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The Modern Consumer Dilemma

Greta Scott

Posted on May 15, 2021 15:18

6 users

"If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do." Angel (2001)

There is a paradox facing the 21st century consumer. For those of us wishing to make responsible, ethical, and sustainable choices, every decision we make is a land mine of contradictions.

I wish to reduce my plastic consumption, so I buy a tote bag to take to the store, but my friend tells me that producing a tote bag uses more energy than a plastic bag. I’d have to use my cotton tote 393 times before it had the same environmental impact as using a plastic bag three times. My carbon footprint might be higher, but at least my bag won’t end up in landfill or the ocean.

At the store, I want to buy “eco” vegetables, but these are packed in plastic, unlike the non-organic, loose vegetables. And the organic peas I buy here in Sweden have 50% higher emissions than the normal peas.

I also want to protect my fellow customers from COVID-19, so I wear my handmade facemask. I can re-use my fabric mask, unlike those surgical ones you need to buy in bulk. I've seen those lying on the road and being pulled out of oceans. My fabric facemask isn’t as effective as a surgical one, but the proceeds for my fabric facemask went to charity.

When I get home, I get back to studying. I try not to print things; I read all my course literature online to save paper. But every second I spend on Google produces enough CO2 to keep 23 trees busy.

In the evening, I do some online shopping. H&M is selling cotton jeans marked with a green label telling me that wearing them is good for the environment, but then I find out that cotton might have been the product of forced labor by Uighur Muslims in China. That is morally corrupt.

I look in to getting solar panels fitted to my house to reduce my carbon footprint. But once again, the polysilicon that makes up those same solar panels may also be the product of Uighur labor. That is entirely unacceptable.

I think you get the point.

It seems that today, there are no good decisions. The more I educate myself on ethical and sustainable consumption, the harder it is to distinguish between better and worse decisions. At a webinar I recently attended, I was told by representatives of the food industry that they were working on improving labelling to make it clearer to consumers the impact of their purchases. But even then, how will we navigate the daily decisions we have to make in order to live responsibly in the 21st century?

Of course, there are no perfect alternatives, but businesses and entire industries need to try harder to make their products more ethical and sustainable.

Greta Scott

Posted on May 15, 2021 15:18

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Source: Phys.org

Plastic pollution and climate change are two prominent environmental issues of our time. Plastic was once thought to be a...

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