Beyond consumption: How conscious choices shape our future

Targeted decisions as an opportunity to bring about sustainable change?

sustainable decision

Author: House of Eden

In a fast-moving society, needs are often satisfied through consumption. Brands, clothing and lifestyles have become symbols that shape our personal image. But it is precisely this consumer behavior that poses one of the greatest challenges of our time: the climate crisis.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, the average household in Europe today owns around 10.000 things, whereas a household 100 years ago only owned around 180 items. Despite this abundance, people are not happier. Impulse purchases, which are often made out of an instinctive urge, only bring short-term joy. In the long term, however, they contribute little to happiness and pollute our environment. Why are we so consumer-oriented?

From an evolutionary perspective, possessions provide security. Researchers say that humans evolved in times of scarcity, so they always strive for abundance. As abundance increases, we feel more secure - we are no longer threatened by scarcity. Happiness researcher Ed Diener has also shown that there could be a connection between the secure feeling of having resources and happiness.

Today, consumption often means belonging and self-expression. But does consumption really make you happy? Can conscious decisions not only protect the environment but also lead to a more fulfilling life? The answer lies in the willingness to take sustainable paths and consume consciously.

Conscious decisions bring about change

Sustainable choices include small actions like reducing your waste or switching to environmentally friendly products. But conscious choices are much more than just purchasing decisions. They also include sharing knowledge, standing up for social justice and taking care of your own well-being.

Education and personal development: According to a study of the Boston Consulting Group, the level of education plays a major role in the willingness to live sustainably. 80% of respondents with a higher level of education classified themselves as environmentally conscious, compared to 67% of respondents with a lower level of education. Sustainability and education are therefore closely related. This underlines why "Quality Education" is one of the UN's sustainable development goals (SDG4).

Take a stand: "Fridays for Future" has already shown how important it is to take a stand on climate change. Those who publicly express their position and enter dialogues can raise awareness of important issues in society. This goes beyond the issue of climate change and extends to social injustice.

Social commitment: Beyond consumption, there is a social responsibility. Participation in community projects such as urban gardens, clean-up campaigns or swap meets can already ensure a greener future. Building networks in communities is just as important because this is where exchanges take place and sustainable practices can be passed on.

Health and well-being: Anyone who deals intensively with the climate crisis is usually overwhelmed by horrifying figures. No wonder that some people are plagued by feelings of powerlessness and helplessness. That is why it is important to pay attention to mental health. Because those who pay attention to their well-being in the long term will find it easier to make long-term sustainable decisions.

Sustainable decisions – people in exchange with each other

Source & Copyright by Alexander Suhorucov | Pexels.com

Inspection of your own impact sphere

There is often a difference between what a person feels and how he acts. We are not always provided with all the tools we need to make a change. This gap is also known as the knowing-doing gap. According to the "Sustainability Sector Index 2023" by Kantar, a company that provides marketing data and analysis, there is a large discrepancy between personal responsibility and the actions that individuals take. Although 58% of respondents felt responsible towards the environment, only 45% actively took measures to change things.

And this despite the fact that, according to the"Sustainability Research"of Bain & Company, 60% of respondents said they were more concerned than ever about the climate crisis over the past two years. To overcome this hurdle, it is important to analyze your own behavior. In order to be able to implement sustainable decisions in life in the long term, you have to determine your own sphere of influence. Questions such as: "What influence do I have?" or "How do I bring about change in my social environment or my job?" are a first step. Self-reflection in particular plays a major role in breaking behavioral patterns and habits.

What's next?

Not only consumers, but also companies, politicians and the media bear an immense responsibility. Companies are shaping the economy of tomorrow through their culture, values ​​and investments in innovation and transformation. It is time to overcome phenomena such as greenwashing and green-hushing. Transparency through legal requirements, labels or digital solutions is essential. Consumers, in turn, must understand this information, which is why knowledge is the key to making more conscious decisions.

Increasing environmental anxiety, combined with stricter regulations and technological advances, will drive alternative business models and reshape consumption in a way that could render consumer goods and retailers obsolete. Models such as renting, repairing, sharing and recycling will be at the forefront to meet customer needs. Companies will therefore move beyond traditional consumption models and adopt new, non-financial measures of success.

Conclusion: Action instead of perfection

According to the UN, sustainability means: "Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." So if you ask yourself what the essence of a sustainable decision is, you will find the answer in the definition of the term. Sustainable decisions are, above all, those that do not endanger our planet, our society, our future.

Overconsumption is a decision that is not always made consciously, but is nevertheless linked to fatal causalities. Choosing conscious alternatives every day can bring about change. Even if you feel powerless as an individual at times, each and every one of us contributes to the whole. The American political scientist Howard Zinn recognized this early on and said: "Small actions, when multiplied by millions of people, can change the world."

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