focus from these companies polluting, but this is not an incidental thing that happens. These companies actively incentivize it in order to divert the discussion to individual choice over systemic deregulation of the industry. The first creator and publisher of the first carbon footprint tracker, which allowed people to measure their carbon usage, was British Petroleum, part of the 20 companies mentioned before.
Even though green consumerism is a morally righteous, bold movement, its social implications are not that great: it gives both people and companies the comfort that everything is solved, but that is not true. It is imperative that we identify the main actors responsible for this problem and not give them the luxury of continuing their harmful activities.
articol scris de Tania Acsinte
fotograf: Cristia Anghel