Talk: Can consumption become sustainable?

[photo thieved with permission from my lovely friend Chris Oakey]

Last week, we went to a debate as part of the Sydney Festival which was on the topic, Can consumption become sustainable?  The discussion was part of a sustainability debate series that’s being run by Unilever (odd, no?) all around the globe and it was really, really interesting.  The debate was chaired by the super-great Adam Spencer (a maths genius with personality) and the panel included

Dr Val Curtis, Director, Hygiene Centre, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Jon Dee
, Founder and Managing Director, Do Something!, co-founder of Planet Ark and 2010 NSW Australian of the Year
Ingrid Just
, Spokesperson/Head of Media, CHOICE
Gavin Neath
, Senior Vice President, Global Communications and Sustainability, Unilever

The discussion shifted around a fair bit, touching on issues like the fact that ‘green products’ are still a market niche and on the first world/developing world disparity when considering issues of environmental responsibility and consumption.

The idea of green, sustainable products still forming a ‘niche’ market and the implications of this was one of the aspects of the evening that I found most interesting.  Jon Dee (who I have oodles of respect for) was arguing that there shouldn’t be a market for eco-products – that green items need to form the whole market.  There needs to be an entire paradigm shift in terms of production and consumption.

I absolutely agree.  For many people, green still = hippy and certainly in terms of cleaning products, less effective.  It’s often also perceived as being an expensive option.  If that stigma can be removed by making ‘green’ the norm, then that would be a huge leap forward, in terms of both consumer psyche and the environment.

Do Something! recently managed to put in place a voluntary ban on phosphates by working with detergent producers.  Maybe this is the next step to work on.

What do you think?  Do you think that this is a reasonable aim or do you think that it’s completely unachievable?


2 thoughts on “Talk: Can consumption become sustainable?

  1. It’s interesting how much the economic concerns factor into a discussion about these things. If you take out the monetary cost, it becomes a simple choice (well, for me, at least). Factor it back in, and you have social, political, and economic ramifications that affect a large number people.

    Ah, money.

  2. Hello Lucinda. I actually “dropped by” to let you know that I mentioned your blog on my latest post. You see, a fellow blogger nominated me for a “Versatile Blogger” award. And, in the spirit of the award, I had to mention blogs that I thought were worth nominating. I mentioned yours. And, I was required to let you know : )
    If you’d like to see what I wrote, just head to my site and look for a post titled “Thanks Martin”.

    Take care.

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