Sustainable consumers are consumers who consider the social and ecological impacts of what they purchase. When shopping, a sustainable consumer considers the “life-cycle” of an item, or every step of its production. For example, a sustainable consumer would consider a company’s labor practices, energy efficiency, transport, production methods, and waste disposal.
However, the definition of sustainable consumption is a wide one that can vary. Most definitions emphasize buying based on need rather than desire, favoring quality of life over material standard of living, purchase decisions that minimize resource use, waste, and pollution, considering the production steps of an item, and considering the impact of purchase decisions.
The above answer is very detailed and accurate. Just to add some diversity to the conversation I’d like to add a quote from Charles L. Harper, a professor at Creighton University, from his book Environment and Society: Human Perspectives on Environmental Issues. This is what he has to say about sustainable consumerism and economics:
“Economic markets work the same to make money and determine prices whether resources are plentiful or scarce. Nor do social values or questions of justice intrude: Markets work whether you are growing corn, producing health services, selling heroin, cleaning up toxic wastes, or selling slaves. Neoclassical economics deals extensively with ‘efficient’ allocation, secondarily with distribution, and not at all with matters of scale. Though construing the world in narrow and abstract terms, neoclassical economics has become enormously influential in industrial societies in shaping debates about social, political, and environmental policy. This is true partly, I think, because the theory appears more objective by deliberately ignoring questions of human values and political and ethical considerations.”
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