One cannot be faulted for pointing out the paradox in the title above. After all, sustainable living is simply self-sustaining. There should be no other effort to “sustain” it.
As the promotion of green living seems to have gained momentum in recent years (especially in the times that we are now where natural resources are seriously depleting and prices of food and fuel rising), human intervention to find alternative resources could create new sets of problems.
One good example is the spate of arguments on biofuels versus food price increases.
While biofuels may become the saviour of world’s energy depletion, criticisms have amounted on increased biofuel production leading to food price increases as countries like Brazil, Thailand, Malaysia and Australia invested heavily in this new industry and crop yields have lessened.
The truth is the conditions that lead to the shortage of food (which leads to food price increase) are varied and complicated.
The following factors have been cited as contributors to food shortage:
- Fuel price increase (hits fertilizer price and transportation costs)
- Food consumption increase (due to expanding population especially India and China)
- Dietary changes (more meat consumption leading to grains grown to support grazing cattle instead of consumers)
- Climatic changes (droughts in Australia & S. Africa, freezing winters in China, exceptional warmth in northern Europe)
All these being said, is it best then we sit back and do nothing?
There are, in my view, human interventions that cannot result in undesirable consequences.
And all it takes is simply a change in our living habits.
We can all start by consuming less. Do not consume more than what we need. Buy less stuff, use less resources.
I know this sounds contradicting from the mouth of a retailer. As a retailer, I should perhaps be advocating SPENDING!
But it did not take me long to reconcile this contradiction.
As a provider of goods and services, what should my contribution be? I reckon my contribution should be providing good quality products that leave as little carbon footprints as can be.
Consumers ought to be given this option. After all, we cannot not consume at all. That would be detrimental to the economy, not to mention the satisfaction of our daily needs. But when we do consume, what should we choose?
Do we choose a cheap and low quality product that can withstand only a few times of use before it ends up in the garbage?
Do we choose poorly constructed products that are cheap but might pose potential hazards?
As a consumer, I often find that the best way to eat or buy things is to eat or buy it at its most natural state.
I am often asked by acquaintance if I really always eat organic food every meal. I wish I can say I can afford organic food every meal but I do try to buy organic food for our family as much as I can. And if you cannot be a vegetarian like me, I told my other friend, just eating less meat is a good step to begin.
Some people asked me too if all the clothing in my wardrobe is organic cotton too since I retail it. Again, I wish it is the case. But that will mean I throw out all the existing non-organic clothing and this is not what sustainable living is all about.
Instead, I will keep wearing them until they are worn out and replace them with organic ones, which fortunately are a lot more accessible to consumers in Singapore now than before.