It's easy to feel detached from the impact of foods and products we don't produce ourselves. We need to reconnect with the impact of our products in order to know when something needs to change.
Reconnect with the product lifecycle
At one point in human history, we collected or made everything we needed ourselves—or within small communities. We were connected with the ecosystems that provided resources, with the hands that crafted those resources into tools, or with the animal who died to feed us. Now, we are so removed from the places and the people that make our products, we do not see how they were impacted in the process. We are so disconnected from the lands and animals that feed us, we are not required to think about how they lived and died. And if we did see, if we did think about it...would we support it? Would we do it ourselves?
How might reconnecting with what we consume not only reduce the negative impact on others but also improve our own experience and quality of life?
Consumer actions impact...
Not all consumers have the same impact. A person’s impact generally increases with their wealth, and a country’s impact generally increases with its gross domestic product (GDP). For example, the average material footprint per capita in high-income countries is 12 times the material footprint in low-income countries.
Essentially, people who have less privilege are LESS likely to have a large consumer footprint but are still MORE likely to feel the environmental impacts of mass consumption when they live in exposed, exploited, and polluted areas.
Think about the ways in which consumer-related environmental issues are connected with human rights issues. What about consumer-related animal issues that are related to environmental issues? As conscious consumers, we zoom out and consider our practices in relation to all of the other beings who share this planet.
The most good and the least harm
It's a fairy tale to think we can eliminate all suffering done by human hands. By merely existing—particularly in the staggering numners that we prolific humans have accomplished—we use resources, disturb habitats, take up space, and create waste.
However, so much of what we produce and consume is in excess, driven not by our needs but by a profit margin. Or, it’s by inefficient design, informed not by nature’s time-tested processes, but by our own quickening clocks. Let’s use our human intelligence and ingenuity to meet our needs in ways that do the least harm and, ideally, the most good (MOGO).
Sources and inspirations
(1) "A Brief History of Consumer Culture," MIT Press, https://thereader.mitpress.mit.edu/a-brief-history-of-consumer-culture, Published 11 Jan. 2021. (2) "A New American Consumer Culture," OER Services, https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-ushistory2os2xmaster/chapter/a-new-american-consumer-culture (3) "The Moving Assembly Line and the Five-Dollar Work Day," Ford, https://corporate.ford.com/articles/history/moving-assembly-line.html, Accessed 30 Jun. 2022. (4) "When Did Factory Farming Start and Why Does It Still Exist?," Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, https://ffacoalition.org/articles/when-did-factory-farming-start-and-why-does-it-still-exist/ (5)"The Way We Won: America's Economic Breakthrough During World War II," The American Prospect, https://prospect.org/health/way-won-america-s-economic-breakthrough-world-war-ii/, Published December 19, 2001 (6) "National Overview: Facts and Figures on Materials, Wastes and Recycling." EPA, https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/national-overview-facts-and-figures-materials#Generation, Last Updated 29 Jun. 2022. (7) "Past Earth Overshoot Days," Earth Overshoot Day. https://www.overshootday.org/newsroom/past-earth-overshoot-days/, Published 2022 (8) "Report to the Congress on Practices of the Consumer Credit Industry in Soliciting and Extending Credit and their Effects on Consumer Debt and Insolvency." Federal Reserve, https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/rptcongress/bankruptcy/bankruptcybillstudy200606.pdf, Published Jun. 2006 (9) "U.S. Environmental Footprint Factsheet" Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan, https://css.umich.edu/publications/factsheets/sustainability-indicators/us-environmental-footprint-factsheet#:~:text=In%201900%2C%20raw%20material%20consumption,2%20metric%20tons%20per%20person, Updated 2022 (10)"3.1 Factors That Influence Consumers' Buying Behavior." Principles of Marketing by University of Minnesota, https://open.lib.umn.edu/principlesmarketing/chapter/3-1-factors-that-influence-consumers-buying-behavior/, Accessed 30 Jun. 2022. (11)"How to SHIFT Consumer Behaviors to be More Sustainable: A Literature Review and Guiding Framework." Katherine White, Rishad Habib, David J. Hardisty, SAGE Journals, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0022242919825649, Published 14 Feb. 2019.