To Consume, or Not to Consume?

Unless you’re hidden deep in a cave in Afghanistan, you’re probably aware just how popular and prevalent green businesses are, as well as the greening of existing ones. And in many ways, this is to be applauded. Companies seem to be falling over themselves to find ways to be more efficient, as in the VW Polo VW Polo BluemotionBluemotion car, a Prius beater without the hybrid geewhizery. And then there’s Walmart, which seems to have turned over a green leaf in convincing ways, albeit with plenty of room to improve.

However, the question seems to be, is it possible to consume our way to a greener planet? Is buying more things the solution to the current and impending resource shortages? The newly released Smart Seed, an engineered grass seed that purports to require less watering, via much more efficient root systems, would seem to be of this camp. Yet is the answer a greener lawn, or to not have a lawn at all? Will it take drastic change in the way we (we being the developed world, and those emulating us) go about living our lives? Doing business? Raising our families?

Or is there a middle ground between gluttony and martyr-like abstaining from participation in modern consumer culture in order to “save the planet?”

Car sharing services are one example I see of this middle ground. By reducing the number of individuals owning one car each, and the constellation of resources needed to support City Car Sharethem, you are doing your part to decrease your personal impact. You’re also freeing up your money to be used in other ways, increasing the quality of your life.

And at the same time, with increased competition between car sharing services in many areas, you will get closer to the instant gratification of being able to get in a car whenever you need, on a moment’s notice. Additionally, as the vehicle you drive is an asset to the company, it’s in their interest to keep it optimally tuned, extracting maximum value from it, and in the process, making in a consistently cleaner running vehicle.

I could go on, but I’d rather hear your opinions on this matter. What is the way or ways you see us, on a personal level, making an impact on the health of the planet and ourselves? Can we shop our way to a better future, or does the whole system need scrapping and retooling?

« »

About the Author

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media. Who he has and wants to work with includes consumer, media, clean tech, NGOs, social ventures, and museums. For more on GreenSmith Consulting, see www.greensmithconsulting.com He also writes for Triple Pundit www.triplepundit.com