If you want to take an active role in protecting the environment, you're probably aware of the movements toward sustainability and going green.
What you may not realize, however, is that those two concepts are not synonymous, and one is far more beneficial than the other.
When you get involved in environmental activism, you frequently hear the three Rs: reuse, reduce and recycle. All three of these are critical parts of sustainability and protecting the environment.
However, if you examine the bulk of the "Go Green" campaign, you'll notice that none of these tactics are actually being employed. Why? Because they're not profitable.
Going Green: A PR Campaign
During the early decades of the environmentalist movement, activists were often characterized as outcasts, protesting anyone and everyone with the help of a few allies fighting for them. However, as research expanded on global warming, more and more people began to recognize the realities of the human impact on climate.
This was bad news for major corporations, who were found to be overwhelmingly at fault for most of the major pollution taking place. Companies like Exxon funded studies attempting to disprove the connection between human activity and global warming, but had little success.
Eventually, corporations realized green movements weren't going away. Rather than give in to the needs of the environment, however, businessmen got creative.
The rise of "green capitalism" is seen in the Go Green movement, in which consumers are encouraged to buy the newest product made with the greenest technology, regardless of the fact that continuing to purchase even green products creates pollution.
Neither reduce, reuse nor recycle are profitable for companies, so instead, they learned how to capitalize off the desire to get involved in the green movement.
For example, purchasing a hybrid car has been touted as a fantastic move to help save the environment, but even hybrid cars release emissions and create waste. A far more sustainable alternative would be to encourage public transportation or completely gas-less transportation.
Of course, that would be harmful to both the car and the oil industry.
Rather than getting swept up in green shopping (i.e. replacing all your appliances with green-certified, special appliances or swapping out your current wardrobe for an environmentally-conscious wardrobe), think about how to simply reduce unnecessary waste in your life.
When it comes to your personal life, living sustainably means cutting down on needless shopping and making an effort to reuse or recycle instead of throwing away. It means rethinking how to help the environment and reconsidering the notion of green businesses and green living.
You can also follow the examples of several companies who focus on renewable energy, which is, by definition, a “sustainable” approach.
Even recycling alone can create unnecessary waste. Many products take up so much energy being processed, they undo any benefits of being recycled, and some recyclable products can frequently get confused for non-recyclables.
Sustainability requires conscientious thinking about how to minimize your carbon footprint as much as possible, rather than relying on easy activism.
Some good steps for living sustainably begin with reevaluating your shopping needs.
Before purchasing something, ask yourself the following questions: Do I need this? Can I buy it used? What kind of packaging does it have? Are there more sustainable options that can suit my needs?
Frequent thrift shops and secondhand stores as much as possible. Everything from furniture to clothes to kitchenware can be found in secondhand stores, which fulfill plenty of your needs without creating more waste.
Think about how to cut down on gas emissions. Avoid driving when possible, and carpool whenever you can. Public transportation is ideal, and a totally carbon-free option like bicycling is even better.
Your grocery store is a great place to practice sustainability. Choose reusable bags for your groceries rather than asking for plastic bags. Buy unwrapped produce, instead of the prepackaged stuff, to avoid unnecessary packaging. Look for companies that practice sustainable agriculture.
"Going green" can feel like a good way to help the environment, but it's often little more than standard consumerism dressed up with a deceiving, green color scheme.
Living sustainably requires much more effort, and it will have a much more positive impact on the environment.