Opinion: World Environment Day Seven billion dreams, one planet, consume with care – by Ben Gleisner of Conscious Consumers
Today is World Environment Day. This year the slogan for the United Nations’ Environment Programme day is ‘Seven billion dreams, one planet, consume with care’.
We have a strong and growing group of New Zealanders who do consume with care, and today is also a day for celebrating these people. These are our conscious consumers and they are changing the world one dollar at a time.
Each time they step out they make important decisions about what they buy that is aimed at changing the world we live in.
These are the people who take a few extra seconds to put their own bags in the car on the way to the supermarket. They take a few extra seconds to read the labels, and to think about the consequences of buying fish that isn’t caught sustainably, or toilet paper that is sourced from a rainforest.
They are happy to rinse their reusable cup after their morning coffee rather than adding to the million disposable cups that end up in landfill around the world EVERY MINUTE.
There are thousands of New Zealand consumers who are making sure that the money they spend is encouraging businesses to change the way they operate. When these consumers make purchasing decisions en masse, they are rewarding businesses to continue to strive to use less packaging and reduce their food waste or their carbon footprint.
There are plenty of ‘good businesses’ in New Zealand who are worthy of support. It’s easy now to get coffee or chocolate that is Fairtrade and we’ve seen hundreds of businesses reduce their food waste and improve their recycling. But while it’s getting easier to find the good guys, unfortunately these businesses – and the consumers who support them – are still in the minority.
We pride ourselves on being clean and green and fair but our track record does not make good reading.
Here in New Zealand we throw away $872 million worth of food that could be eaten annually with the average household tossing around 80 kilograms of edible food into the bin each year. Collectively we send about 3.2 million tonnes of waste to landfill each year. And our use of plastic is astronomical. In New Zealand we use over 151 million kgs of plastic packaging per year – and then only recycle 36 million kilograms of that.
Our greenhouse gas emissions have increased by over 25% since 1990. We may pride ourselves on being clean and green and fair, but we’re far from it.
But a consumer movement is growing in New Zealand and it’s being driven by our young people. A large number of Gen Xers and Gen Ys in New Zealand are increasingly making their purchasing decisions based on sustainability according to the Better Business 2014 Survey by Colmar Brunton – and the rate of how often they purchase these products is accelerating every year.
These consumers are not only thinking about what’s good for them, they are also thinking about what’s good for the planet. We are now global after all. These consumers are part of a worldwide movement which is shaping our expectations of businesses. These consumers are curious. They ask questions, and they demand answers.
After 1,133 people were killed when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a fashion revolution began that asked the simple question “who made my clothes?” Was it one of the billion people in the world that live on less than $1.25 a day? Was that person working reasonable hours in a safe factory, and did they have a chance to at a proper education?
It’s not easy being curious. It takes more time to check the details and to understand the impacts of purchasing decisions. But by being better informed this is our best chance for choosing the world we want for us and the next generations.
We here at Conscious Consumers applaud you. We know that there are tens of thousands of you around the country who visit our accredited businesses because you know that by doing so you are making a difference.
Our pledge to you is to continue to work to make this as simple as possible for you. Our aim is to introduce new technology that will demonstrate to businesses just how powerful we all are. We also want to make it as easy for you as possible to demonstrate your spending power is a force for good.
In the meantime, keep up the good work, consume with care, and know that you have already made a difference.
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