24 February 2009

to buy or not to buy

Human beings are creatures inclined to excesses and whilst this broadens horizons of endeavour, it also closes off avenues for frugality. As creatures of habit, excess consumerism has become a way of life rather than an occasional luxury. In order to understand the importance that consumerism plays in shaping the global environs, it is essential to understand first, the process of manufacturing.

Every product goes through a cradle-to-grave process - from obtaining raw materials for manufacture to final break-down. The analysis of this process is 'life-cycle assessment' or LCA in eco-parlance. The goal of LCA is to compare the full range of environmental and social damages assignable to products and choose the least burdensome one. It refers to the notion that a fair, holistic assessment requires the estimation of raw material production, manufacture, distribution, use and disposal including all intervening transportation steps necessary or caused by the product's existence.

Needless to say that every product in the market has its impact on the environment - our way forward as a responsible consumer is to recognize that impact and find ways to reduce it. This is where thinking back along the production-line comes useful. Consumer choices play an important role in choosing the ecologically right option in any society. Bear in mind that even if the end product is 'green', the production process of such a product may not be eco-friendly. I will leave out the the nitty-gritty and focus on what can be done to reduce carbon footprints.

Firstly, think twice before you buy. Weigh up your 'needs' versus your 'wants' - the economic incentives include a fatter bank balance! The adage 'reduce, reuse and recycle' will always hold true - finding new ways of using old things not only tests your imagination but goes a long way in reducing wastes.

Secondly, start by making simple choices from the food you eat, to the clothes you wear and your means of transportation. To those of you to whom this is applicable - eat organic, locally produced food which is better for you and the ecosystem. Buy vintage clothes, have a clothes swap with friends and give away old clothes. Rethink your means of transportation - car pool, take the bus, walk.

Thirdly, try and go a step further and extend your eco-goodness to your community and your friends.

Remember that as consumers you have the choice to choose something that is a better option. Exercise that right. Consumers of the world, unite!

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