Can we fix the planet with green consumerism?

Natural green beauty products as part of the green economy
iStock/colnihko

The planet is in a state of emergency with rising sea levels, declining natural resources and increased global temperatures. Is it too late for green consumerism?

According to Meaghan Guckian from the University of Massachusetts: “green consumerism has proven largely ineffective in curbing collective rates of consumption; despite improved efficiencies and green-and-lean social norms and policies, society’s aggregate resource and energy usage continues to climb.”

After recent waves of environmental consciousness, various companies are releasing a myriad of products under the guise that as a consumer you can solve the world’s environmental crisis. However, research suggests that buying green just isn’t enough anymore.

A research paper, published by Lewis Akenji from the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry at the University of Helsinki, concludes that we cannot fix the climate crisis with consumerism.

Akenji said: “No. The magnitude of the problem, and the urgency with which it must be addressed, overwhelms the capacity of consumers to solve this problem…”Consumer scapegoatism occurs when ecological imbalance is examined primarily through an economic growth lens, and the critical role of addressing these systemic flaws is ascribed to the consumer without proper regard for whether he or she has the power to influence other more important actors in the system.”

The research paper highlights the conflict between the economic performance of countries and environmental sustainability. Akenji states that in order to live sustainably, one must consume less however, market economy systems need to constantly increase consumption in order to sustain the economy.

Akenji suggests that the juxtaposition of environmental sustainability and consumerism will be short lived as it becomes apparent that ‘market promoted green-consumerism’ is but a superficial fix for visible and immediate environmental issues. These superficial fixes promoted by governments and businesses are designed to put the economic benefits at the forefront “because consumption drives economic growth, and government legitimacy rests on that.”

“If we want to ensure sustainable living, it is important to address the broader context such as cultures, the economy, and the media, as well as the social and physical infrastructure that dictates modes of consumption.”

 

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