The power to change society lies in the hands of the consumer. All it takes corporations to clean up their act is for the consumer to make a few small changes to their habits. The extent to which the market relies upon supply and demand is often underestimated.

Too much of the damage the environment has suffered is as a direct result of how we consume. Whether that’s buying new clothes, the extravagant food we eat, or the huge cars we drive. Everything we consume has an environmental footprint, often a far higher one than we imagine.

Living more ethically doesn’t mean making big sacrifices. As a buyer, you have the right to request that your suppliers meet your needs, and if they don’t, you have the right to boycott their produce. Actions speak louder than words, in the economy more than anywhere else. Make the choice to shop ethically, and boycott unethical manufacturers, and you can help to create a world that you want to live in.

Becoming a ‘Green Consumer’ is the most powerful way to elicit change. There are challenges to becoming more conscious of the way we consume, but the reward is far higher. By making environmentally friendly choices, opting for packaging free produce and choosing natural and organic foods that are unprocessed you will reduce your impact and improve your quality of life.

Green consumers drive low impact cars, avoid animal products and invest in reusable or recycled products.

The key principles of living as a green consumer:

– Reduce: Avoid buying what you don’t need. Choose energy saving appliances and green energy suppliers.
– Reuse: Invest in products you can use time and again. Be creative, and almost everything can have a second life.
– Recycle: recycling is the least effective of the ‘Three Rs’, and prevention is far better than the cure, but when you are unable to reduce and reuse, make use of your local recycling facilities.
– Live more locally. Work somewhere you can minimise your commute, and walk or cycle to work. Shop local for locally grown produce and support local businesses. Community focussed living strengthens community bonds and improves the local economy.
– Travel green. Try cycling, walking, or public transport to reduce your footprint. Internal combustion engines are a massive contributor to pollution problems, so limit use of a car where possible.
– Be conscious of how you eat. Where possible, avoid foods that have been grown using insecticides and artificial growth stimulants. This is the most effective way for us to vote with our wallets and prevent the spread of toxins in our bodies, land and water.
– Encourage small businesses to be more environmentally compliant. Small companies are given very little incentive to make green choices, so our consumption needs to reward positive environmental choices, and favour businesses seen to be in active support of government environment regulations.
– Define your priorities, and stick by them. Think carefully before any purchase you make.
– Enjoy the free bounties of nature, as they are the most valuable. Water, air, trees and animal life are the cornerstones of our enjoyment of life, and they cannot be replaced once they are gone. Be conscious of the choices you make to protect them.

It’s easy to make small changes to your habits, and the impact they have on the environment is significant. Try making any of these small changes to your lifestyle:

– Avoid eating wild animals, that can’t reproduce on a large scale.
– Avoid eating young animals, as slaughtering animals for meat before they reach breeding age has a significant impact on breeding patterns and, therefore, future availability of these foods.
– Boycott endangered species, and fish caught using unsustainable fishing methods, such as cast net fishing.
– Avoid toilet paper and sanitary products that are produced using chemicals, predominantly bleach. These chemicals make their way into the water and the natural environment, as well as into your body. Switch to organic and naturally produced products.
– Change your shopping habits to be more environmentally conscious. Take a reusable shopping bag with you and say ‘no’ to plastic bags.
– Be mindful of how many dishes you use and your washing up habits, for instance at a buffet. Save water by trying to minimise what you use.
– Stop wasting food. The amount of resources, particularly water, which go into a single plate of food is phenomenally large. This applies most significantly to agricultural livestock, bred for beef and chicken meat.

The more the media focus on the critical nature of environmental issues, the more people will be encouraged to take action to combat this. European countries are a good example of how a more environmentally conscious society has led to a significant movement towards a more sustainable way of life. The disparity between the European model and the disengagement of other cultures reflects the lack of environmental awareness of the political, economic and local repercussions of harmful behaviour in other parts of the world.

The power lies in your hands. If the majority of people made a considered choice to act in a more environmentally conscious way, large corporations that manufacture harmful products, would be pressured into changing the way they operate. By becoming a green customer, your actions are instrumental in encouraging corporations to clean up their act.

Dr. Do Hoang Oanh

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