Good Stuff? - A Consumption Manifesto: The Top Ten Principles of Good
Consumption is one of life's great pleasures. Buying things we crave,
traveling to beautiful places, eating delectable food: icing on the cake of
life. But too often the effects of our blissful consumption make for a sad
story. Giant cars exhaling dangerous exhaust, hog farms pumping out noxious
pollutants, toxic trash heaps nudging into poor neighborhoods-none of this
if there weren't something to sell.
But there's no need to swap pleasure for guilt. With thoughtfulness and
commitment, consumption can be a force for good. Too long have we consumers
been a blushing bride overwhelmed by business suitors. It's time for the
bride to assert herself. We've got the dowry; we have the purchasing power.
We can require our suitors to comply with our vision of environmental
stewardship-or we can close the door behind them on their way out. Through
buying what we need, produced the way we want, we can create the world we'd
like to live in.
To that end and for the future, a Consumption Manifesto:
Principle One. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This brilliant triad says it all.
Reduce: Avoid buying what you don't need-and when you do get that
dishwasher/lawnmower/toilet, spend the money up front for an efficient
model. Re-use: Buy used stuff, and wring the last drop of usefulness out of
most everything you own. Recycle: Do it, but know that it's the last and
least effective leg of the triad. (Ultimately, recycling simply results in
the manufacture of more things.)
Principle Two. Stay close to home. Work close to home to shorten your
commute; eat food grown nearby; patronize local businesses; join local
organizations. All of these will improve the look, shape, smell, and feel of
Principle Three. Internal combustion engines are polluting, and their use
should be minimized. Period.
Principle Four. Watch what you eat. Whenever possible, avoid food grown with
pesticides, in feedlots, or by agribusiness. It's an easy way to use your
dollars to vote against the spread of toxins in our bodies, land, and water.
Principle Five. Private industries have very little incentive to improve
their environmental practices. Our consumption choices must encourage and
support good behavior; our political choices must support government
Principle Six. Support thoughtful innovations in manufacturing and
production. Hint: Drilling for oil is no longer an innovation.
Principle Seven. Prioritize. Think hardest when buying large objects; don't
drive yourself mad fretting over the small ones. It's easy to be distracted
by the paper bag puzzle, but an energy-sucking refrigerator is much more
worthy of your attention. (Small electronics are an exception.)
Principle Eight. Vote. Political engagement enables the spread of
environmentally conscious policies. Without public action, thoughtful
individuals are swimming upstream.
Principle Nine. Don't feel guilty. It only makes you sad.
Principle Ten. Enjoy what you have-the things that are yours alone, and the
things that belong to none of us. Both are nice, but the latter are
precious. Those things that we cannot manufacture and should never
own-water, air, birds, trees-are the foundation of life's pleasures. Without
them, we're nothing. With us, there may be nothing left. It's our choice.
-Umbra Fisk, Grist Magazine
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