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  • Shwetha Ganesh Prabhu

Cultivating The Green Consumer

Updated: Mar 2



Most people know that China’s industry generates more carbon emissions than any other country. It’s no surprise that some parts nation have to endure some serious issues with smog and air pollution. But in order to see what’s really driving the impact on the planet, you need to look past the obvious factors that are taking a toll on the environment. Sure, industry and agriculture contribute a large part to the issue, but most of these things are necessary for the smooth function of the world.


To put things in perspective, researchers say that household consumers like us are the biggest drain on the environment. This is very different from the nation based analysis of the environmental impact that most people are accustomed to seeing. In other words, we should probably be looking at our own consumer habits before blaming a country as a whole.


“If you look at China’s per capita consumption-based (environmental) footprint, it is small,” says Diana Ivanova, a Ph.D. candidate at Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Industrial Ecology Programme. This may be hard to believe at first considering the number of products produced in China, but they export a majority of those products to other countries. It’s different if you put the blame on the consumers rather than the producers.


Ivanova and her colleagues’ analysis of environmental impact from a consumer perspective in 43 different countries and 5 rest-of-the-world regions let them see that consumers are directly responsible for 20 percent of all carbon impacts, which result from when people drive their cars and heat their homes.


Necessities or Luxuries?


So many items that were considered luxuries a couple of decades ago are now considered necessities. TVs. Laptops. Cellphones. All of these appliances play a role in feeding consumerism. Nowadays, you can’t turn on your phone without being bombarded with millions of advertisements. With social media platforms like Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat it is a whole lot easier for companies to reach prospective customers. Every company wants you to be their customer. It is no wonder that America consists of the world’s largest hyper consumers. With the pressure on consumers to keep buying the latest item, it becomes tough to draw a line between what is considered a necessity versus a luxury.



Just 40 years ago almost no one in China had private cars. By 2000, 5 million cars moved people and goods; the number is expected to reach 24 million by the end of next year. Meanwhile, in the United States, there are more cars on the road than licensed drivers. As our reliance on Automobiles increases so does pollution, traffic, and the burning of fossil fuels. Cars and other forms of transportation account for nearly 30 percent of world energy use and 95 percent of global oil consumption.


Changing Diet

Another essential part of life that had changed immensely in the past years is diet. In recent times the growing emphasis on meat, but to illustrates the environmental and societal toll exacted by unbridled consumption.


To meet demand, the livestock industry had to change and become more like a factory production. If you look at the big picture, Producing eight ounces of beef requires 6,600 gallons (25,000 liters) of water; 95 percent of world soybean crops are consumed by farm animals, and