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Every product on your favorite department storeâ€™s shelf is made of a collection of natural resources that humans have extracted or harvested from the Earth. These raw materials were transported, processed and stored for your convenience. Provokare Presentations will help you transform the way you look at shopping. It will help you consider the social and environmental impacts of the products you buy, helping you decide if the consequences of your choices fit into what is important to your lifestyle.
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Contents Please consider the environment before printing this booklet. Title
Living with simplicity
Impact and inequalities
Who and what is to blame?
Consumerism driving our lives
Growth of our ecological footprint
Dealing with marketing: What parents can do
What is in the label
Durable and reusable
Reversing the effects
Regain your life
Cradle to cradle alternatives
Who are you doing business with?
Changing our way of life
Your Choiceâ€”You World
Hazardous waste disposal
Booklet Copyrights: Provokare Presentations 3
Living with simplicity Who would have ever thought that the gorillas of Congo are being killed because of our cell phones, that eating chocolate contributes to the loss of tropical forests, that our cotton T-shirt contributes to unfair labor conditions. We are spending our lives pursuing an idea of happiness that is based on material possessions. We spend our days repairing, maintaining, and providing for them, while forgetting the joys of a simple life based on relationships and quality time with our families. The things we consume in our modern world have strong repercussions in our community and across the planet. We need to take personal responsibility for the way we live and products we consume. Each individual has a right to a reasonable share of the worldâ€™s resources. Each individual deserves to live with greater equity and harmony in a clean and sustainable environment. This booklet will give you ideas on how you can make different choices and live a life of respect and reverence for people and the planet, as well as your own.
Impact and Inequalities Today’s consumption is undermining the environmental resource base. It is exacerbating inequalities. And the dynamics of the consumption-poverty-inequalityenvironment nexus are accelerating. If the trends continue without change — not redistributing from highincome to low-income consumers, not shifting from polluting to cleaner goods and production technologies, not promoting goods that empower poor producers, not shifting priority from consumption for conspicuous display to meeting basic needs — today’s problems of consumption and human development will worsen.
… Inequalities in consumption are stark. Globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures — the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%.
More specifically, the richest fifth:
• • • • •
Consume 45% of all meat and fish, the poorest fifth 5% Consume 58% of total energy, the poorest fifth less than 4% Have 74% of all telephone lines, the poorest fifth 1.5% Consume 84% of all paper, the poorest fifth 1.1% Own 87% of the world’s vehicle fleet, the poorest fifth less than 1%
We cannot stop progress, and should not, but we can find ways to do it in a more sustainable way. The harsh facts will be followed by suggestions that you can easily implement. They will help you use your purchasing power to support your community, the planet, and the businesses that you would like to see flourish—those that create safe and positive work environments for employees, pay fair wages, nourish their communities, create quality products, and practice environmental sustainability on a daily basis, close to our homes and on the other side of the world. Don’t feel overwhelmed or depressed with the information provided in here, instead take it a step at a time, and empower yourself to provoke change.
Runaway growth in consumption in the past 50 years is putting strains on the environment never before seen. Source: Human Development Report 1998 Overview (United Nations)
Impact and Inequalities
… The real issue is not consumption itself but its patterns and effects.
The information in this booklet may seem a little overwhelming, but remember that it is not about abandoning all the commodities we are enjoying in our lives. It is about understand how we can reduce our level of consumption, and focus more on living a life with satisfaction without impacting the world so much.
Who and what is to blame ?
Consumption patterns today are not to meet everyone’s needs. The system that drives these consumption patterns also contribute to inequality of consumption patterns.
Global Priority Cosmetics in the United States Ice cream in Europe Perfumes in Europe and the United States Pet foods in Europe and the United States Business entertainment in Japan Cigarettes in Europe Alcoholic drinks in Europe Narcotics drugs in the world Military spending in the world
$U.S. Billions 8 11 12 17 35 50 105 400 780
And compare that to what was estimated as additional costs to achieve universal access to basic social services in all developing countries
We consume a variety of resources and products today having moved beyond basic needs to include luxury items and technological innovations to try to improve efficiency. Such consumption beyond minimal and basic needs is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, as throughout history we have always sought to find ways to make our lives a bit easier to live. However, increasingly, there are important issues around consumerism that need to be understood. For example:
• • • • • • • • • •
Global Priority Basic education for all Water and sanitation for all Reproductive health for all women Basic health and nutrition
$U.S. Billions 6 9 12 13
• • •
How are the products and resources we consume actually produced? What are the impacts of that process of production on the environment, society, on individuals? What are the impacts of certain forms of consumption on the environment, on society, on individuals? Which actors influence our choices of consumption? Which actors influence how and why things are produced or not? What is a necessity and what is a luxury? How do demands on items affect the requirements placed upon the environment? How do consumption habits change as societies change? How much of what we consume is influenced by corporations, the media and advertising, and by their needs versus our needs? What is the impact on poorer nations and people on the demands of the wealthier nations? How do material values influence our relationships with other people? What impact does that have on our personal values? …
Consumerism and consumption are at the core of many, if not most societies. The impacts of consumerism, positive and negative are very significant to all aspects of our lives, as well as our planet. But equally important to bear in mind in discussing consumption patterns is the underlying system that promotes certain types of consumption and not other types.
Source: Worldwatch.com - Globalissues.org
Who and what is to blame?
“Over” population is usually blamed as the major cause of environmental degradation, but the below statistics strongly suggests otherwise.
Consumerism driving our lives The BBC aired a documentary called “Shopology” (September 2nd and 9th, 2001) where psychologists looked into the psychology of shopping and consumerism in places like Britain, USA and Japan and asked if it was healthy for consumers. Of the many points they raised, they pointed out that:
Consumption now helps to define and answer who we are Social definition revolves around consumption (which is heavily commercialized) That we essentially “buy” a lifestyle Brands help turn perceptions into reality, thus encouraging purchases based on fashion and peer/social pressures to fit in. Consumerism can increase stress for various reasons To deal with social and consumerism pressures and their effects, people may on occasion resort to what psychologist term as “compensatory consumption” — that is, consuming even more to feel better (similar to how one might feel tempted to take alcohol to relieve stress). Rising consumer debt puts pressure on families Malls are carefully designed to create appropriate moods to indirectly encourage buying.
On April 27, 2003, the BBC aired another documentary, as part of a 3-part series called Spend Spend Spend. The first part looked at the issues of whether or not the increased wealth and consumerism had led to more content and satisfied individuals. The documentary made some interesting observations: •
Research evidence seemed to suggest that increased wealth did not necessarily lead to more content and satisfaction. As we get wealthier, so do our expectations and the people we compare ourselves with change, from peers and neighbors, to the likes of celebrities. In various experiments conducted by Professor Oswald on relationships between wealth and happiness he found that some two thirds of people were willing to reduce what they had if it meant others would not lose out and be worse off. The impllications of this is profound. As Oswald suggested, it is “hard to make society happier as they get richer and richer because human beings look constantly over their shoulders. Thats the curse of human beings; making comparisons.” It used to be a question of what we will do with all the spare time that the increased affluence and increased consumption of consumer goods would have led to. Britain works longer hours than other European countries and time is getting increasingly precious.
The documentary noted how increasingly, extremely wealthy people were employing services such as personal trainers, shopping services, and even services to organize their lives. As the documentary also added, “the average American now works a whole month more a year that in the 1970s — one of the main reasons why happiness here reached a peak in 1957 and has been going down since.” Professor Juliet Schor, of Harvard University and author of The Overworked American added that the “culture of long hours has spread like cancer” in the U.S. leading to more divorces, and other social problems. Spending has been one way to compensate for the loss of time. As we have got richer we have spent a lower and lower share of wealth on public services and more on ourselves. Private wealth has prospered at the expense of public spending. As Professor Schor summarized, people who care how much money they make, about their possessions, about their wealth, financial and economic status are often more depressed, and have a lower self-esteem. To make up for this and also to make up for getting 'bored' of the posessions already obtained, you spend more to buy more things.
Research suggests social connections, marital status and health are what makes ultimate happy lives.
Consumerism driving our lives
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
Growth of Our Ecological Footprint
Growth of Our Ecological Footprint
These maps illustrate the growth in the Ecological Footprint between 1961 and 2001 worldwide. The darker the colors, the higher the concentration of consumption. "Footprint Intensity" is high because of high population density (India and China), because of high consumption (North America), or because of both (Europe). The maps also show how the human Footprint has become larger: the 2.5 time increase over this 40 year period has transformed much of the planet.
Consumer Class, By Region 2002
USA & Canada Wester Europe East Asia & Pacifica Latin America & Caribbean Eastern Europe & Central Asia South Asia Australia & New Zealand Middle East & North Africa Sub-Saharan Africa Industrial Countries Developing Countries World
Number of Consumer Class Consumer Class as People Belonging to as Share of ReShare of Global the consumer class gional Population Consumer Class million 271.4 348.9 494.0 167.8 173.2 140.7 19.8 78.0 34.2
% 85 89 27 32 36 10 84 25 5
% 16 20 29 10 10 8 1 4 2
Total doesn't not add due to rounding Source: Global FootPrint Network
Comparing consumption Share of Household Expenditures Spent On Food Country
Tanzania Madagascar Tajikistan Lebanon Hong-Kong Japan Denmark United States Source: Worldwatch.com
Per Capita Household Expenditures 1998
Share Spent on Food
$ 375 608 660 6135 12468 13568 16385 21515
% 67 61 48 31 10 12 16 13
Consumer Spending and Population, by Region 2000 Region
Share of Share of World Private World Consumption Population Expenditures %
USA & Canada Wester Europe East Asia & Pacifica Latin America & Caribbean Eastern Europe & Central Asia South Asia Australia & New Zealand Middle East & North Africa Sub-Saharan Africa
% 31.5 28.7 21.4 6.7 3.3 2.0 1.5 1.4 1.2
5.2 6.4 32.9 8.5 7.9 22.4 0.4 4.1 10.9
In contrast to the goods and services produced by the millions of other species on our planet, which generate useful byproducts but not worthless waste, human economies are designed with little attention to the residuals of production and consumption. The impact of this design flaw is enormous, starting with the extraction process. For every usable ton of copper, for example, 110 tons of waste rock and ore are discarded. As metals become rarer, the wastes then too increase: roughly 3 tons of toxic mining waste are produced in mining the amount of gold needed in a single wedding ring. The share of waste recycled has grown, but it has stalled at less than half of total waste generated. Meanwhile, Americans remain the worldâ€™s waste champions, producing 51% more municipal waste per person than the average resident of any other country in the OECD. Source: Worldwatch.com
Effects William Rees, an urban planner at the University of British Columbia, estimated that it requires four to six hectares of land to maintain the consumption level of the average person from a high-consumption country. The problem is that in 1990, worldwide there were only 1.7 hectares of ecologically productive land for each person. He concluded that the deficit is made up in core countries by drawing down the natural resources of their own countries and expropriating the resources, through trade, of peripheral countries. In other words, someone has to pay for our consumption levels.
Within the current economic system of “perpetual growth”, we risk being locked into a mode of development that is:
• • • •
destructive, in the long run, to the environment a contributing factor to poverty around the world a contributing factor to hunger amongst such immense wealth and numerous other social and ecological problems
Furthermore, as consumption increases the resource base has to expand to meet growth and related demands. If the resource base expands to other people’s lands, then those people don’t necessarily get to use those resources either.
Consumption patterns in wealthier countries increase demands for various foods, flowers, textiles, coffee, etc. Combined with commercial interests in things like tobacco, largely grown by corporations from wealthy nations, and with input-intensive agricultural practices (including using herbicides and pesticides) the diversion of and misuse of land and the associated environmental damage in unsustainable methods adds up.
Exporting Pollution and Waste from Rich Countries to Poor Countries Pollution is also related to increased consumption. That is, the consumption itself, plus the production and waste of products used in consumption. Automobiles are a clear example. Other examples include industrial waste (especially when just dumped into the rivers and oceans), waste from the tourist industry (including cruise liners, air travel, etc.), waste from industrial agriculture and so on. While pollution is increasing in poorer countries as well, it is not solely due to rising populations, because, as the U.N. points out, and as mentioned earlier, 86% of the world’s resources are consumed by the world’s wealthiest 20%. Hence, even if pollution is occurring in poor countries, a large portion of it is to meet this consumer demand. 11
Attracting Kids Once an ignored demographic for advertisers, today's young people have become the most marketed-to generation in history, thanks to their spending power and their future clout as adult consumers.
No, it's not your imagination. The amount of advertising and marketing North Americans are exposed to daily has exploded over the past decade; studies show, that on average we see 3,000 ads per day. At the gas pumps, in the movie theatre, in a washroom stall, during sporting eventsâ€”advertising is impossible to avoid.
Buzz or street marketing The challenge for marketers is to cut through the intense advertising clutter in young people's lives. Many companies are using "buzz marketing"â€”a new twist on the tried-and-true "word of mouth" method. The idea is to find the coolest kids in a community and have them use or wear your product in order to create a buzz around it. Buzz, or "street marketing," as it's also called, can help a company to successfully connect with the savvy and elusive teen market by using trendsetters to give their products "cool" status.
Commercialization in education School used to be a place where children were protected from the advertising and consumer messages that permeated their worldâ€”but not any more. Budget shortfalls are forcing school boards to allow corporations access to students in exchange for badly needed cash, computers and educational materials.
How Marketers Target Kids Kids represent an important demographic to marketers because they have their own purchasing power, they influence their parents' buying decisions and they're the adult consumers of the future. Industry spending on advertising to children has exploded in the past decade, increasing from a mere $100 million in 1990 to more than $2 billion in 2000. Parents today are willing to buy more for their kids because trends such as smaller family size, dual incomes and postponing children until later in life mean that families have more disposable income. As well, guilt can play a role in spending decisions as time-stressed parents substitute material goods for time spent with their kids. Here are some of the strategies marketers employ to target children and teens: "Pester power" refers to children's ability to nag their parents into purchasing items they may not otherwise buy. Marketing to children is all about creating pester power, because advertisers know what a powerful force it can be. The marriage of psychology and marketing To effectively market to children, advertisers need to know what makes kids tick. With the help of well-paid researchers and psychologists, advertisers now have access to indepth knowledge about children's developmental, emotional and social needs at different ages. Building brand name loyalty Marketers plant the seeds of brand recognition in very young children, in the hopes that the seeds will grow into lifetime relationships. According to the Center for a New American Dream, babies as young as six months of age can form mental images of corporate logos and mascots. Brand loyalties can be established as early as age two, and by the time children head off to school most can recognize hundreds of brand logos.
Advertising: It's Everywhere
Dealing with Marketing: What Parents Can Do Educate your kids about advertising and how marketers target young people •
Help kids understand that the main goal of advertising is to make them buy things—often things they don't need, and didn't even know they wanted until they've seen the ad. Explain that advertising is big business, one of the largest businesses in the world.
Challenge your children's definition of "cool"
• • • • •
Do you ever feel bad about yourself for not owning something? Have you ever felt that people might like you more if you owned a certain item? Has an ad made you feel that you would like yourself more, or that others would like you more, if you owned the product the ad is selling? Do you ever worry about your looks? Have you ever felt that people would like you more if your face, body, skin or hair looked different? Has an ad ever made you feel that you would like yourself more, or others would like you more, if you changed your appearance with the product the ad was selling?
Encourage savvy consumer habits •
• • •
Encourage your kids to challenge advertisers' claims about their products. Do your own blind taste tests at home or buy a product and compare its performance with the claims made in the commercial. Young children should watch mostly non-commercial television. When watching commercial stations, record programs so that you can fast forward through the commercials. If nothing else, mute the sound during commercials.
Encourage non-commercial values in your kids •
Try to spend more time with your kids, not more money on them. What kids really want and need is time with their parents, not more consumer goods. Explain that there are children, even in your own community, who don't have many toys. Donate your old toys to a local women's shelter, or send them to a aid agency so they can shipped to refugee camps in developing countries. Explain that shopping should not be viewed as a hobby or pastime. It's something we do when we need to buy something and then we come home. Get your kids involved in other activities, so they have less time to hang around the mall.
Dealing with Marketing: What Parents Can Do
Ask them the following questions:
What’s in the label It is just as important to take into account who produces the items you purchase as the type of item being produced. Different companies manufacturing the same product can have radically different impacts on the environment, workers, business and communities. This is where you can shape what kind of world you want to live in with one of the most powerful forces in society: your dollars. Every single purchase that you make is a vote. You vote for the kinds of companies and practices that you would like to see succeed.
LABEL ISSUE Fair Trade Human Rights Sweatshop Free Human Rights Not Tested on Animals Animal Rights Free-Range Animal Rights Organic Environment Recycled Content Environment Post-Consumer Content Environment Biodegradable Environment Chlorine-Free Environment Phosphate Free Environment Soy-Based Inks Environment FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Environment
MEANING Livable Wages Fair Working Conditions Cruelty Free More Humane Conditions Pesticide-Free Utilizes Material Byproducts Contains Actual Recycled Materials Breaks Down Naturally Utilizes less Toxic Alternatives Fish Friendly Non-Toxic Forests Responsible Management
FAIR TRADE In today's world economy, where profits rule and small-scale producers are left out of the bargaining process, farmers, craft producers, and other workers are often left without resources or hope for their future. Fair Trade helps exploited producers escape from this cycle and gives them a way to maintain their traditional lifestyles with dignity. Fair Trade involves the following principles: • • • • • • • •
Producers receive a fair price - a living wage. For commodities, farmers receive a stable, minimum price. Forced labor and exploitative child labor are not allowed Buyers and producers trade under direct long-term relationships Producers have access to financial and technical assistance Sustainable production techniques are encouraged Working conditions are healthy and safe Equal employment opportunities are provided for all All aspects of trade and production are open to public accountability
COMMON PRODUCTS Coffee, Tea, Chocolate Clothing, carpets Body Care Products Beef, Chicken, Eggs Almost Anything Paper Paper Cleaning Solutions Cleaning Solutions Detergent Packaging + Books Wood, Paper
The Fair Trade system benefits over 800,000 farmers organized into cooperatives and unions in 48 countries. Fair Trade has helped farmers provide for their families' basic needs and invest in community development; however, these farmers are still selling most of their crop outside of the Fair Trade system because not enough companies are buying at Fair Trade prices. Help increase the demand for Fair Trade among companies, retailers, and consumers!
What’s in the Label
Spend money with the companies that are respecting the environment, people and offer quality life and job in the community. Reward companies that make a difference and keep the money away from those who are deteriorating your world, polluting your water and air, and treating people unfairly in your community and around the world.
Durable and Reusable When we buy cheap goods, we get what we pay for. These cheap goods are most often thrown to the garbage and fill our dumpsites with toxic chemicals that will leach into our groundwater and infect our land and water streams. It is better to spend a little more for more durable goods that you can reuse and that you donâ€™t have to repair or replace all the time, avoiding landfill space, money and natural resources. Also, buy products with minimal packaging. The packaging often requires high amount of resources.
Aerosol air freshners
Natural Air fresheners
Bleached paper coffee filters
Cloth or metal Coffee filter
Disposable silverware and dishes
Washable dishes and ware
Non rechargable Battery powered items
Solar or rechargeable items
Non refillable pens
Refillable pens and pencils
paper towels/paper napkins
Plastic baggies and wrap
Not only do plastics produce pollution when they are manufactured but, unlike glass and aluminum which can be recycled virtually forever, plastic can usually only be recycled once, if that. Also, while the market for many recycled materials remains robust, recycling plastics currently has very tenuous economic benefits. Avoid plastic items whenever possible. If you are going to buy plastic items, buy things that you will be able to reuse.
Soda Bottles, Plastic Milk Jugs, Shampoos, Bottled Water
Most Easily Recycled
Fiberfill for winter coats, sleeping bags and life jackets, bean bags, rope, car bumpers, tennis ball felt, combs, cassette tapes, sails for boats, furniture, plastic bottles.
Heavier containers that hold laundry detergents and bleaches as well as milk, shampoo and motor oil
Most Easily Recycled
toys, piping, plastic lumber and rope
Margarine tubs, yogurt containers, syrup bottles
#4, #5, #6
Toiletries, medicinal products, wrapping films, grocery and sandwich bags, and other containers made of low -density polyethylene
Shampoos, Mouthwashes, plastic pipes, shower curtains, medical tubing, vinyl dashboards, and even some baby bottle nipples
Landfill-Bound, Highly Toxic
Various combinations of the aforementioned plastics or from unique plastic formulations not commonly used
Landfill-Bound, Highly Toxic
Durable and Reusable
Reversing the Effects
If we do want to create a more sustainable world, we must work to reduce our overall consumption of natural resources, shift our consumption toward green goods produced by sustainable businesses using clean, efficient technology and promote efforts to slow population growth.
Corporate Accountability Corporations from all over the world also have a responsibility to conserve our global natural resources and protect the health of communities. However, it's the consumer's responsibility to make sure companies are maintaining strong environmental and health standards through exercising our buying power! "Corporate accountability" is the idea that companies should be responsible for all of their actions and products, including the health and environmental problems associated with the corporate decisions they make. By supporting companies that are both open and responsible about their actions, each one of us can positively impact the effects industry
Check out our research on abuses and scandals involving the world's largest companies. Take action on campaigns to end corporate abuse. Find better options. Learn how to shop and unshop to grow the green economy.
Visit Responsible Shopper : www.coopamerica.org/programs/rs/ Sweatshop Free In every large city across the globe, sweatshops are in operation. Sweatshops operate by exploiting labor laws. The people who work in sweatshops are usually girls aged 14 to 15. The wages in sweatshops are unbelievably low, sometimes not even enough to put food on the table. Originally based in very poor, third world countries, sweatshops can now be found in almost every country around the world. Sweatshop free clothes are designed to help eradicate the conditions that exist in sweatshops. If you buy sweatshop free clothes, then you are not contributing to the sweatshop cycle. Most of the clothes worn in the United States are made in sweatshops, mainly located in China. Labels such as Gap and Nike move from country to country employing cheap labor to make their clothes. Sweatshops produce half of the clothing sold in the United States. Wal-Mart is one of the largest sellers of sweatshop clothes. Sweatshop free clothes are made by workers who are not exploited and can live acceptably from their wages. The workers should have all of the benefits that are taken for granted by workers the world over. Sick pay, holidays and decent working standards should be the norm for all workers, not privileges. Many large corporations are starting to realize that they cannot keep using sweatshops without ultimately having to pay a price. Major brand labels have been boycotted, resulting in a huge lack of public faith in their products. There are many ways in which the general public can apply pressure to major brands who do not sell sweatshop free clothing. Organizations such as www.nosweatapparel.com and www.behindthelabel.org are dedicated to highlighting sweatshop issues. It is up to both the public and the corporations to stamp out this unnecessary evil. Buying sweatshop free clothes is one way to help. 16
Reversing the Effects
As consumers in a nation full of choices, we have an opportunity to invest in a more sustainable future, rather than perpetuate consumption patterns that exacerbate the destruction of the environment and the social inequalities around the world. The purchases we make directly impact the global environment. We have the power to influence a more sustainable use of the world's resources and ensure a more equitable distribution among the world's citizens.
Regain your life TAKE ACTION—Regain your life and liberate the life of others Our culture has trained us to be consumers, and we have become unaware of the many benefits of being frugal and living a simpler life. Our over-consumption is affecting the way we live, as much as the lives of those people, thousands of miles away, working in unfair conditions, to provide the “stuff” that we don’t really need. We force ourselves into a self-imposed race to buy, store, maintain, repair, clean and at times insure the things we buy. This is pushing us to work more, taking away from our time to enjoy life simply because we chose to have a mountain of “stuff”. By the time we realize it, we have on our back tons of lightly used, unnecessary items filling our homes, and a depleted polluted planet we have forgotten to enjoy.
Buy less: before you make the next purchase ask yourself if this is something you need or just want. Often people buy to satisfy a simple craving of personal attention or desire to fill a lack in their lives. These “cravings” usually will bring only a short term high, followed by a empty feeling, leading to the next needless purchase.
Fix broken things: Our disposable culture encourages us to replace broken items even when they Reuse stuff: you can reuse many so-called disposable items, such as plastic containers, wood, and various construction items.
Borrow from friends and neighbors: Borrowing saves resources, money and time. Items like power tools, which are expensive, and used occasionally, can be purchased by a group of neighbors, thus reducing the expenses and increasing the usage.
Avoid impulse purchases: Advertising and companies design their stores to encourage impulse buying. Avoid impulse buying by waiting two weeks before buying.
Used products will :
Questions to ask yourself before you buy:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
• • •
Is this a need or a want? Do I need it right away, or can it wait at least two weeks? Is this something I can borrow from a friend or neighbor, or rent? Can I find it used? Will it last a long time? Is it reusable or at least recyclable? What are the item and its packaging made from? Is it toxic? What conditions do the workers who made it work under? How much will it cost to maintain it?
Save energy used to manufacture and supply the item Save resource used to make it Encourage sustainable lifestyle Save your money
Find/Sell used products : www.craigslist.org www.freecycle.org www.ebay.com
Regain your Life
are relatively easy to fix.
Cradle to Cradle Alternative Imagine a world in which all the things we make, use, and consume provide nutrition for nature and industry—a world in which growth is good and human activity generates a delightful, restorative ecological footprint.
This new conception of design—known as cradleto-cradle design—goes beyond retrofitting industrial systems to reduce their harm. Conventional approaches to sustainability often make the efficient use of energy and materials their ultimate goal. While this can be a useful transitional strategy, it tends to reduce negative impacts without transforming harmful activity. Recycling carpet, for example, might reduce consumption, but if the attached carpet backing contains PVC, which most carpet backing does, the recycled product is still on a one-way trip to the landfill, where it becomes hazardous waste. Cradle-to-cradle design, on the other hand, offers a framework in which the effective, regenerative cycles of nature provide models for wholly positive human designs. Within this framework we can create economies that purify air, land, and water, that rely on current solar income and generate no toxic waste, that use safe, healthful materials that replenish the earth or can be perpetually recycled, and that yield benefits that enhance all life.
Already, recycling and remanufacturing have become substantial industries. The bureau of International Recycling in Brussels estimates that in at least 50 countries the recycling industry processes more than 600 million tons annually. With an annual turnover of $160 Billion., the industry employs more than 1.5 million people. Not only does recycling keep materials out of landfills and incinerators, it provides substantial energy savings by replacing new raw materials extraction and processing with secondary materials.
Over the past decade, the cradle-to-cradle framework has evolved steadily from theory to practice. In the world of industry it is creating a new conception of materials and material flows. Just as in the natural world, in which one organism’s “waste” cycles through an ecosystem to provide nourishment for other living things, cradle-to-cradle materials circulate in closed-loop cycles, providing nutrients for nature or industry. In a cradle-to-cradle economy, cities are the principal home and source of technical nutrition—the place where metals are forged, polymers synthesized, and tractors, computers, and windmills designed and manufactured. Cities send these materials forth into the world and receive them back as they move through closedloop cycles. The countryside, meanwhile, can be seen as the home of the biological metabolism. Materials generated there—food, wood, fibers—are created through interactions of solar energy, soil, and water and are the source of biological nutrition for rural communities and nearby cities. One of the city’s fundamental roles in this metabolism is to return biological nutrition in a safe, healthy form, say as clean fertilizer, back to the rural soil. These flows of nutrients and energy are the twin metabolisms of the living city, the engines of the vibrant economies of the future. The cradle-to-cradle strategy allows us to see our designs as delightful expressions of creativity, as life-support systems in harmony with energy flows, human souls, and other living things. When that becomes the hallmark of productive economies, consumption itself will have been transformed. Extracted Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 2004
Energy Savings Gained by Switching from Primary Production to Secondary Materials (recycled) Material Savings % Aluminum 95 Copper 85 Plastics 80 Steel 74 Lead Paper 18
Cradle to Cradle
While this may seem like heresy to many in the world of sustainable development, the destructive qualities of today’s cradle-to-grave industrial system can be seen as the result of a fundamental design problem, not the inevitable outcome of consumption and economic activity. Indeed, good design—principled design based on the laws of nature—can transform the making and consumption of things into a regenerative force.
Who are you doing business with? Support Local businesses When you buy from large corporations, you support the increasing consolidation of wealth and power in the hands of the few. Chain businesses often take those dollars directly away from smaller local businesses that cannot afford to lose the income. By making your purchases at local businesses, you spread that wealth out to more local people and increase your community’s standard of living. Local businesses rely more on local suppliers and service providers, forming a kind of local economic web of interdependence that creates jobs and a thriving community. Every dollar you spend at a local business helps your community maintain its individual character, uniqueness, and diversity while supporting your neighbors in their quest for the good life.
Whether you notify a company of your dissatisfaction with their business practices or praise them for making positive changes, it is important to let them know that how they run their company matters to you, the customer: Tell them that you will stop/start buying their products because of their behavior Make sure that the letter is addressed to the CEO of the company with copies to newspapers, watchdog groups and government representatives Mention how many other people and organizations share your views. Handwrite letters, they have a bigger impact.
Companies are listening Recent studies prove that being socially responsible will boost companies bottom line: • •
More than 80% of the CEOs said good corporate citizenship helps the bottom line when polled in a 2006 survey by the Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College and the US Chamber of Commerce. Customers are voting with their dollars. They are increasingly choosing to shop at companies that support social responsibility and are avoiding or even boycotting companies that use irresponsible tactics like clearcutting or sweat shop labor. A recent study, conducted in conjunction with Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, indicates that shares of companies with good sustainability records perform better than those of their less socially responsible competitors. Employees increasingly choose jobs where they feel they will ‘make a difference’. By having a clear socially responsible vision you will attract and retain employees and have a happier and more productive workforce. A University of South-western Louisiana study entitled "The Effect of Published Reports of Unethical Conduct on Stock Prices" showed that publicity about unethical corporate behavior lowers stock prices for a minimum of six months. An Observer article following the DPEI Forum for the Future (UK) survey argued that responsibility and sustainability should be seen as “a strategic competitive weapon” rather than “an irrelevant business cost.”
Who are you doing business with?
Let companies know how you feel
Influential factors Physiological drives play a central role in stimulating consumption. The innate desire for pleasurable stimulation and the alleviation of discomfort are powerful motivators that have evolved over millennia to facilitate survival, as when hunger leads a person to search for food. The impulses are reinforced by consumers’ experiences. Products that have satisfied us in the past are remembered as pleasurable, bolstering the desire to consume them again. In consumer societies where food and other goods are abundant, these impulses are leading to unhealthful levels of consumption, in part because they are further stimulated by advertising. Indeed recent psychological studies have revealed that these impulses can even be primed subconsciously, arousing a desire for increased consumption, as for a thirst-quenching beverage after a feeling of thirst is aroused. Source: Worldwatch.com
Wealth and Well-being
“In recent years, psychologists studying measures of life satisfaction have largely confirmed the old adage that money can not buy happiness—at least not for people who are already affluent.” Societies focused on well-being involve more interaction with family, friends, and neighbors, a more direct experience of nature, and more attention to finding fulfillment and creative expression than in accumulating goods. They emphasize lifestyles that avoid abusing your own health, other people, or the natural world. In short, they yield a deeper sense of satisfaction with life than many people report experiencing today.
What provides for a satisfying life? In recent years, psychologists studying measures of life satisfaction have largely confirmed the old adage that money can not buy happiness—at least not for people who are already affluent. The disconnection between money and happiness in wealthy countries is perhaps most clearly illustrated when growth in income in industrial countries is plotted against levels of happiness. In the United States, for example, the average person’s income more than doubled between 1957 and 2002, yet the share of people reporting themselves to be “very happy” over that period remained static.
Changing our way of life The Power of One “A small but growing number of consumers are questioning the way they shop, the amount of ‘stuff’ crowding and complicating their lives, and the amount of time they spend at work.” Growing numbers of people are shopping with an eye toward well-being. In Europe, for example, demand for organically grown foods drove sales up to $10 billion in 2002, 8 percent above the previous year.
Yet individual initiatives alone do not necessarily help to build strong, healthy communities (although they can free up time that could lead to greater community involvement), nor can they address the structural obstacles to genuine consumer choice—the lack of organic produce in the supermarket, for instance. Some critics even argue that, pursued in isolation, individual initiatives can be counterproductive. An “individualization of responsibility,” as political and environmental scientist Michael Maniates notes, distracts attention from the role that such institutions as business and government play in perpetuating unhealthy consumption. Moreover, to the extent that individuals see their power residing primarily in their pocketbooks, they may neglect their key roles as parents, educators, community members, and citizens in building a society of well-being.
The Ties That Bind “Humans are social beings, so it is little surprise that good relationships are one of the most important ingredients for a high quality of life.” Harvard Professor of Public Policy Robert Putnam notes that “the single most common finding from a half century’s research on the correlates of life satisfaction…is that happiness is best predicted by the breadth and depth of one’s social connections.” People who are socially connected tend to be healthier— often significantly so. More than a dozen long-term studies in Japan, Scandinavia, and the United States show that the chances of dying in a given year, no matter the cause, is two to five times greater for people who are isolated than for socially connected people. International development professionals also now acknowledge that strong social ties are a major contributor to a country’s development. A lack of social capital also seems to be connected with poor economic growth at the national level. Stephen Knack of the World Bank warns that low levels of societal trust may lock countries in a “poverty trap,” in which the vicious circle of mistrust, low investment, and poverty is difficult to break. Beyond improving health and facilitating economic security, strong social ties are especially helpful in promoting collective consumption, which often has social and environmental advantages. A good example of this is co-housing, a modern form of village living in which 10–40 individual households live in a development designed to stimulate neighborly interaction, using less energy and fewer materials than neighborhoods full of private homes. But perhaps the greatest contribution of co-housing communities to a high quality of life is the social ties they create. The communities are self-managed, which encourages interactions and sharing. 21 Source: Worldwatch.com
Changing our Way of Life
Beyond a shift in shopping habits, many consumers are trying to simplify their lifestyles in broader ways—a process sometimes called “downshifting.” Estimates of the numbers of downshifters are imprecise, but interest in simplifying appears to be growing. In seven European countries, the number of people who have voluntarily reduced their working hours has grown at 5.3 percent each year over the past five years, for example. And the trend toward simplicity is expected to continue.
Changing our way of life “People long for something deeper— happy, dignified, and meaningful lives—in a word, well-being. And they expect their economies to be a tool to this end, not an obstacle to it.” Lurking beneath growing dissatisfaction with the consumer society is a simple question: What is an economy for? The traditional responses, including prosperity, jobs, and expanded opportunity, seem logical enough—until they become dysfunctional. When prosperity makes us overweight, overwork leaves us exhausted, and a “you can have it all” mindset leads us to neglect family and friends, people start to question more deeply the direction of their lives as well as the system that helps steer them in that direction. The signals emerging in some industrial countries—and some developing ones as well—suggest that many of us are looking for more from life than a bigger house and a new car. A well-being society would offer consumers a sufficient range of genuine choices rather than a large array of virtually identical products. Businesses would be encouraged through economic incentives to deliver what consumers really seek—reliable transportation, not necessarily a car; or tasty, seasonal local produce rather than fruits and vegetables shipped in from another country; or strong neighborhood relationships in lieu of a large house with a big yard. Choice would be redefined to mean options for increasing quality of life rather than selections among individual products or services.
People in a well-being society would also develop close relationships with the natural environment. As the late Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould once said: “We must develop an emotional and spiritual bond with nature, for we will not fight to save what we do not love.” Finally, a society focused on well-being would ensure that everyone in it has access to healthy food, clean water and sanitation, education, health care, and physical security. It is virtually impossible to imagine a society of well-being that does not provide for people’s basic needs. And more than that, it is inconceivable that a well-being society would be satisfied with its own success if others outside its borders are suffering on a broad scale. Indeed, those societies that rank highest in the Wellbeing Index, especially in northern Europe, also have some of the world’s most generous foreign aid programs. Making the transition to a society of well-being will undoubtedly be a challenge, given people’s habit of placing consumption at the apex of societal values. But any move in this direction starts out with two strong advantages. First, the human family today has a base of knowledge, technology, that can be invested in well-being rather than in continued material accumulation for its own sake. A second advantage is simple but powerful: for many people, a life of well-being is preferred to a life of high consumption.
For individuals, genuine choice would also likely include the choice not to consume. Everyone will need to become practiced at wrestling with a key question: How much is enough? Responses will vary from person to person, but a guideline worth considering is one from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “To know when you have enough is to be rich.” Consumers who embrace this ancient wisdom take a large step toward escaping the tyranny of social comparison and marketing that drives so much of today’s consumption. 22
Changing our way of life
Getting to the Good Life
Your Choiceâ€”Your World By nurturing relationships, facilitating healthy choices, learning to live in harmony with nature, and tending to the basic needs of all, societies can shift from an emphasis on consumption to an emphasis on well-being. This could be as great an achievement in the twenty-first century as the tremendous advances in opportunity, convenience, and comfort were in the twentieth.
Recommended Reading Cover
Stuff: The secret lives of things Opportunities and challenges in the world of business.
No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs.
A Better World Handbook: small changes that make a big difference.
Consuming Kids: A five-part model for creating an environmentally responsible company.
Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a way of life that is outwardly simple, inwardly rich.
Affluenza: The All-Consuming epidemic.
Alen Thein Durning and John C. Ryan
Ellis Jones, Ross Haenfler, and Brett Johnson
Susan E. Linn
John De Graaf
Affluenza - PBS program
Behind the Label
Coop America - National Green Pages
Coop America - Responsible Shopping
EPA Environmental Preferable Purchasing
Fair Trade Labeling Organization
FairTrade Resource Network
Global Footprint Network
Global Issues - Consumption
Grown Up Green
I Buy Different
Media Awareness network
New American Dream - Kids & Consumerism
Sierra Club - Population and Consumption
The Green Guide
The Story Of Stuff
Worldwatch - Consumption
Worldwatch - Good Stuff Download
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This booklet was developed based on the research from various websites, books and magazines. All information is duly referenced and available in more extended formats.