INTRODUCTION

The more people
spend, the more they are likely to be in debt, the more they’re in debt, the
more they work, the more they work, the more they borrow. The more they borrow,
the more they spend. So, they end up becoming “wage slaves”.

Today’s world
is a global village. People have become integrated economically, socially and
culturally.  Therefore, it has become
easy for people in different part of the world to consume different goods and service
of their choice.

Sustainable
consumption is doing more and better with less. That is, reducing resource use,
degradation and pollution along the whole lifecycle, while increasing quality
of life. 

Globalization,
increase in population coupled with increase in economic power of people has
led to the increase in consumption. People have the financial power to consume
any combination of goods they want because they can afford it.  It is important to note that every choice we
make as consumer has an impact on the environment and society. To be a
responsible consumer means we have the power to change the world through what
you choose to consume and how you consume it.

In recent
times, there’s been a lot of issues and debates on sustainability. Continuing with
current consumptions trends in the world is no longer an option. It is
important to explore new and safe methods of consumption which does not
compromise the needs of the future generation. Promoting sustainable
consumption and production are important towards achieving sustainable
development. Sustainable consumption is the use of products and services that
have minimal impact on the environment so that future generations can meet
their needs.

Nations came
together to develop goals called the Sustainable development goals(SDGs), because
there is the need to promote sustainability so as not to make the resources
deplete.

These Nations
pledged to develop a holistic approach by adopting common measures to end
irresponsible and unsustainable means of consumption, so that the future
generations do not suffer. Governments, businesses and individual citizens must
do more to make the world more sustainable. We cannot talk about consumption without
mentioning production. Producers produce what we consume. Therefore, it is also
important for producers to use sustainable means to produce wholesome products instead
of just making profits. In the developed countries, producers produce high quality
goods for these markets and dump the unwholesome products in developing countries
like Africa and Asia. This is also an unsustainable production behavior which needs
to be stopped.

Even though a
lot of efforts are being made, unfortunately certain consumption attitudes of
people very irresponsible and are not sustainable.

This study
basically is to analyze unsustainable consumption of food, clothes, energy and transportation,
and develop policies on how to help change such behaviors.

FOOD

Food
and water are very basic and essential to life. Food forms an important part of
our cultural identity and it plays an important role in the economy. Also, the
food we eat affects our health. Every day, vast quantities of food are
produced, distributed, and consumed, and these activities have direct impacts
on human health and on the environment. Without food, human being cannot
survive.

Despite food
being a basic commodity for human survival, a lot of people do not have access
to food and water especially in Asia and Africa.  It is estimated that about 795 million people
are hungry worldwide. (Ingram, J. 2017).
Yet, lots of people have bad attitude towards food. They buy what they don’t
need and throw food away. It is estimated that about 88 million tonnes of food
is wasted in Europe annually (Filimonau, V.,
& Gherbin, A. 2017). This is a very worrying trend. Because people
are dying of hunger whiles, so much food is being thrown away.  Consumers also tend to buy food they don’t
need, in effect it drives up food prices. For instance, buying two bags of
potatoes when you only need one not only costs you more but creates an
artificially high demand for potatoes. Thus, driving prices even higher.

Food wastage is
caused by poor planning and impulse buying. One of the reasons we waste food is
because we fail to plan before we shop. People go to super markets, and instead
of buying what the just need, they end up buying other things which looks
appealing to the eyes or only because those items are discounted. I personally
experienced this when I visited a shopping mall in Milan during the Christmas
season.  A lot of food items were on
offer and discounted. I realized people were buying a lot of them. The question
is, do these people really need all these food items? Will they be able to
consume all since most were perishable items?

 

In poor
countries in Africa and Asia, food is usually lost while it is still in the
field due to poor storage and transportation systems. This is because food
producers there do not have effective technology and proper means of storing
food.

As population
increases it is important to be sustainable as possible so that we do not
jeopardize the needs of the future generation. It is important to develop a
positive attitude towards how we handle food.

 

ENERGY

Without energy,
millions of people would be left cold and hungry.  The major source
of energy comes from fossil fuels, and the dominant fossil fuels used today are
oil, coal, and natural gas. The world’s non-renewable energy resources, notably
fossil fuels, are being rapidly depleted. This is due to the accelerating
energy requirements made by rapid global population growth and development.
Wasteful and inefficient use of energy are significant contributors to energy
exhaustion. Energy usage and its resulting impact on our environment has
become one of the top concerns facing humanity. For example, most consumers
have bad attitudes towards saving energy. Most people do not turn of their
heating systems, lights, television when leaving their homes. Because they
think they pay their own bills and can do whatever they want. But if such
habits continue, it will get to a time where there won’t be much energy to
consume, which puts the future generation in great danger.

 

CLOTHES

The fashion
cycles have become increasingly fast paced. The demand for clothes have
increased due to increase in population and purchasing power. Because of the
increase in demand for fashion, some producers in the fashion industry are
using unsustainable production techniques to keep up with demand and increase
profit.  Fast fashion provides the market with
affordable apparel that help create the desire for new “must-haves” for each
season.

Despite
this, fast fashion leaves a bad footprint, with each step of the clothing life
cycle generating potential environmental and occupational hazards.
Producers have however, been reluctant to adopt sustainable means in their
production cycle. With the rise in production in the fashion industry, demand
for cotton, man-made fibers, especially polyester has increased.  Much of the
cotton produced are exported to China, Thailand and Bangladesh and other
countries with low labor costs. According to figures from the U.S. National
Labor Committee, these workers in China and Thailand earn as little as 12–18
cents per hour working in poor conditions (Simpson, M. P.2017).

People buy
clothes they don’t need and end up wasting them and putting pressure on those
who make garments. Why should this happen? It is important we develop the
spirit of conservation.

 

 

TRANSPORTATION

Transportation
is what moves us. Everyone needs transportation to travel to and from school,
work, and other places. Therefore, we cannot remove the importance of
transportation entirely from their budgets.

Despite the
positives of transportation, consumers have several bad transportation
attitudes. These unsustainable attitudes are damaging to the public interest in
terms of public health, community spending habits. Therefore, it is important
to put some thought towards affordable and socially responsible alternatives to
typical transportation practices.

Consumers
usage of petroleum-based cars continue to increase. But oil-based energy products
are a non-renewable resource, which means that as consumers increase their
energy consumption, the future generation will have no or little oil. According
to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2012, Americans consumed
18.6 million barrels of oil per day, which makes the United States the world’s
highest  petroleum consumer (Ratner, M.,
& Glover, C. 2014). Also, all modes of
transportation that consume petroleum based fuels contribute to air and water
pollution

 In recent times, car ownership is seen, as an
indicator of economic success. For instance, in a
country like Ghana, most people have the perception that using a car is more of
a necessity, than luxury. Most people
will choose to travel by car if they’re presented with the option between a
bus, train, or bike, which are relatively cheaper,
and no one can fault a person for preferring convenience to inconvenience.  But sometimes, such convenience comes with a
huge cost. Traveling by car for simple trips around town can drive up fuel consumption,
reduce neighborhood inter-connectivity, and deplete a community’s green spaces
by demanding additional roads and parking spaces. In Ghana, the government
spends more money on building roads and road maintenance. Instead these funds
can be spent on building hospitals, schools, access to clean water, etc.

 

POLICIES ON HOW TO CURB UNSUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION

 

Consumption is
a very delicate area to target through conventional policy measures. It is
usually perceived of as a private domain. Consumers can make choices freely in
the market, so therefore, regulating consumers choice and preferences are
extremely difficult. But if we can all make a conscious effort, we can achieve
this great feat. To achieve this feat, it is important for nations to incorporate
sustainable consumption and production into national policymaking and governance.

Below are some
of my proposed policies on how to encourage sustainable consumption.

 

      
I.           
Education and Communication Campaign

Education is
one of the most powerful tools that can be used to help consumers become more
sustainable consumers. Most people do not know the importance of sustainable
consumption. Also, they do not know the impact of their bad consumption
attitudes have on environment. Information and awareness-raising among
consumers is very important in promoting sustainable consumption behaviors.

Proposal 1;
Developing and implementing a curriculum on sustainable development to be
thought in schools. For example, the University of Milan has a program
Sustainable development, where students are thought about sustainability issues
and how to make the world a better place, for the current and future
generations. This curriculum should be thought from pre-school to increase
awareness of the young students since they are the future generation. If this
is done, it will go a long way to help solve the problem at the root.

Proposal 2;
Most consumers lack knowledge about environmentally sustainable consumption
attitudes. The lack of knowledge alone is a huge barrier.

Therefore,
there should be more television and radio adverts on sustainability instead of
the sole function of enticing people to buy more which do may not need and will
go waste. Adverts should focus on promoting sustainable consumption ethics.
Example an advert named “Reduce wasting of food, millions are dying of hunger”
should be aired frequently to provide consumers with data on food being wasted
annually, and the number of people who go hungry. Also, forums and conferences
should also be organized to inform people about the current issues of
sustainability.  This will help consumers
be more conscious about their consumption habits.

   
II.           
GOVERNMENTS MUST ENFORCE MANDATORY LABELLING AND
BANNING UNSUSTAINABLE PRODCUTS.

Governments
must make corporate sustainability reporting a legal and enforceable thing.
Sustainability reporting is a tool used by companies to inform consumers of
their social and environmental values, which are usually covered by labelling.
Therefore, governments must make it legally binding for companies show the
contents of their products. For instance, all electrical appliances must be labelled
to show the energy consumption percentage.

Labelling of
foods are also very important because it shows the nutritional contents. Such
information will make consumers informed about the health, environmental and
social impacts of the products. Examples, warning labels on cigarettes, the
nutritional values of food products. This will help consumers be cautions not
to buy anything which is on sales in the super market but buy products needed. 

 

 

 III.           
USING TAXATION TO LIMIT CONSUMPTION PATTERNS

Increasing
taxes on less sustainable products can be effective in controlling consumer
behavior. Taxes and charges can be more effective than regulations, because
regulations require more monitoring efforts. 
For instance, I propose increasing purchase, fuel and registration taxes
on cars will deter consumers from buying cars and rather use public transport. This
can help reduce limit car emissions and over-reliance on petroleum products.
Governments should adopt this approach and encourage eco- friendly cars. In
Milan for instance, most of the public buses are eco-friendly. Other nations
should learn and enforce this method of transportation. Recently, Tesla cars
which are electricity powered cars should be encouraged because they do not
emit carbon dioxide into the environment. This is good since its
environmentally friendly.

Consumers are
price sensitive, thus a change in prices will affect the behavior of
consumers.  Increasing household energy
consumption tax (electricity, water use, and household waste disposal) will
help deter people from throwing food away and to manage water and electricity
more effectively.

 

 

  IV.           
TOUGHER AND STRICT LAWS ON FASHION

To address the
environmental impacts of fast fashion at its source, governments must ensure dress
makers develop eco-friendly fashion methods. For instance, I propose the use of
polymers created from plant-based materials, hemp, bamboo, and other fiber
crops that require less pesticides, irrigation, and other inputs..

Another way is
to make clothing from postconsumer plastic soda bottles. One company who uses
this method Patagonia. The company estimates saved 86 million soda bottles from
ending up in the landfill (Smal,
D.2008). So, if one clothing company is doing
this and still making profit, what stops other companies from using this
method?  Rather than using unsustainable
means, making textiles workers in China, Thailand and Bangladesh work under
severe and harsh condition, who earn very little. It is important for
government and civil groups to force dress makers to adopt these methods in
manufacturing clothes. Such regulation and standards, addition to raising
consumers awareness about less toxic and sustainable products will help
consumers have a positive clothing consumption attitude.

    
V.           
GIVING BUSINESSES AND INDIVIDUALS SUBSIDIES AND
INCENTIVES

To promote
sustainable behavior, I propose governments give subsidies to household and
companies who engage in sustainable activities. By giving them tax rebate,
cheaper transportation tickets, developing an award scheme to reward people who
are doing well to preserve the environment. This will help promote sustainable
behaviors across many households.

  VI.           
DEVELOPING COUNTRIES NEED TO HAVE TOUGHER LAWS TO
PREVENT DUMPING.

Most African
and Asian countries must impose strict laws to deal with dumping. They must ban
all unwholesome products from the market and report such companies to their
home governments. The home government must also help by dealing with such
companies. They should impose heavy fines on companies who practice this or
kick them out of business. For instance, Ghana has banned the importation of
all second hand electrical appliance and over-aged car. And any company who
brings such product loses their business license. I recommend this practice to
most countries who are facing such issues, to help keep consumers and the
environment safe.