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.
Do you feel the disconnect?
At one point, we collected or made everything we needed ourselves or within our communities. We were connected with the ecosystems that provided resources, with the hands that crafted those resources into tools, and with the animal who died to feed us.
Now, we are removed from the places and the people who make most products and we don't see the impact those products have on them. When disconnected from the lands, animals, and people who made a product, the consumer isn't able to ensure that their dollars are supporting something that aligns with their values with their dollar.
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...
Who is impacting whom?
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 has risen as high as 13 times the material footprint in low-income countries (2017)(1).
Additionally, consider how people in less privileged groups – within the U.S. and around the globe – are more likely to live in sacrifice zones where they are exposed to the negative environmental and health impacts of unconscious consumption.
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 numbers 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) "Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns," UN Stats, https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2019/goal-12/, Accessed April 2023. (2) "Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life," Zoe Weil, https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Most-Good-Least-Harm/Zoe-Weil/9781582702063, Published January 6, 2009