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Sustainable Consumption for Balanced Operations

Excessive consumption is at the root of our climate change, waste management and human stress problems. Sustainable consumption offers an alternative philosophy for doing business and making personal choices. Here's how.

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Consumption is necessary.
Stewardship is our imperative.
Survival with quality of life is the reward.

We truly do vote with our dollars. Our personal and business consumption is affected by trends, advertising and desires. With landfills causing major waste management headaches for our local communities, maybe we could make our businesses and communities better by taking a look at consumption behaviors. Maybe it's time for "sustainable consumption." Here are some resources that might be helpful for both business and personal consumption choices and behaviors.

Sustainable Natural Resources

The first realization: We cannot continue to believe we have an unlimited amount of natural resources. The earth can only restore a limited amount of depleted resources each day (or year)...and we have exceeded that capacity.

The second realization: We will not find a technological fix that will allow us to consume unlimited resources. Earth is a closed system.


Sustainable communities recognize their interdependence

League of Women Voters Sustainable communities recognize their interdependence with the global community and seek to meet current economic, environmental, and social demands through equitable and democratic means without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

In sustainable communities, levels of pollution, consumption, and population size are balanced for regional carrying capacity; members share an ethic of responsibility to one another and to future generations; the full social and environmental costs of production, provision, and disposal of goods and services are acknowledged; their systems of governance and leadership encourage democratic deliberation; and their systems of urban planning enhance neighborhood livability and preserve ecological integrity.

Sustainability refers to the dynamic among ecological, economic, and social systems on a global scale.

Sustainability demands consideration of the interactions among positions in different program areas. League positions speak of preservation and conservation, of stewardship, of considering long-term benefits and meeting future needs.

Principles of sustainability are reflected in most League of Women Voters program areas, although often they are implicit rather than explicit:

  • With respect to government, positions support policies that promote equity, flexibility, and responsibility so that democratic government is encouraged and protected.
  • With respect to natural resources, positions support protection and wise management in the public interest to promote an environment beneficial to life.
  • With respect to social policy, positions promote the equity, justice, education, and nurturing essential to a sustainable society.

Culture Change

Culture Change is a California organization founded in 1988 by an energy analyst who published the "Lundberg Letter" on oil industry trends. Car-free living provides the non-motorist with exercise, money saved, and a sense of stewardship. One new way of looking at stats is that the average American motorist only goes around 5 (five) miles per hour anyway, due to the time spent on the car to afford its purchase, upkeep, insurance, etc. Some of us are living our car-free dream comfortably in the U.S. The editor of Culture Change advocates traffic-related consumption changes to provide sustainable communities. Alternatives include walkig, biking, skateboarding, public transportation, and carpooling collaboratives.

Redefining Progress

The nation’s leading policy institute dedicated to smart economics, Redefining Progress develops solutions that help people, protect the environment, and grow the economy. They pioneer practical tools and metrics—like the Ecological Footprint and the Genuine Progress Indicator—to help policymakers, government agencies, businesses, and individuals understand the impact of their practices on the environment and social equity.

Our Ecological Footprint by 2030

A 70 percent increase in the Ecological Footprint by 2030 is a conservative forecast based on optimistic projections of key variables. Increases in agricultural yields are assumed to continue at the rate experienced over the past forty years. A number of critical factors, including salinization, limitations on irrigation potential, and expansion into marginal cropland threaten to stall additional efficiency gains. The IPCC emissions scenarios used in this forecast assume rapid development of energy efficient technologies and an equal share of fossil and non-fossil energy sources by the year 2050.

Redefining Progress works with a broad array of partners to shift the economy toward sustainable growth. Our partners include grassroots communities, labor unions, policymakers, academics, and businesses. Our efforts are largely focused on the United States because redefining progress here will have enormous global reverberations.

Oakland Office
1904 Franklin Street 6th Floor
Oakland, CA 94612
Telephone: (510) 444.3041

Green Building

California Integrated Waste Management Board

Sustainable (Green) building starts with green building materials. Building and construction activities worldwide consume 3 billion tons of raw materials each year or 40 percent of total global use (Roodman and Lenssen, 1995). Using green building materials and products promotes conservation of dwindling nonrenewable resources internationally. In addition, integrating green building materials into building projects can help reduce the environmental impacts associated with the extraction, transport, processing, fabrication, installation, reuse, recycling, and disposal of these building industry source materials.

The Top Ten Principles of Good Consumption

Worldwatch Institute

Consumption is about "the Good Life"..and Worldwatch Institute provides some intriguing insights into "The Top Ten Principles of Good Consumption"...and behind the scene tips and insights.

The Worldwatch Institute offers a unique blend of interdisciplinary research, global focus, and accessible writing that has made it a leading source of information on the interactions among key environmental, social, and economic trends. Their work revolves around the transition to an environmentally sustainable and socially just society—and how to achieve it.

"Good Stuff? A Behind-The-Scenes Guide to the Things We Buy" is produced in partnership with nine organizations, Good Stuff is a free online-only publication that traces what goes into the production, use, and disposal of 25 common consumer items, including compact discs, cell phones, baby goods, and chocolate.

Life cycle Initiative

The United Nations Environment Programme Production and Consumption Branch

is pursuing the development of a 10-year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (Marrakech process), in support of regional and national initiatives. One program is the "Life cycle Initiative" which provides practical tools for evaluating the opportunities, risks, and trade-offs associated with products and services over their entire life cycle to achieve sustainable development. This program can be helpful to companies with product design and development functions.

Product developers can support this research program by taking a survey on their website. Life cycle management challenged decision makers to carefully consider potential risks across the full - life cycle associated with product innovations aimed at delivering new benefits to customers. This requires a balance between Type 1 errors ( impeding useful and safe innovations) and Type 2 errors ( putting an unsafe product on the market). An online survey has been designed to evaluate how personal attitudes and values influence the ability to consider both of these perspectives in environmental decision making within the context of sustainable product development. No technical background or industrial experience is required for the study. Your survey responses are completely anonymous. Click here to take the product design survey.

Sustainable Consumption

Sierra Club

Sustainable consumption is the use of goods and services that satisfy basic needs and improve quality of life while minimizing the use of irreplaceable natural resources and the byproducts of toxic materials, waste, and pollution.

The Sierra Club's sustainable consumption campaign encourages people to think about the environmental impacts of their consumption choices and provides specific information that will enable them to make thoughtful choices as consumers.

Energy, food and forest products are looked at in the Sierra Club's program and factsheets. They also provide "Profiles in Sustainability" on their website to give you real-life peeks into how people actually live more sustainable lives. For example, "I came up with a myriad of ways we help give back, conserve, and appreciate what has so been put in our hands to learn about, hold on to, and share with our future generations..."

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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