About ecological footprint and individual choices…

After today’s lecture I ended up doing the ecological footprint test to find out, what is my personal consumption level. The result was, that if everyone on this planet would live as I do, we would need 2.1 planets to maintain the lifestyle. Although my personal consumption level was much lower than Finland’s average level, I couldn’t stop on wondering how consumptive my lifestyle after all is. After doing the test, the webpage suggested me some improvements I could do in my life, such as choosing green electricity, eating more local, organic and in-season foods, and buying less. Indeed. Great advises. But I think that a much more important issue here is that now when I have faced the truth about my consumptive lifestyle, will this information force me to change some of my habits?

I have actually tried quite hard to improve my lifestyle in terms of sustainability, but I do admit, that I have my vices. After reading the article of Anja Schaefer and Andrew Crane about Addressing Sustainability and Consumption, I actually started evaluating my own consumptive behavior from a totally new perspective. I have to admit that I have not been thinking the variety of reasons to our consumptive behavior before this. Consuming as a self-indulgence is something that I recognize, but the totally new things was for me to understand, that consumption isn’t just consuming in order to satisfy materialistic wants and needs, but that it can also be a social and a cultural activity, or a way for construct identity, and for some, it can be even a disease.

However, getting back to the ecological footprint test. After reading the list of all the possible improvements I could do in my life, I felt bit helpless. Actually I have heard all those improvement suggestions already before. And furthermore, I know very well that I should buy less, travel less and pay more attention to the origin of the food I eat among all the other things. But why do I not respond to these facts well enough, even though I even agree with the suggestions of improvements? Why it is so hard to make these changes? What is my excuse of being ignorant? The only answer that I can give from my own behalf is that unfortunately life it is not always that black and white. I can and I should do many improvements, but as I am also dependent of the options and possibilities that my living environment gives me, I cannot always choose the best option. And I think this goes to all of us. It is not always just us that can dictate which changes are doable. Sometimes the environment we happen to life in, actually decides from our behalf how much we can personally effect on our ecological footprint. I mean, yes, we can do a lot in terms of making better individual choices, but for example as long as I am living rental, I cannot start re-insulating my apartment, or changing all the electronic devices to eco-friendly ones, or even effect on the way how my apartment is heated. In addition, I just happen to live in a country which climate conditions make the housing extremely consumptive, and there is not much I can do about it. But awareness about the facts is a good way to start making the changes. Even though changes do not happen in one night, maybe small and even slow changes can someday turn into bigger and faster ones.

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