I began to realize that we gradually become unconscious of our everyday choices. Some of us always buy the same brand of milk or always drink coffee for breakfast or always eat chocolate after lunch just out of habit. Individually, our consumption habits might seem to have no consequences at all for our environment. What, really, is the impact of a Finnish person drinking a nice cup of coffee in 1900, or a man driving a car in New York City in 1940, or a Swedish teenager opening a refrigerator for a glass of milk in 2010? Looking at our consumption of products like coffee, cars, refrigerators and a wide range of other consumer products over several generations – cumulatively, all our consumption must have environmental impacts.
I believe most of us are concerned about environmental issues and agree this situation requires a major rethinking of our consumption patterns. We already see examples of positive change where consumers are choosing to reduce waste and environmental damage: billions of consumers are now recycling bottles, cans and newspapers. More consumers are reusing clothes. More consumers are making conscious transport choices. Many consumers are making smaller efforts, buying more energy-efficient appliances, turning off unnecessary lights, buying sustainable food. More consumers are participating in boycotts. The list could go on and on.
Whether motivated by environmental concerns or by self-interest (such as saving money) these consumers are reducing the impact of their personal consumption and this is a positive trend. Despite this, there is a large body of consumers who are aware of environmental issues, some even consider themselves environmentalists, but do not consider it in their personal choices. Furthermore, there are consumers who do not really know their personal choices are having a negative impact on environmental sustainability. Thus educating these consumers might reduce individual impacts.
I myself do not know much about environmental sustainability. Actually, I am just a creature of habit, far from being an environmentalist. However, I want to change and I am working on habits. As Angelina pointed out during our lecture last week, habits are powerful factors in our lives. If we think about some bad habits very carefully: procrastination, impatience, criticism or selfishness they may currently be keeping some of us from going where we want to go. The thing is habits can be learned and unlearned. But it involves a process and a tremendous commitment.
Commitment – more people are committed to change their consumption patterns. Many feel that they need to change in order to survive. Environmental problems are already having a negative impact on the health of people, in particular, small children. I think we consumers can make a difference to preserve our planet by taking and inspiring action – the choice as, always, is ours.