During the Quebec Waste Reduction Week, many topics have been covered and many solutions proposed, always in the perspective of sustainable consumption. It might seem that we’ve covered the issue from all angles, shared every possible tip. So what’s keeping us from consuming differently?
When we talk about sustainable consumption, we often refer to the 4R principle.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, RECOVER. For the past few years, we’ve included another R: REFUSE. Why? Because it’s quite clear that the other 4 Rs depend a lot on our decision-making capacity. For example, when shopping, we’re encouraged to ask ourselves if we really need to buy a certain product, if it’s useful, and if it’s good quality (packaging, where it’s made, lifespan, etc.). The answers are often obvious—is it necessary to state them again? Only buy what you really need, choose products with less packaging that are local, durable, sustainable and ethical. Therefore, you should REFUSE everything that doesn’t meet these criteria. If you really need an item, are there ways you can get it without buying it? You can borrow it from your parents, friends or neighbours. There are also resources that allow you to rent, exchange and even repair items instead of buying new ones. But first, you must make the choice to REFUSE the seemingly easier option of going to the Wowmart around the corner. We’re making a choice even when we mistakenly believe we’re recycling the items in our green and brown bins, although they’re only being collected. We’re choosing to REFUSE the garbage in favour of the recycling or composting bin.
In any case, it’s our ability to REFUSE that helps us make better choices and have better practices. With the amount of available information and research on the most environmentally friendly choices and the impact of our consumption habits on the environment, it’s clear that what really stops us from consuming sustainably is our inability to say NO! Of course, there’s also the supply, but as consumers, we have the significant yet underestimated power to influence the demand.
Then why refuse to consume better and differently? Though this is a question for everyone, the answers will be very personal. All of us resist change in our own way. This is where the concept of responsibility comes in. The idea of consuming differently questions first and foremost our responsibility to make necessary choices both as individuals and as a collective.
Today, in the middle of a pandemic, we’re confronted with our ability to REFUSE or to perpetuate consumption actions and habits with major impacts on the environment. Take single-use plastics (grocery bags, utensils, etc.) that are making a strong comeback. There will always be arguments forcing us to consume without thinking, immediately and in a hurry, but we can RESIST and REFUSE. There are as many, if not more, arguments in favour of consuming better and sustainably, all the while conserving our natural resources. With all the information and tools within our reach, we can act differently and knowingly. We know how some consumption choices affect our health, economy and environment. Using compostable wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets full of dipalmitoylethyl hydroxyethylmonium methosulfate is a choice that can significantly impact your health! Reducing household food waste is a choice that has a positive impact on household finances! Using a bike instead of a car to go to work every day reduces greenhouse gases and helps combat climate change, which is a direct danger to all of us.
Consuming sustainably is essentially taking the time to recognize and analyze the factors behind our resistance in order to better understand when to REFUSE and when to make the most ECOnomic and LOGICAL choices for our health, environment and wallet. This sustainable consumption day, we invite you to REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE and RECOVER as much as possible in your daily life. We also invite you to explore the tools at your disposal, like the sustainable consumption directory that provides addresses and solutions to repair, rent, lend, share and buy in an eco-friendly way.
It’s your turn to take action! We hope you’ll give all of this some thought, and especially, make good choices!