By Leah Payne; Zero Waste Team member
I believe in the power of the consumer. I am a sophomore in college, living in my first apartment and I believe I can make meaningful decisions about what I buy. I think it is important to make thoughtful decisions around consumption during this critical habit-forming stage of my life. If I develop green habits now, chances are I will continue them into adulthood. I believe in being a smart consumer, where careful consideration goes into purchases, especially when the intent is to be mindful of the environment. I believe in practicing the first three ideas in Juliet Schor’s Politics of consumption from her essay The New Politics of Consumption: Why American’s Want So Much More Than They Need.
- A right to a decent standard of living.
Schor wants the consumer to make a fundamental distinction between what they need and what they want. Although it might seem a bit cliché, the amount of unneeded items in your living space add up quickly. People are entitled to a decent standard of living, one that isn’t focused on the next new gadget.
- Quality of life rather than quantity of stuff.
Consumption is not the same as well-being. The more things you have doesn’t make you a happier person. If we focus on making money to obtain more things our family, leisure, and community time suffer. The capitalist focus could also have adverse impacts of growth on the natural environment and the potentially increase the gap between classes. We should focus on a better quality of life, rather than a quantity of stuff.
- Ecologically sustainable consumption.
Schor says consumers know far less about the environmental impacts of their daily consumption habits than they should. When I go to the store I like to ask myself a few simple questions before I decide what to buy.
Where does it come from?
What kind of process did it go through before it reached the shelves?
What is the packaging? Is there a choice between plastic or glass? Which product has the least amount of packing? Can the packing it’s contained in be recycled?
Can you repurpose something you already have or buy something secondhand?
Who am I supporting when I buy this product?
My experience with the Fort Lewis’s Environmental Center has allowed me to express my beliefs and values because it has brought me closer with people who are contentious about the environment and given me a safe space to understand and better articulate me ideas. I have become a part of the community of people who care and push each other to consider new ways of life around sustainability. I am a part of the Zero Waste team and we are trying to assess recycling in campus housing. This experience has shown me that sustainability is not a top priority to a majority of the campus and we are going to have utilize a bunch of different strategies to make sustainability a part of the normal way of life on campus. Through this work I express what I am passionate about and figure out how to educate others about why sustainability is important. I hope that eventually the EC’s community will spread campus wide.