Sustainable consumption/importance/Main practices/role of companies

Sustainable consumption starts with changes in behavior in order to create awareness about the way we consume.

This idea grows as more people realize the impact of each good produced, from the exploitation of natural resources to the end of its useful life and disposal.

This whole process has effects on the environment that need not be negative – quite the opposite.

From simple attitudes, we can transform the current scenario , reducing the generation of waste, pollution, deforestation and slowing down worrying phenomena for now and for the future, such as global warming .

In this article, we’ll show you ways to contribute to the preservation of nature and, at the same time, help your community and profit from it.

You will see that sustainable consumption has many benefits, including the maintenance of life on Earth .

What Is Sustainable Consumption?

Sustainable consumption is a concept that describes the set of actions, principles and reflections that culminate in a conscious way of acquiring, using and disposing of products . This is possible by understanding how our attitudes impact the environment, being able to destroy it and compromise the lives of the next generations on Earth.

Therefore, it is up to us to make choices that have positive effects, or at least reduce negative effects on nature.

By definition, sustainable consumption encompasses conscious consumption practices, green consumption and responsible consumption , and is applicable to the entire production chain.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, sustainable consumption implies choosing products that:

  • They used fewer natural resources in their production
  • Guarantee decent jobs for those who produced them
  • Are easily reused or recycled
  • They are really necessary.

This idea became popular, especially after the debates at Rio 92 or Eco 92 – United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

On that occasion, the international political community formulated the Global Agenda 21 , which concludes :

“The main causes of the uninterrupted deterioration of the world’s environment are unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, especially in industrialized countries. Of serious concern, such patterns of consumption and production lead to the aggravation of poverty and imbalances.”

It became evident the need to reconcile the social, environmental and economic areas to promote sustainable and continuous development.

In other words, although consumption is one of the main drivers for the economy of nations , it is vital to take into account its impacts on nature, adapting it to prevent the deterioration of the planet.

What Is The Green Consumer?

Green consumer is one who considers the effects on the environment when buying.

Of course, other factors are part of your purchase decision, such as price, utility, quality and convenience, but all must be committed to manufacturing processes that preserve ecosystems.

In practice, this concept translates into replacing traditional consumer goods with green items, which are produced using techniques that are less harmful to the planet .

This is the case of furniture made from reforested wood, biofuels and bags made from recyclable material.

Green consumption is an important advance towards sustainability , but it is not enough, as it leaves equal access to natural resources aside, being heavily influenced by people’s purchasing power.

A consistent change in current standards requires that purchases be rethought and not simply replaced with green products.

In other words, it is necessary to change habits , reflecting before finalizing a purchase, changing an appliance or increasing the collection of shoes.

Otherwise, the impact will be insufficient to combat pollution, the greenhouse effect, global warming and other consequences of unbridled consumption.

As explained in the Education for Sustainable Consumption manual , prepared by the Ministry of Education (MEC):

“The need to reduce and modify consumption patterns has been replaced by the simple ‘greening’ of products and services. Furthermore, green consumption would tackle only part of the problem – technology – by emphasizing the development of green products for a part of society, while the poor are left with inferior products and with a level of consumption below the satisfaction of their basic needs.”

What Is Circular Economy?

Circular economy is a dynamic that proposes the use of a raw material until it runs out , that is, until there is no longer the possibility of reusing, transforming or recycling that material.

The circular logic emerged in opposition to the linear model of manufacturing and consumption, which underuses inputs by restricting their useful life to 5 stages (extraction, processing, transformation, consumption and disposal).

The linear system is at the root of the waste of resources , degradation of ecosystems, pollution of the air, soil, water table, rivers and seas, as it is not part of a conscious consumption.

In this perverse logic, the environment exists only to serve human desires, therefore, its destruction is acceptable in the face of progress.

In the circular economy view, before being discarded, an item can be:

  • Re-used for the same purpose . For example, a glass jar that came with a canned food. After the food runs out, it can be washed and used to store sauces, spoon sweets, etc.
  • Repurposed for a different purpose . For example, an old margarine container that is repurposed as a plant pot
  • recycled . For example, aluminum cans that are sent to industries to be transformed into new products.

This dynamic is essential for sustainable consumption, as it slows down the generation of waste, keeping it in use for longer.

As long as they are useful, they do not need to be discarded, which prevents them from polluting the environment and also reduces the need to produce new materials, which require the extraction of more resources from nature.

How Important Is Sustainable Consumption?

Sustainable consumption is important because it serves as an awareness tool for everyone to do their part in favor of environmental preservation.

It is based on the premise that every action counts and that, little by little, it is possible to change the game, allowing sustainable development.

But for that, everyone needs to participate , instead of leaving the fight against irresponsible consumerism only in the hands of governments and other authorities.

Without a joint effort, the levels of degradation of the planet will continue to grow, worsening an alarming situation.

According to data compiled in a UN report, between 1970 and 2014, the Earth lost approximately 60% of vertebrate animal species.

As for invertebrates, 42% of terrestrial, 34% of aquatic and 25% of marine species are threatened with extinction .

Another threat to life in the oceans is pollution. Every year, 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the water.

Global warming, the result of the increase in the greenhouse effect due to the emission of polluting gases, is yet another villain that harms life on the planet .

Since the end of the 19th century, the average temperature has risen between 0.8ºC and 1.2ºC, affecting survival and quality of life in several territories.

If degradation continues at this rate, researchers estimate 4.5 million to 7 million premature deaths by 2050.

Hence the need for awareness and actions, both individual and collective, to reverse the situation, including sustainable consumption.

What Is The Importance Of Sustainable Consumption?

Known for the abundance of natural resources such as vegetation, water and fertile soils, also faces the adverse effects of unbridled consumption.

In January 2020, the NGO Imazon (Instituto do Homem e Meio Ambiente da Amazônia) published a report, warning of a 74% increase in deforestation in the Legal Amazon that month, compared to 2019.

There were 188 km² of deforested area, added to the growth of environmental degradation, from 11 to 163 km² in the period of one year.

The Amazon is the largest tropical forest in the world , concentrating 50% of biodiversity and reducing the impacts of polluting gases that cause the greenhouse effect, such as CO2.

According to a survey by the Akatu Institute, the price of green goods is still one of the biggest barriers to more conscious consumption in the national territory.

It means that the consumer needs to be educated about the advantages of these items, which are more durable and can be reused or recycled easily.

Through sustainable consumption, he will have access to collective benefits, as he will be contributing to the health of the planet – and, consequently, his own.

What Are The Benefits Of Green Consumption?

The shift towards more conscious consumption adds a series of advantages to nature, organizations and society in general.

Below, we list 9 of them.

  1. Foods, beverages and cosmetics with few or no substances harmful to health, such as pesticides
  2. Greater supply of natural resources, due to reduced pollution of soil, groundwater, rivers and oceans
  3. Longer life cycle for products, reducing the need to replace them and the expense of new items
  4. Pressure on companies to include concern for the environment among their priorities in their production and disposal processes
  5. Decrease in the amount of waste released into nature
  6. Incentive to the circular economy, with emphasis on the reuse, maintenance and recycling of inputs
  7. It favors the exchange of fossil fuels (coal, oil and derivatives) for clean energy sources, with savings for the consumer in the medium and long term
  8. Reduction in the emission of pollutants and GHGs (greenhouse gases), which cause global warming
  9. Preservation of species of flora and fauna, because of the disincentive to fires and destruction of their natural habitat.

Main Practices Of Sustainable Consumption With Examples

As mentioned above, sustainable consumption becomes a reality through good practices adopted by people or organizations .

Below, we detail some of these actions.

Decrease Water Waste

In agriculture, there are technologies that allow water to be reused, as well as irrigation equipment that saves this resource.

Reuse water is also gaining popularity in new commercial and residential condominiums, being used for cleaning.

Minimize Water And Soil Pollution

Both soils and groundwater, rivers, lakes, seas and oceans are polluted with waste from sewage and agricultural activities.

Therefore, it is important to include as many locations as possible in efficient basic sanitation systems, in addition to reducing the use of pesticides in agribusiness .

Favor Material Recycling

The installation of selective collection systems and/or points , combined with campaigns and content to assist the population in separating recyclable material is an example of this good practice.

Give Preference To Green Foods

Organic items that use less pesticides are already present in supermarkets, however, it is possible to control their origin even more, prioritizing local production.

Cooperatives and producer associations from nearby cities or regions can unite to supply an area in an organized way, ensuring sustainable agriculture and healthy eating.

Electricity Saving

In the world, the main energy sources still use fossil fuels to generate electricity, through processes that release tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Therefore, it is essential to save energy to reduce consumption and pollution .

Another option that is currently emerging is the use of clean energy , such as solar and wind, which have less environmental impact.

Bet On Compost

Composting is a technique used to transform organic waste into compost , through layers interspersed between vegetable, fruit and eggshell scraps; and other materials such as leaves and sawdust.

After a few days of watering the layers, they turn brown, similar to earth, and can already be used for composting .

This technique reduces organic waste, which would otherwise be thrown into landfills, with chances of polluting the soil.

How To Put Conscious Consumption Into Practice?

We live in a consumerist society , in which we are often judged and classified by what we have.

This context has led us to a chaotic situation, in which consumerism continues to grow, even in the face of an unprecedented environmental crisis .

Thus, it takes reflection and effort to break the habit of acquiring superfluous and useless items, adhering to conscious consumption.

I mean, it’s not easy. But it is necessary and urgent.

Start with small attitudes and, little by little, you get used to rethinking the way you consume and use your products.

Before buying something new, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?”

If the answer is no, it is worth giving up on the purchase.

How about giving a new face to a piece of furniture or piece through crafts? This practice helps to reduce the pace of consumption .

Other practices are:

  • Avoid opening the fridge too many times a day
  • Prefer appliances that use less energy
  • Maintain furniture and appliances in order to extend their lifespan
  • Turn off the faucet while soaping the dishes
  • Turn off the shower while soaping your body
  • Turn off the light when leaving a room
  • Print only what is needed
  • Use double-sided sheets of paper
  • Separating garbage, leading materials for recycling
  • Dispose of waste properly . Items such as oil and electronic waste must be disposed of at specific collection points
  • In the market, choose biodegradable packaging
  • Reuse washing machine water to clean the house
  • Reduce car use , preferring means of transport that do not use fossil fuels, such as the bicycle.

What Is The Role Of Companies In Sustainable Consumption?

Before consumption, the products go through the stages of extraction, processing, transformation, in which there can be great waste and practices that are destructive to the environment.

Therefore, companies need to pay attention to these phases, opting for less harmful processes that eliminate waste and increase efficiency, in addition to investing in sustainable energy sources .

They must also be concerned with replacing the resources they use, through actions such as reforestation and crop rotation so as not to deplete the soil.

The design of products is another factor that contributes to their durability and environmental impact, therefore, it is essential to ensure quality items that can be renovated, reused and recycled.

Organizations with socio- environmental responsibility also tend to assist in the correct disposal of their products at the end of their useful life, collecting them from consumers or through intermediaries.

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