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How Does What We Buy Affect The Planet?


“When consumers reach for a product from the shelf or in a department store, they don’t realise the enormous environmental and social impact that the product can have globally”- Very true words spoken from professor Manfred Lenzen. On the surface, having access to millions of products might only seem like a good thing. It gives us buyers plenty of choice, we get what we want and companies can make a profit. But there’s a very dark side to consumerism, and our demand for more and more products is taking a massive toll on the planet. Here are some of the ways that our need for the latest and greatest new things are affecting the Earth, and how you can support more eco-friendly practices.  

 

Factories pumping out pollution

Our consumerism and desire for more products means that in order to keep up with demand, there has to be an increase of factories to create them. Factories cause damage to the environment in a number of ways. Air pollution, acid rain and damage to the health of humans, animals and plants to name a few. To make matters worse factories not only produce the latest goods, but in order to keep up with food demand farming livestock has now moved to factories too. The huge quantities of manure produced at factory farms becomes toxic waste, and can pour into nearby streams, rivers, and estuaries. To stop supporting factory farming you could choose to cut meat out of your diet, or be aware of where your meat is coming from and make more eco-friendly choices. Research your purchases, and spend a little more buying organic and free range.

 

Chemicals damaging the ozone layer

Along with pollution, factories are also responsible for damage to the ozone layer. Our ozone layer plays a critical role in absorbing uv rays from the sun, but in the past thirty years (largely due to the fossil fuels burned by our factories) the layer has been depleted. More of the sun’s harmful uv rays can enter our atmosphere and are absorbed by the dangerous gases we produce. This creates a ‘greenhouse effect’ causing global warming. Global warming has resulted in climate change with catastrophic effects on the environment and wildlife. One particularly problematic chemical in this category is chlorine. It’s is a naturally occurring substance, but in it’s man-made forms (CFCs) it plays a major role many environmental problems which we face today. Chlorine by-products are contained in many of the products we see in our shops, but if you wish to stop supporting this kind of practice choose products that are CFC free. Look for those considered ‘non-toxic’ and that don’t emit harmful vapours. You can also look for products from plant ingredients rather than petroleum.

 

Companies cruelly testing products on animals

Animals are widely used to test the safety of new products, many of these experiments cause them pain and suffering. Thankfully more and more companies are taking a ‘cruelty free’ stance and are choosing not to test their products on animals, and with some even giving back to the environment. For example Velvet’s planting scheme means they plant three trees every time they use one which is beneficial for wildlife, and Nolah is changing the mattress industry one animal at the time. The unfortunate thing is that there are still many companies who have not adopted these kinds of practices. With more products comes more testing, and so consumerism and animal cruelty sadly go hand in hand. To support cruelty free practices, buy brands that clearly state that they do not test on animals.

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Third World Countries Get Poorer

The inequality of the world means that third world countries continue to get poorer despite being rich in resources, while wealthy countries profit from them and continue getting richer. Consumerism plays a huge role in this. Big brands can outsource their labour to foreign sweatshops, getting cheap labour (often from children) and paying a lot less than what would be considered acceptable in a first world country. Rich countries will also typically only pay poor countries a fraction of what their resources are worth, and so the gap in inequality continues to rise. To stop supporting the exploitation of vulnerable people in third world countries, be sure to shop ethically. As a consumer it’s difficult to be able to tell exactly what kinds of conditions your goods were produced in, but do your research. Buy Fair Trade whenever possible; this is food and crafts that are produced under standards designed to end and prevent poverty, sweatshop labour conditions and environmental degradation. So in short, you know that you’re supporting producers in developing countries that are being paid a fair price for their work.


Samantha hails from Virginia and is a proud wife to a retired Deputy Sheriff and mother to two amazing little boys named Jack & William. A veteran product reviewer; Samantha has been reviewing products for 8 years and offers high quality product reviews with original photography.

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