Responsible Consumption: ethical, ecological and supportive

Although the concept of Responsible Consumption is broad, we can understand it in three substantive elements. Ethical, ecological and supportive consumption

The need to organize the economy according to justice, respect for man and natural resources, is no longer a matter of moral or political opinion, it is an imperative that requires us to do our part. This possibility does not derive from rights guaranteed by law but from the will to live responsibly in everyday life. The consumer is the last link in the economic system and as such has the responsibility and the power to change the state to which we are induced by social media.

The manifestations of the social and environmental crisis on the Planet are evident: every day we find examples around us or in the media of the unfair distribution of wealth and the increase in poverty or the effects that the current unsustainable development has. for Nature. There are countless examples ranging from migratory phenomena, to deforestation or desertification, through labor exploitation (especially of women and children) or the greenhouse effect.

We live in a society that favors consumerism: We have become the throwaway generation. Advertising bombards us with advertisements whose objective is not our well-being, but rather to make us cogs in a system that reduces people to submissive consumers. This economic model of production and consumption is increasingly tending toward exhaustion: it is unsustainable.

Institutions have to fulfill their mission and we must demand it, but we have at our disposal means of intervention that can have a direct influence on the centers of economic power. With our way of consuming we can influence the progress of the economy and the world directly. Conscious and responsible consumption, aimed at promoting satisfactory activities for nature and people, is a decisive instrument of pressure on the market.

Although the concept of Responsible Consumption is broad, we can understand it in three substantive elements:

1.- Ethical Consumption:

It is one that asks about the social and ecological conditions in which a product or service has been produced. It is a daily attitude that consists of meticulously choosing what we buy based on two criteria: the history of the product and the conduct of the producing company, signaling to the system the production methods that we approve and those that we condemn.

It is exercised when options are valued as more fair, supportive or ecological and it is consumed in accordance with these values ​​and not only based on personal benefit. From ethical consumption we place special emphasis on austerity as a value, as a conscious way of living, giving more importance to other activities than the fact of consuming and having the ability to distinguish between real and imposed needs; organizing them at a collective level, guaranteeing all people the satisfaction of their fundamental needs with the least waste.

The incorporation of these values ​​in our consumption does not diminish well-being and quality of life, quite the contrary. It is a sign of well-being to eat meat, but it stops being so when we see high levels of cholesterol in many of us, or we eat so abundantly that obesity problems are common.

This includes all spheres of our life, our most personal choices and requires effort, but it is not impossible. A first step would be that awareness on a personal level; a second to share our reflections to build a collective consciousness.

This type of consumption involves two fundamental aspects:

* The search for information and the formation of critical thinking with the reality that surrounds us, with the media and advertising, questioning what is behind each thing we consume and what its consequences are.

* Reducing our consumption levels as an ethical option. If our development model is not ecological and generates unjust social structures, it is not possible for us to stimulate this situation. It is about changing our habit of consumerism, opting for a model of well-being and happiness not based on the possession of material goods: the happiest is not the one who has the most but the one who needs the least. It is a change in our scale of values ​​and our priorities. This would allow us to dedicate a greater part of our budget to eating healthily, enjoying our leisure in a more constructive way, reducing our work time and investing in solidarity and communal work.

The small power of the consumer can be very effective. We must begin with the choice of our food, our purchases for our homes, our clothing, the use of our money, the type of packaging we accept or reject. What is missing is to develop a critical and supportive consciousness accompanied by more collective and political behaviors: when we make a purchase we do not have to doubt that we are powerful and that companies are in a situation of deep dependence on our behaviors as consumers.

2.- Ecological Consumption:

It includes the three Rs of the environmental movement: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, which also includes essential elements such as organic agriculture and livestock, among other forms of alternative production.

If we look back over time to see how our way of producing and consuming has changed, we will see that traditional cultures that identified people with their social and ecological environment have been disappearing. The valuable and simple peasant model based on diversified production for self-sufficiency without harming the environment has been destroyed.

At the beginning of the 70th century, industrial development around large cities and the abandonment of towns increased, with rural areas becoming increasingly dependent on cities and capital. Human populations are concentrated in large urban centers where the relationship with the physical environment and natural resources is lost. In the XNUMXs, the so-called "green revolution" took place, a concept launched by the World Bank as a guarantee of food security. It is based on mechanization and the use of large quantities of artificial and phytosanitary fertilizers in the agricultural industry.

To adapt to these changes, a large investment was needed that small landowners could not assume, which is why the property structure began to change, concentrating in fewer hands and causing an exodus from the countryside and the aging of the rural population. This phenomenon is accentuated by the policies derived from the inclusion of States in international financial organizations, which change the regulations on the use of resources and encourage large industrial agricultural and livestock farms that are more profitable in economic terms.

The processes of economic globalization are transforming the socioeconomic structure of rural areas. Production moves to countries with lower production costs and less protection against ecological crimes. All this is aimed at production aimed more at the market than at people. The producer becomes a dependent client of the agrochemical multinationals (which supply seeds, phytosanitary products, fuel,...) and a supplier of cheap raw materials for the food industry and large food chains.

A devastating model is being imposed that causes the disappearance of peasant and livestock cultures more integrated into the natural environment, depopulation of the countryside, destruction of ecosystems, loss of agricultural and biological diversity, pollution and deterioration of food quality and security. At the same time, other consumption habits are imposed on us, as the production of few types of food increases, to the detriment of the traditional production of our diet.

3.- Solidarity Consumption:

Fair trade is promoted, considering the social relations and working conditions in which a product or service has been produced. It's about paying fairly for the work done. It is about eliminating discrimination based on skin color, nationality, gender or religion; It is about visualizing social alternatives for integration and inducing a new international economic order.

Throughout the history of humanity, trade has played an important role in the exchange of goods, technology and cultural models, allowing reciprocal enrichment. Nowadays, commerce is increasingly subordinated and standardized to the rules of capitalism. Production destined exclusively for export is causing serious consequences for the people. Among others, the loss of food self-sufficiency, the permanent plundering of natural resources and the imposition of irrational consumption habits foreign to their cultural tradition.

In this sense, multinationals and capital do not divide the world into North and South or between different cultures, the real division they create is between those who can buy - who constitute the market - and those who cannot - who represent something useless that we can discard-. The interests of the multinationals that control a large part of production and international trade are not to generalize consumption and well-being to humanity, it is to reinforce consumption levels among those who have a sufficient economic level to spend.

Gold rules

1. Be critical of our consumption and our way of life, applying filters woven with ethical values.

2. Demand information and inform us about the social and environmental conditions in which a product or service has been produced, how it has reached us and what its consequences are on the environment.

3. Reduce our consumption, as an ethical and ecological option, opting for a model of well-being and happiness not based on the possession of material goods.

4. Practice consumption that is respectful of nature, reducing, reusing and, finally, recycling and consuming ecological and artisan products.

5. Practice supportive and socially fair consumption, respectful of people and cultures, in which there is no place for discrimination or exploitation

* Guillermo Quirós Álvarez is a Physical Oceanographer