Consumption For The Sustainable Soul: An Article By Sylvie Skene


All systems of sustainability are linked together: food, economy, transportation, consumption, community, biodiversity. From what I can see, the most tangible thing for US citizens to work on is to consume less, and when they do, consume more environmentally friendly things. Obviously people cannot stop consuming, but people can change the ways they do. Consumption is one of the easiest things that each individual can change in small ways. Buying less is the obvious choice, because less consumption means less waste. However, in a capitalist structured society people are made to consume, and must keep a sustainable economy. So the option that we must work with is to create more energy-efficient and long-term products for people to consume.

While the consumption of more sustainable minded products is important and beneficial for the environment, an indirect consequence is the creation of an even larger divide between socioeconomic classes. Almost every sustainable product is more expensive. So, sustainability becomes more of an elitist movement, feeding into the concept of “mainstream environmentalism.” This is a factor to acknowledge, but does not necessarily mean that this should control whether this continues. SWAP has an interest in helping people live more sustainably, but also bridging the social gap of what this creates.

On a smaller scale, less consumption is ultimately helping the environment as well. Realistically, people will never reduce their consumption to the point where the economy would suffer. SWAP provides the Washington University campus with an easy way to be sustainable. Our goal is to reduce the consumption of stuff, and to keep ‘things’ within our community. In the storefront, we display a wide range of things students have donated, including clothes, shoes, books, baskets, and other various things that students might need. People may wander in during our daily open hours and take whatever they want for free. This ultimately saves people the cost of getting something new while saving the earth from producing another object.

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