What can the environmentally conscious consumer do to be a more responsible shopper? One obvious thing we can do to help offset environmental impacts is to buy local. We may also benefit from reflecting on the implications of the economic meltdown of 2008. Black Friday is a fascinating conflagration of consumerism kicking off a spending frenzy worth more than $59 billion in 2012, which was up from $52.5 billion in 2011. To capitalize on this orgy of consumerism, retail outlets are opening earlier every year. This year many big box stores opened their doors on the Thursday prior to Black Friday. Just five years after the start of the Great Recession,
consumers are battling each other in retail outlets to save a few
dollars. This may be a good time of year to remember what happened in 2008 and
Shopping locally reduces the distances traveled by consumers and locally owned businesses tend to make more local purchases, requiring less commercial transportation. Shopping in town centers translates to less urban sprawl, habitat loss and pollution.
In addition to supporting the retail establishments closest to us, we can also learn an important lesson from the Great Recession of 2008.
Deregulation allowed for rampant greed in financial markets. This led to the development of a number of highly sophisticated financial offerings including collateralized debt obligations or CDOs. These instruments packaged oversold mortgage debt to give the impression of a good investment. Many institutions did make money at first, but it was a bubble that was destined to burst. When it did collapse it brought down the global economy with it.
Short sighted consumerism is in some respects analogous to the events that led to the Great Recession. Responsible purchasing is like responsible investing. Our purchases can be reviewed in the same way that assess any investment. A good purchase, like a good investment involves understanding the associated impacts, both short and long term.
Before you make a purchase consider the implications for the environment, for the people and for society.
We are seeing record stock valuations, improving employment numbers and better housing statistics. However, we should not be blinded by an improving economic picture. When making purchases, just like making sound investments we would be wise to consider products and services that are good for the triple bottom line of people, planet and profits.
© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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