One definition of sustainable consumption was established in 1994 by the Oslo Symposium, on sustainable consumption. According to this, sustainable consumption includes “the use of goods and services that respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life, while minimising the use of natural resources, toxic materials and emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle, so as not to jeopardise the needs of future generations”.
What is sustainable consumption today?
On this basis, the United Nations have put emphasis on the topic of sustainable consumption, as well as production with their 17 sustainable development goals. Goal 12 for instance, sustainable consumption and production, is about ‘doing more and better with less’. The goal is to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation, increasing resource efficiency and promoting a sustainable lifestyle.
Why is it important?
Oxfam, together with the Stockholm Environment Institute, researched that the richest one percent of the world's population is responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 3.1 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity.
The linear way we have been consuming along with the speed, exhausts the natural resources of our planet. According to the Global Footprint Network, we are currently using resources at almost twice the rate that the earth can renew them. This has just increased continually since the 70s, and unless we are not able to change this, we will require three earths to supply our needs by 2050 - in only 30 years from now. The question that arises from this is: Why do we use more than we need?
A significant factor is our throw-away mentality, which fuels overconsumption and unsustainable practices. It also increases the amount of products made from plastic, that can be produced in large quantities and with little value and is thrown away after its use. This mentality has decreased to see value in durable, repairable products. Another factor that has fueled unsustainable consumption is our need for ‘having everything right away’. This can be seen in the increase of express deliveries, but also in our technological devices, such as the microwave, hair dryers and mobile phones. Even though many of these technologies have increased efficiency and production practices have been improved too, many of these products are made out of materials that are not easily repairable or disposable. Instead, they create heaps of plastic and electronic waste, end up in landfill and turn into toxic substances.
What does reality look like?
There has been a trend towards considering the social and environmental dimensions of sustainable consumption, which led to more attention on the production of goods. Consumers, especially millennials, are increasingly concerned, not only about the pollution or health issues, but also the social impact it has: For instance, the repercussion for the workers producing the goods, as well as the local social infrastructure.
As a result, more and more policies and initiatives are being established that take into account and protect people and the planet affected by the processing of products.
This shift in people's way of considering sustainable products can also be seen on a product level. A report researched that sustainable products (e.g. coffee,chocolate) show twice the growth in sales (Dollar) than their traditional counterparts. However, especially greener businesses suffer from a paradox in this buying behaviour. Fewer consumers that initially reported a positive attitude towards an eco-friendly product, actually go through with their purchase. A survey has shown that 65% consumers said they want to buy from a purpose-driven company that advocates sustainability, yet only about 26% actually do so. It is crucial to narrow this ‘intention-action gap’, not only for greener business, but also for our planet.
What can you do?
It’s certain that sustainable consumption does not only need to be implemented by companies, but also by consumers and on a political level. However, to guarantee sustainable consumption, it is imperative to start by changing one's mindset and to transfer the way in which one views products, in its holistic lifecycle from how it is made to how it is disposed. This behavioral change will not only benefit our planet, but also local businesses, your wallet and many other aspects of your life.
How does Kleiderly contribute?
At Kleiderly, we not only made it our mission to reduce the fashion waste that annually ends up in landfill and incinerators, and offer a sustainable and circular alternative to plastic, but we want to spread awareness on the issue of overconsumption. We promote sustainable consumption, as it is a crucial way to reduce the negative impact of clothes and clothing production on the environment and people.