Personal Actions to Save the World: Thoughts for You the Consumer

Maybe I am underestimating the reach of this blog, but I am guessing that if your are reading this you probably a pretty well- educated American (if not, you certainly are an English speaker, and are probably from a western country — but most likely yer from Texas), who has the ability to access a computer. You’re a likely to be concerned about the environment and consumer protections, or are at least interested in what Public Citizen Texas is doing in this area.

That is why today’s blog post is interactive. Instead of just sharing my opinions with you and updating you on Public Citizen activities, I want to talk about things we can do as consumers to address some of our biggest environmental problems. As the educated westerner that I am assuming you are, your consumption is the engine driving the modern economy. Much of the greenhouse gases and other pollutants that are emitted these days have been done so to make our lifestyle possible. But  many people in the developing world are also aspiring to live our lifestyle, putting us in a great position to lead by example.

I know that some will say that I am trying to guilt trip our readers into feeling bad about their success or their consumption. That is not the case at all. If anything, I am simply trying inform you of the influence you have in the global economy as consumers and the ability you have to shape the modern economy into a more sustainable version of its current self. Let’s face it: our country has not exactly taken a proactive stance on global warming, so it is up to us to be proactive while our government gets its act together. Our influence as consumers will also influence countries like China and India, who produce a lot of pollution making and shipping consumer goods for American consumers.

There are a lot of things consumers can do to reduce their impact on the environment. For example, my concern about pollution caused by confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) has led my giving up industrially produced meat. Since CAFO-style operations are also a cause of much deforestation and emissions from shipping from refrigeration, this measure alone can make a huge impact. I’ve also, like many other Americans, chosen to buy a smaller more efficient car — or use no car at all when I get the opportunity. I personally advocate and support public transportation measures where I live and have chosen to use them instead of using my car multiple times.  I avoid using Styrofoam and disposable products, often at great inconveniences to my self. Since discovering the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement I will now make a point to influence the city governments of any city I live in to join if they have not already.

Not all of these measures are doable for all of us, and some people will be able to do things others will not. The point is that we the consumers have the power to shift the global economy into a more sustainable direction and influence our local governments to take more environmental initiatives. Fortunately there are numerous books and websites dedicated to differentiating between products and practices that are environmentally friendly and those which are not.

Consumer activism works: the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group subsidiary Eco-pledge (an environmentally motivated consumer boycott group), was successfully able to influence Apple into recycling ipods, and Dell into better management of its E-waste. They also contributed to Conoco-Phillips and BPs withdrawl from Artic Power, an industry group set on opening the Artic Wildlife Refuge for drilling.

Economists tell us that for markets to function properly buyers need to be fully informed to make rational decisions. What could be more rational than making purchase decisions that will preserve our environment? Hopefully we will see more people willing to fight for environmental justice in their communities and with their purchasing decisions.

The Disappointed Environmentalist