“The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats and biodiversity… that’s all there is. That’s the whole economy. That’s where all the economic activity and jobs come from. These biological systems are the sustaining wealth of the world.”
~ Gaylord Nelson, activist, politician and founder of Earth Day
The terms “capital” and “value” typically have one association – money. But to only associate capital with money would be a gross oversimplification of the true marketplace — of our earth. A truer reflection of the market would be the inclusion of natural capital. Natural capital is defined as the “world’s stocks” of natural assets that include geology, soil, air, water, and all living things. The economy relies heavily on natural capital assets, yet all too often the economy is still seen as separate from the environment. Take a few minutes to watch this video, featuring environmentalist and actor, Adrian Grenier (founder of #stopsucking). Natural capital can be a tricky concept and he does a great job simplifying it.
Unfortunately, our current market system subsidizes environmentally-destructive practices and restricts values-driven and conservation efforts in business.
Every choice we make plays a role in the global economy, Nearly everything we buy comes from natural resources; trees, water, coal, minerals, and so on. Our dollar has more power over the fate of our planet than we may believe. But it is true – every choice we make as consumers matters.
So how can we care for our planet and still be consumers? Conscious consumption or making decisions that have a net positive impact on the planet. Conscious consumption takes many forms:
Conservation. First and foremost, buy fewer things. Consuming less means you are conserving natural resources and preserving them for generations to come. Remember, less is always more when supporting our planet…
Vote with your dollar. That means wherever possible purchase ethically and sustainably made products. This likely means buying fewer things and spending a bit more (since many cheaply-made products are at an artificially low price). Too often companies that have poor practices such as depletion of natural resources, environmental pollution, and worker exploitation are able to put cheap products on the shelves precisely because of their shoddy business practices.
Divest. It’s not only about how you use your dollar, but also where you put your dollar. Banks lend money for various projects. When you put your money in a bank you are indirectly funding those projects. It is important to make sure you supports projects aligned with your values. Bank of America, PNC, Wells Fargo, SunTrust, BNP (Bank of the West), and U.S. Bank are funding pipelines across the country. Divesting your money from banks that support environmental harm and putting it into banks that fund better projects is a great way to use your money to make a change. Our partner Green America talks about the importance of social investing, and how your financial choices today can influence a more equitable world tomorrow.
Problem-solve. As you become more aware of how you use the earth’s resources, you will also become more sensitive to important economic issues like global warming and fair wages. Sometimes the solution to these tricky problems isn’t as obvious — that’s why we need your innovation. Know that as a consumer you hold lots of power, so always be thinking about creative ways to employ it. There are other ways to inspire human-centered problem solving if we all just stop and think with intention. DIY, buying less, volunteering, or making other small shifts are great ways to start.
The discussion of “environmental economics” is a relatively recent phenomenon, and plenty of organizations are working to transform economic systems to fit a more sustainable global framework. Friends of the Earth has developed an entire Economics for the Earth program to help advocate for policies and consumer habits that “fund a brighter future” and cut unjust funding through subsidies.
Living sustainably on a budget is possible; it just requires planning and smart budgeting. By spending less on goods that were designed for the dump, you save more to invest in high-quality products that will last a lifetime. By planning ahead and overcoming the temptations of “use and throw away” convenience, we can create a more conscious consumer community.
Many businesses aspire to use their for-profit enterprises to make a positive impact on the globe. One way that businesses are committing to making a difference is by becoming a B Corp. B Corps place people and planet before profit, a trio that is commonly referred to as the triple bottom line. The certification states that the B-Corp meets a certain set of social, environmental, performance, accountability, and transparency standards.
- Browse through the B Corps website to become familiar with the different companies that are “being the change” in our world
- Research 3 different B Corp companies (hint: our corporate partner of the day, Everyone) and how they are integrating the idea of a triple bottom line into their business model
How can you live sustainably within your budget in a way that allows for the earth and its species to thrive? Consuming less “stuff” and voting with your dollar are good places to start! While actions like stopping for a coffee are seemingly inexpensive on a day-to-day basis, these costs really add up in the long run.
- Read through this post about budget friendly green living or find other helping resources online to help get you started
- Put together a budget of what you spend weekly or monthly. Two helpful resources are Mint or YNAB. Think about where most of your discretionary spending goes. Could any of this be eliminated if for example, you bring your own reusable water bottle instead of buying a drink in a single use container.
- Find a way that you could realistically cut money out of your weekly budget. Multiply that savings by the 52 weeks in the year and see how much money you might save and at the same lessen your environmental impact.
“Where you put your money can change the world. The way that you bank can ensure that it works for both your future and healthier communities worldwide” excerpted from Green America
Something as simple as choosing a better bank to save your money can have BIG impact. Investing even $100 in the right place is a great start. Use the articles below as reference.
- Look up your bank to gain an understanding of what they are supporting. Here is a good starting point on Green America’s website
- Does your bank’s investing align with your values?
- Would you consider moving your bank account? Why or why not?
Use your power as a consumer to change companies from the inside.
Click here to see Green America’s Green Economy Campaigns. Pick one (or more) actions that you want to support and share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us @TurningGreenOrg and use #ConventionalToConscious.