For a clearer view of the above scene, please go here
Buzzcock Market Research in New York City conducted an online survey of over 1,100 consumers in the U.S. and the U.K., attempting to get an idea of how consumers feel about environmentalism and “being green.”
Both countries are similar in that more than 70% of those polled say they actively use energy efficient light-bulbs, and recycle paper and plastic. The most interesting part of the results is how the two countries differ in their results, shown here from a Brandweek article:
U.S. vs. U.K. consumers who:
• Recycle paper: 71% vs. 87%
• Purchase recycled paper: 55% vs. 47%
• Walk rather than drive short journeys: 36% vs. 56%
• Own or lease a hybrid: 4% vs. 1%
In short, Brits change their behaivor and actions to work towards sustainability (a word that only one in three Americans understand, unfortunately) and Americans…well, we shop. Rather than actually recycling the paper that we buy (a basic responsibility), we’d rather go out and get new hybrids and drive them all about town to our extensive sets of strip malls and super stores full of junk, not thinking to drop off the recycling along the way.
This buy-our-way-to-green psyche permeates all that we do, both personally and in our professional lives. As I work to provide sustainability initiatives and alternative energy to builders via green building programs, solar PV systems, and various other sustainable goods and services, the math often does not justify the purchase when exploring sustainable options. One glaring reason is that we fail to look at the real costs of the manufacture of goods and services . Our balance sheets and cost analyses must begin to include the real price unsustainable items wreak on our health and environment. Or, we can just wait for energy costs to rise dramatically (see California), and the payback will begin to make more sense. This scenario, of course, is inevitable and happening now whether we plan for alternative energy solutions, or not.
The real cost we pay as voracious consumers supporting unsustainable business practices is expressed every day, in the form of polluted rivers, a raped Earth, and unhealthy food systems. In animal extinction, toxic waste dumps, and overflowing landfills. And we continuously send the message that we, American citizens, approve of the businesses that produce this mess by rewarding them with increasing profits. We PAY FOR THEIR WASTE ourselves on the backs of our children’s children. We must demand that our companies’ balance sheets include the effects of their products, thus creating incentive for us all to collectively change our actions. And create an economy that rewards sustainability, rather than penalizes ingenuity and positive change.
A paradigm shift is greatly needed, and is ultimately inevitable. Wouldn’t it be a healthier option to freely choose that path, rather than have that path chosen for us, by necessity and survival? While much has been done to create awareness surrounding our dire need for environmental change the world over, it seems we Americans like the fat we have worked so hard to attain, and that trimming it is out of the question.
Perhaps our first step as Americans is to look up the word sustainable. Then, how about we redirect our hard earned (and even harder to come by) American dollars into educating our citizenry and discontinue identifying ourselves as consumers. Stewards of the Earth has a nicer ring to it, don’t you think?
Summer Teal Simpson says
For more on the topic of consumerism, check out “A Future of Less” in Miller-McCune Magazine (http://www.miller-mccune.com/article/586). Here’s a salient quote from article to whet your whistle:
“By any measure, America consumes a disproportionately high share of global resources. While accounting for just 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. burns nearly 25 percent of the world’s energy and is the No. 1 user of virtually all traded commodities like corn, copper and rubber. Americans consume, on average, three times more meat than the rest of the world. The U.S. uses about one-third of the world’s paper. In the end, the U.S. produces 30 percent of the world’s waste (including 25 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions) and throws out a staggering 96 billion pounds of edible food each year. By one estimate, if all 6.7 billion people on Earth raised their living standards so they consumed like Americans, the present population would feel like 72 billion.”