How Can I be a Green Consumer?

wiseGEEK Writing Contest

Despite how it may sound, a green consumer is not some rare, newly discovered species. Being a green consumer simply means making choices about purchases so as to minimize one’s environmental impact. Consumers have a significant influence in driving environmental policies, since the pattern of consumption determines what is produced in the future, and thus, what resources are used. There are many issues to consider when buying products. By becoming more aware about what choices underlie sustainable environmental practices, you can invest your dollars towards positive change.

Minimizing the distance food and other products must travel from their origin to your home can significantly reduce the carbon emissions produced in this process. By looking out for local produce at supermarkets, buying your food from farmers’ markets, and by purchasing mainly produce that is in season, you can reduce the mileage needed to transport all that you purchase.

Changes in your diet can also provide significant environmental benefits. Vegetarianism and veganism contribute much more to environmental change than many people realize. In addition to saving the animals not eaten, vegetarians and vegans support a food production system that uses much less land than the food production system of meat. The production of meat requires the rangeland for livestock (which is less efficiently used than cropland, since animals cannot be packed in tightly on the land), as well as the land required to grow the food for the livestock. If the land used for livestock food were used directly as food for humans, we would not require all this excess grazing land for livestock raised purely for meat production. Land use is a major environmental issue, with desertification occurring as a result of overgrazing. Fertile land is in severe shortage, and this fact will likely become increasingly foreboding as we encounter increasing instances of global food shortage.

Another production system to support is organic agriculture. When buying food and clothing, seek available organic products in order to support a system that produces without causing soil and water contamination. Although these products are sometimes more expensive due to the decreased productivity in the initial years of farms becoming organic, costs should decrease once organic products are in increased demand.

As you go about in your role as consumer, keep in mind the issue of waste. Avoid over-packaged goods, buy bulk food items, and bring your own bags. Use tap water where possible instead of bottled water. Remember the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle.” That is, avoid unnecessary material in the first place, try to reuse what you do purchase, then recycle it if possible. At every step, try to maximize the use of all material before it reaches the landfill.

Since every product has some kind of environmental or ethical impact, an excellent way to decrease your impact as a consumer is to buy clothing and other products second hand. In this way, you do not influence the demand for products of any kind. You are merely making more use of something that someone else is no longer using.

As a greener consumer, armed with the knowledge of the environmental impacts of your consumer choices, you will now be able to tread more carefully and with more awareness down the aisles of life. For that, the planet will thank you.