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Strategies for Green Consumption

As smart shoppers, we know how to meticulously work on our budget to maximise income and minimise expenditure. If we can bring our ideas into our spending habit, allowing our money to speak for our ideas, then the beautiful world we desire will be here much sooner.

For your reference, the following are list of 20 practical methods suggested by Co-op America and the relevant web sites for further information. All changes come from tiny bits of small changes, any changes you make may be a key influence, so please do not underestimate your capability.

1. Simplify your lifestyle, lessen your desire:
Take another closer look at your lifestyle; recapture the centre of your life–good interpersonal relationships, a meaningful job, a healthy earth…

If you are able to simplify your lifestyle, lessen your desires, only buy necessity goods, you will not overspend your budget and there may even be savings for old days. Moreover, there is no need to work overtime to meet spending habit that goes out of control. There will be more time to attend to important matters, and more time to spend with loved ones. If we know how to conserve energy, it is guaranteed that everyone has enough to eat and the future generations will also get to enjoy.

Our heart will be filled with more joy by living such a simple life with few possessions.


2. Exchanging Goods and Swapping Necessities:
This brings us back to ancient times where there was no currency exchange but everyone exchanged what was needed. For instance, your neighbour would help you with gardening and you would help him look after his children in return. We can also set up a mutual-help group in the neighbourhood, exchange websites, regional co-op, and exchange with others any excess stuff or things that are no longer needed or tools that are rarely used. You can also exchange your skills and services such as house repair and maintenance; teach computer, music and arts classes, baby sitting, take care of pets, etc. You may also consider a meal sharing arrangement and take turn cooking for one another (of course on the premise that you all share a common concept on diet type).

Think about this, you have to pay income tax on the money you earn, and in using the income earned to buy goods, you have to pay for GST; this means that you are being ripped off twice, and the income taxes paid may not be spent in a way that suits your idea. The exchange method not only helps saving money and taxes (please note: it is saving taxes but not evading taxes!), it also helps enhancing interpersonal communication and neighbourhood friendship and also makes full use of commodities and minimizes wastes.

3. Minimise Wastes, Reuse and Recycle:
To minimize wastes, we must first avoid buying things that we do not need or buying too much. In buying a new product, allow a period of 7 to28 days of observation period, ask whether the product is actually needed, or is it possible to borrow or rent or exchange, or can a used product be bought instead?

Before anything is thrown away, consider any other possible uses. It is best if things can be reused, given away or exchanged. Kitchen wastes may be used as compost, rubbish may be classified; those that have chemical poisons or pollutants such as computer parts, batteries, ink cartridge of a printer, light bulbs, paint, machine oil, styrofoam, plastic bags, etc., all need to be disposed of with special arrangement or make a request that the manufacturers recycle (manufacturers that are conscientious and are environmental friendly shall assume the responsibility to recycle, this can also be a criteria for consumers in shopping for a product.)

May everyone make an effort to build a cleaner world and conserve resources for the future generations!


4. Purchase Green Products
As long as we transfer 10% of our daily consumption (of course the more the better) to green enterprise by purchasing green products, this change is enough to form a large amount of funds in reforming the society, this reforming force is strong and shall not be ignored. For individuals, this change can be easily carried out.

First, choose a product that you frequently buy, for example, clothing or food, then promise yourself that you will shop and purchase from green and ethical organisations, eventually do the same for other consumption. Also, consider making your purchase order together with your friends to enjoy a lower cost as well as cut down on packaging wastes.


5. Purchase Fair-Trade Certified Goods:
Everyone wishes to buy the best quality and largest amount of goods at the least possible cost; however, if the low cost comes from ripping off or inhuman treatment on the workers, we probably will not be able to truly enjoy the products since everything more or less carries and delivers a message from the manufacturer.

In developing countries, fair-trade implies whether the people can send their children to school, whether they get to consume clean food and water, and whether they will have daily necessities which we take for granted. Buying fair-trade certified products enables farmers, craftsman and workers to earn an income that commensurate to their labour contribution and gives them power to make their own decisions so that they can continually engage in their communities and sustain their living environment.

In the U.S., fair-trade certification currently aims at coffee, cocoa, chocolate, handicrafts and other products imported from developing countries: the certification holds an objective standard and procedure for certification. Fair-trade certification not only has financial influence, but it also invests in the framework that improves the well-being of human race – every dollar spent on fair-trade certified products helps maintain balance in the universe and assists the poor to walk out of poverty.

Besides buying fair-trade certified products, we can also disseminate this message to our friends and relatives and also encourage businesses to carry fair-trade certified products.


6. Purchase Organic and Local Food:
Not only that organic food does not contain chemical pesticide residues, it also contains more natural and complete micro-minerals, has delicious taste, is good for health and protects the environment from pollution. More importantly, organic food farmers have more respect for land and soil and have deeper affection for nature, thus the food they grow naturally has higher energy.

It would be best if you can grow your own organic food; however, if you face time or space limit, consider joining community organic gardening and agriculture programme. Try to get seasonal and local crops; this will lower the resource expenses incurred in the transporting process and save packaging wastes. Buy food from the farmers’ market and the local co-ops, participate in community support agriculture programme, support green restaurant, consume within the community to ensure a market support for the local organic farmers. Other than that, also support the organic certification standard, understand the meaning of signs, safeguard consumers and green enterprises, ensure that the money is actually used for supporting best farming, avoid organic certification standard being manipulated and played down by commercialized large agriculture organisation.


7. Know the Companies that Receive Your Consumption Support:
If the environment is important to you, please support and be involved in environmentally friendly companies, purchase their products and boycott those companies that generate pollution to the environment. If peace is important to you, you naturally would exclude companies that invest in or manufacture weapons from your consumption basket. Allow every penny you spend to speak up for your beliefs.

Given that mergers and acquisitions of companies are frequent, sometimes some small companies belong to certain large corporations, so consumers ought to be careful and do some research to identify them. The following website analyses over 400 companies that have contributed to the societal-environmental protection, compares the actual operations of different companies in a given industry, and indicates the subordinate companies of each brand name. The website also enables you to direct your issues of concerns to different companies by email


8. Stop Sweatshop and Child Labour
Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you: sweatshop and child labour need not exist at all. We wish that everyone in the world has shelter and has enough food. May all children have the opportunity to go to school; these are also the goals of fair-trade certification.

We can start from changing our spending habit, look for brands with fair-trade certification, request that shops or manufacturers indicate product source, make a request to schools, groups and organisation to be buy fair-trade certified products so as to stop sweatshop and child labour.

9. Careful Use of Wooden Products
Forests are the source of oxygen, the home to many animals and also a good place for leisure activities for us. Unfortunately 46%of the forest on earth has been eliminated, so it is critical to protect the forests. Use recycled papers, cut down on the volume of paper usage, set the printer to double-sided printing, use shopping bags made of cloth instead of paper, reuse paper products(for instance, the back side of a photocopied paper may be used as sketch paper),recycle all papers, boxes, newspapers, etc., remove your name from the consumer mailing list to minimize junk mails, request that the magazines you subscribe to use recycled paper, otherwise consider reading from the web or join-order with others; reduce usage on wooden products, purchase wooden products produced from forests with Continuous Management Plan(presently there is one lumber certification unit: Forest Stewardship Council Certified Lumber).


10. Select Products with No Toxic or with Low Toxicity
Being surrounded by hundreds and thousands of toxic chemical products, increasingly more people suffer from allergy, headache, insomnia, chronic fatigue, and other chemical-allergic symptoms. Children are the ones who get affected the most; this is obvious from the common children illnesses such as asthma, cancer, hyperactivity, delayed development and other serious health problems.

Choose to use nontoxic or low-toxic products, for example, toxic-free paint, construction materials, household cleaning products, personal health care products, and so on. Avoid external use of products that are unsafe for ingestion. Many symptoms will improve significantly.

Reference Books:

  • “Creating A Healthy Household by Lynn Marie Bower, the Healthy Home Institute 2000.
  • “Better Basics for the Home” by Annie Berthold-Bond, Three Rivers Press 1999.
  • “Clean House, Clean Planet” by Karen Logan, Pocket, 1997.
  • “Nontoxic, Natural & Earthwise” by Debra Lynn Dadd, Putnam, 1990.

11. Select Green Energy Resource:
Depending on the region of your residency, try to adopt green energy from wind power, water power, geothermal energy, solar energy, and other energy that can be reused. In the U.S., many states provide preferential tax law or subsidies in order to encourage household install solar-energy, wind power generators which also help save electricity and expenditure on electronic equipment purchase.

Using energy-saving light bulbs, turning off lights after use, operating air-conditioners effectively, drying clothes using sun light instead of dryer, using solar-energy oven for cooking, etc are all actions and commitment to supporting green energy resource.


12. Reconsider Means of Transport:
Transportation consumes 28% of energy. If it is possible to move closer to school or office and walk or cycle to school or to work, and commit to not using automobile for at least one day per week, then the problems of increasingly severe air pollution and traffic jam will eventually improve.

Furthermore, consider buying green powered automobiles (electric cars, natural-fuel car), take public transport or go for car pool, or even consider car sharing(that is, several people sharing the use of one car; in the U.S., a membership system is generally adopted, the members would make an advanced booking on the time of use according to their need, and they pay for the hours used)which will help save money and reduce the cost to society and the environment.


13. Improve the Community:
Turn off the TV; spend time gathering with friends and relatives, organizing community activities such as floatparade, picnic, street meeting, story-telling, concert, photographic exhibition, movie exhibition, etc. Gather the strength of the community, display the history and characteristics of the community and increase the sense of identity with the community.


14. Socially Responsible Investments:
Apply your ideas and values on investments, analyse your current investment portfolio, exclude the companies that do not fit your ideas and values, hire a financial consultant who has experience in “social responsible investment” for assistance.

Many socially responsible green enterprises have been operating and performing well and investors are impressed in all aspects. After I found out such type of investment, I immediately transferred my investment funds to socially responsible green enterprises. For over a year, I am happy with their performance; profit from socially responsible investments enhances satisfaction.

There are always risks involved in all investments, please carefully analyse the company’s financial report, investment plan reports, and so on before making an investment decision. Do not handle your hard-earned money casually, and do not blame others later (do not hold me accountable if you lose money, but I don ” t mind if you wish to share your profit).


15. Invest in Neighbourhood Community:
Make deposits in a community bank or a credit union; choose those banks that invest funds in assisting community development, providing housing loans to low-income households, and helping the development of small enterprises so as to generate job opportunities. Although the interests and services you receive from banks are more or less the same, the way your money is invested makes a big difference; you may even directly enjoy the benefits from community development.


16. Participate in Shareholder’s Action
Make wise use of your rights as a shareholder; participate in the strategic decision voting, drawing the company’s operations to fit closer to your ideas.

17. Generous Donation
Due to recession, donations have shrunk tremendously, many charity organisations are lacking funds and are unable to strive for their goals. After experiencing the shocks of 921 Earthquake, severe earthquake, the September11 terrorists ” attacks, SARS, bird flu and other natural and man-made disasters, we shall feel more deeply for the impermanence of life and shall understand that it is even more important for us to generously make donations according to our own financial standing.

What goes around comes around; this is the simple law of universe on maintaining the balance of the universe. We can think of the money we donated as a deposit into the large bank of the universe. There is no need to worry about the bankruptcy of this bank, and there is no need to use an ATM card. When we are in need, the money will naturally return to us (perhaps in a different form), there is no investment that is more profitable than this one. Holding such mentality, we may feel even happier in donating.

18. Peace Promotion
Promoting peace is not a slogan, but a goal that each of us can strive to achieve in our daily lives. Perhaps stopping war between nations is beyond our reach, but we can start from promoting community peace. Holding seminars allows for people who are not familiar with one another to develop a mutual and peaceful communication channel through the discussion of daily affairs; this will improve the understanding of community members, eliminate racial and religious hatred. More importantly, educate ourselves and our children to emphasize peace, learn to listen patiently and acquire skills to resolve conflicts.


19. Make Good Use of Your Voices:
Write to the relevant organisations regarding issues of your concern, make an appeal at the municipal meeting, or make a phone call to a member of parliament; all these are possible ways to voice your opinion.

20. Educating Others
Widely spread the concept of green consumption that focuses on social responsibility environmental protection and continuous development so that more people will approve to this and take supporting actions. Exchanging information and sharing experience with one another, the ideal outcome will soon be realized since the united will of the masses is like a fortress.


The applicability of the above strategies for green consumption actions may differ from country to country and region to region. This article presents a brief introduction to the situation in the U.S. as a reference for readers from different areas. For more information on the details of the strategies, please visit the relevant websites.

It does not matter whether these20 strategies are a new concept and inspiration or a platitude for you, what is important is that you start your green consumption plans with the strategies that are applicable to you.

End note:
Special thanks to my best friend Jia Qi [transliteration] for her assistance in gathering and sorting the information.

Extracted from Lapis Lazuli Light Magazine 2004 May Issue
Translated by Yih Pin Tang