Consumer choices make a difference. Our love for everything instant—instant coffee, noodles, juice—is powered by our preference for convenience.
Our current shopping habits and consumption patterns form a throwaway culture. Our appetite for new things and the accessibility and affordability of these products have produced garbage and toxic materials more than the planet could handle. Products that fail can be easily replaced, instead of exhausting efforts to repair, reuse, or recycle them. Clothes are produced to cater to “fast fashion”–-they are built to only last for a very short time, so they can be replaced and thrown away when they go out of style. Products that are commercially available are packed in single-use containers that are mostly plastic. Visit a supermarket and you’ll see rows after rows of “convenience” products that cater to the demand to make our lives easier.
Guess where all these end up? EVERYWHERE. Plastic litters the oceans and makes up about 80 percent to 85 percent of marine waste. Household waste generated by residential areas contribute 56.7 percent to the total municipal solid waste (MSW). This is mainly composed of glass bottles, plastic containers and bags, kitchen scraps, yard or garden waste (leaves and twigs), boards and papers, soiled tissues and diapers, batteries and electronic equipment. According to the National Solid Waste Management Status Report 2008-2014 by Department of Environment and Natural Resources, majority of these waste materials are bio-degradables (52.3 percent) and recyclables (27.78 percent) which can be reused, recycled or composted at the household level, instead of being sent to landfills.
While the convenience these products offer make our lives easier, it drives our planet towards destruction. Now, the pressure to adapt sustainable consumer behavior does not only fall on the laps of corporations and the government, but on individual consumers as well. You may feel that a person’s purchase does not matter; but all the small purchases combined to cover the needs of 7.6 billion people on this planet add up to one big impact that leads to environmental issues we are dealing with today. In Robert Swan’s words, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” Swan is a British historian, explorer and activist who is best known for being the first person to walk to both North and South poles.
In my research investigating the sustainable consumption behavior of Filipino consumers, internal, external and social factors play an important role in driving an individual’s sustainable choices and practices. One’s understanding of the impact of individual activities on the environment and the acceptance of the responsibility related to this behavior influence the internal factors towards eco-consciousness. On the other hand, limitations such as high prices and accessibility to green products compose the external factors that affect sustainable choices. Finally, social factors, such as one’s perceived influence in the social network—for example, you feel motivated to engage in green practices if you think that you are able to influence your family or circle of friends—also drive an individual to practice sustainable behavior.
How then do we shift to a more sustainable lifestyle? Below is far from an exhaustive list, but this can jumpstart your eco-conscious consumption behavior.
Going to your favorite coffee shop? Bring your own tumbler and straw. Some major cafes give a discount if you bring your own container.
Always buying bottled water? Bring your own water bottle instead and refill in drinking fountains or food establishments. Not only are you helping save the environment, you are also saving precious money!
Heading to the supermarket? Bring your own shopping bag. Brown paper bags are hard to reuse because they rip easily; they will only contribute to the pile of garbage in landfills.
Choose environmentally-friendly alternatives to regular products that you use—shampoo, detergent, soap, and many other products are now available in greener versions. A lot of chemicals in the regular products we use actually harm the environment; they seep into the water system, and upset the ecological balance.
Buy local. When you patronize Filipino products, you help our GDP grow, and you also lower your carbon footprint because the products don’t have to travel from halfway around the world to reach you.
Go organic. Organic produce and livestock do not use pesticides or antibiotics to grow them. They are naturally nurtured and harvested at the right season.
This sounds cliché, but turn off lights that you no longer use. This applies to appliances, too; don’t just turn the power off—unplug those that you are not using!
Turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth.
Going two floors up or down? Take the stairs—you’re also making your heart healthier when you do so.
Bike or walk when traveling short distances. You can also carpool with friends, classmates, or work colleagues, or use ride-sharing services, to save on gas.
While these are simple steps, they collectively contribute to better environmental practices if we all commit to doing them. We only have one planet; don’t you think it deserves a little bit of sacrifice from us?
Jonna Baquillas is a Doctor of Business Administration student at the De La Salle University. She teaches marketing, brand, business, and retail management classes in Asia Pacific College. She believes that everyone should take action to reduce environmental impact – collective small steps result to a huge impact. She is committed to switch to a sustainable lifestyle, one step at a time. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.