GenY: When saving the planet actually saves you cash.
A new approach to sustainable consumption — using it as a measure of wealth
What‘s the problem?
For the longest time humanity has been using the planet’s resources to create wealth. The potential for this wealth felt as though it was infinite, as there appeared to be no limit to the amount of natural resources available.
Today however, we are facing an increasing shortage of these resources.Dropping levels of fish stocks, depletion of fresh-water resources, falling levels of food harvests due to global warming — they all have serious consequences on our survival. Unfortunately, human action and behaviour hasn’t changed much to reflect this reality. Technology and innovation is enabling us to become more efficient in their usage, but with ever-increasing numbers, humanity is putting stress on these resources. Technology advances might simply not be able to keep up.
Why is this happening?
Fundamentally, it’s a challenge of curbing unsustainable human consumption and creating new ways to encourage sustainable consumption. Many of us realise that there is an urgent need to change our behaviours. But what will inspire a fundamental behaviour shift towards more efficient usage of our planet’s limited resources?
How can we solve it ?
Sustainable consumption can happen through various behavioural shifts such as supporting sustainable growers and products, recycling, wasting less and there are fantastic examples of businesses and brands that started to do this already.
One of the most powerful ways to tackle the issue of unsustainable human consumption is on the individual consumer level.
For example Lipton Tea has partnered with Rainforest Alliance to source its tea from sustainable sources. It aims to source all its tea sold globally from Rainforest Alliance Certified estates by 2015.
Our project with Lipton enabled the brand to inspire & motivate employees globally about the sustainable impact it creates, by taking Lipton employees on a journey across Rainforest Alliance certified tea plantations in Indonesia to meet tea pluckers, their families, estate managers and local communities to understand in-depth why sustainably-sourced tea is better for business and our planet.
It’s not just Lipton that’s working towards empowering the consumer — Levishas reused more than 3.6m bottles and food trays for the 300,000 Waste<Less jeans and jackets. In each of these examples, the power rests in the hand of the individual consumer who makes the final purchase decision.
Another powerful way to encourage sustainable consumption, is to start using it as a measure of wealth and as a tool to create wealth.
Evolving the definition of wealth.
Can wealth also be measured by how efficiently we use our planet’s natural resources apart from just how much value we create from them?
How can I as an individual get rewarded or become “richer” for the simple daily action of turning off water while brushing my teeth or brining my own grocery bag instead of using a new plastic bag while shopping? A reward much more than just the satisfaction of having done the right thing.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the wealth of the world’s richest people is also measured by how well they fare as an individual in mindful and sustainable consumption?
Obviously measuring sustainable consumption on an individual level is a huge challenge, let alone allocating a measure of wealth into every consumption choice. Also the main question is, who is going to pay?
Who needs to get involved?
- A small eco-system of government (who helps to pay some of the social and environmental benefits created)
- A Supplier (who sources for sustainable products)
- A Supermarket (which provides the products)
- YOU!! The Individual Buyer (who finally buys them and gets rewarded)
… oh. And guess what? It already exists!
This idea is not new — innovative organisations and even local governments are already inspiring this new approach to measure and create wealth.
Recyclebank, which started in the US, operates a rewards scheme to encourage everyday recycling where the more you and your neighbours recycle the more rewards points you earn. These points can then be used for discounts and deals from local and national businesses.
Utrecht, the 4th largest city in the Netherlands, set up an innovative project: “Spitsvrij” (in English: off-peak), encouraging commuters to travel off rush hours to reduce the daily stop and go on Utrecht’s highways and thereby reduce the city’s CO2 emissions. The participants’ change in timing is facilitated thanks to tailor-made travel advice, car-sharing opportunities, traffic updates, etc.
Wealth has always been a driver of innovation and growth. And we can now use it to also inspire a sustainable consumption movement.
We can turn materialism on its head. Instead of seeing consumption as a problem and being bad for sustainability, lets start seeing it as an opportunity to make good choices for our planet and future survival and enrich our lives….
Article written by: Ashwin Subramaniam, Co-Founder