Complete Conscious Consumption

When you buy something, you’re voting. You’re voting with your dollar and saying “I support this product.” But do you ever consider what you’re voting for?

Image is everything

Americans are great at selective conscious buying, especially when it comes to products affecting our image. This is why we focus on image products, products that have a significant impact when it comes to increasing our social acceptance. These impressions are superficial, and do not say much about us besides how we feel others will view our choices. There’s a good reason why we do this. These impressions are safe, they’re bland, and they allow us to appeal to the widest audience possible without jeopardizing our acceptance. We do this, however, at the expense of authenticity and a genuine connection with our values.

Cliché Consumption

What’s the difference between wearing a Nike or a Reebok sweatshirt? They may say which athlete we love, but they fail to reveal anything about our character. So are these purchases really that valuable in the long run? Just like how easily an athlete’s fan base can turn on them (oh how our opinions change overnight – ex. Tiger Woods), these purchases are trendy, fleeting, meaningless, non-exclusive, and cliché. Most importantly, they do not force us to align our beliefs with our actions.

What does this purchase say about me?

Think!So how do we bypass our selective identity crisis and make every purchase matter? It comes down to complete conscious consumption. Complete conscious consumption entails a lengthy list to consider when buying a product (this is by no means a complete list):

Where is it made?

Who benefits from its production?

What is used to make it?

What is wasted to make it?

What is created to make it?

Who makes it?

How are they treated?

How does its production affect the community?

How far does it travel?

Who sells it?

What else do they sell?

Who benefits from my purchase?

Will I use it?

How will I use it?

Will it improve lives?

Will it last?

What life does it have after my use?

Do I dispose it?

What effect will disposal have?

How will I dispose of it?

It’s a big list. More simply, we can ask “What and who has been, is, and will be affected by my purchase?” Every single product we buy, consume, and dispose of actively communicates our values. Every purchase!

The Challenge

My challenge to you is to think about this list before you make your very next purchase. Look at the country of origin, the ingredients and components, the company selling it… and ask yourself “What does this purchase say about me?” If you like your answer, then go for it. If not, I challenge you to find a better solution.

Do you like your answer?

What else can we do to make our purchases more important in our lives?

What is my list missing?

-Jeff Eyink

jeff@dolphinblue.com

Images via flickr from imchaudhry photo and fabiana zonca.

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New Developments in Clean Energy Technology

During a 60-Minutes broadcast on CBS (February 18, 2010), Bloom Energy was described as aBloom Boxmajor innovation in fuel cell technology.  The Bloom fuel cell is composed of relatively inexpensive materials, and it produces electricity from oxidation of natural gas or bio-gas.

It was claimed that an investment of $3000 in a Bloom box could be used to provide power to a residence and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  That would add up to a cost of around $300 billion in the US for residential needs and another $200 billion investment for businesses (my estimate).

The total of $500 billion would buy infrastructure to produce cleaner energy — but not clean energy.  We would still need to extract and oxidize huge amounts of natural gas because bio-gas supplies are not adequate to fuel all our energy needs.  Using natural gas does not constitute a long-term solution to either energy needs or to climate change.  We need to think about ways to eliminate the need to burn natural gas and other fossil fuels.

Another (perhaps alternative) step would be to produce electricity from (a) solar, wind, and geothermal sources on “energy farms” in America’s heartland and (b) off-shore solar, wind, wave, and tidal energy sources on “energy islands” that would be positioned in proximity to population centers near our coasts.   (See http://24-7-360.com/EnergyIsland/patappAndFigures.doc.)

Still, we would need to figure out a way to provide sufficient electricity even when the sun does not shine or when the wind does not blow.  A backup source of energy is needed.

One solution could come from recent developments in an effort to store energy in the form of elemental carbon.   Elemental carbon can be produced from carbon dioxide by a reduction process that uses clean energy.  Elemental carbon could be used like a battery, storing energy that could later be released, as needed, from oxidation to carbon dioxide; but that process would not add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, given that the carbon-dioxide-to-carbon reduction process would offset any net increase in carbon dioxide levels.

Being able to store energy as carbon and to release it without increasing overall carbon dioxide levels would allow us to use only clean energy.  The process of recycling carbon from carbon dioxide could conceivably break dependence on continually extracting and burning fossil fuels.  See this article about recycling carbon dioxide to elemental carbon and using carbon as a recyclable energy resource: http://www.carbonoffsetsdaily.com/press-release/green-carbon-dioxide-recycling-technology-emerging-in-british-columbia-a-feature-of-industry-today-on-industrialinfocom-9964.htm .

Tom Manaugh works as an inventor, an internet marketing consultant for Dolphin Blue, Inc., and a Web designer/developer in Dallas, Texas.

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