Back in the day before we knew better, items individually packed were convenient and awesome, disposable was desirable, extra rinse cycles luxurious. But now Borax is sexy again, organics are the new black and everyone’s touting themselves to be eco-conscious. Ethical consumerism is hot on everyone’s lips from restaurant owners to print shops—and manufacturers, marketers and decision-makers are increasingly more obligated to produce under earth-friendly practices, led by a growing population of influential, ethical consumers. (Yay us!)
According to Forrester Research, 41% of the U.S. population are either interested in or are already purchasing from green companies or they are choosing green products and services. The Natural Marketing Institute reports that 63 million adults in the United States are considered “Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability” (LOHAS) consumers. LOHAS consumers spend more than $230 billion dollars per year and are much more likely to purchase from a company that shares their green values. (TheGreenMarket.blogspot.com)
Here in Vancouver the annual EPIC Expo provides a one-stop shop for any one deep entrenched or passively interested in the LOHAS consumer lifestyle. For one 3-day weekend a year the city’s beautiful Convention Centre is taken over by 300 earth-friendly companies in an exhibition that maps out everything you need to know and have to survive sustainably–from food to fashion to transportation to art to politics to essential service to luxuries and a whole lot else in between. 20,000 people walked the grounds of the 6th annual event that took place this past weekend and boasted a full roster of goodies at every turn. Truly, without a stone uncovered–even from the sidewalk, where a free bicycle valet parking service was available for Expo-goers.
Maintaining order in the mass of visitors and maze of exhibitors the Epic Expo sees seems difficult–but the seasoned team pulls it off. Navigating the Centre’s 9,000-and-some square feet is exciting as it is informative and I’ll be highlighting some of my favourite features over these next few articles from each of the 6 “Zones” within the expo: Exhibitors, Main Stage, the EPICurean Corner, EPIC Catwalk, Toyota’s Ride’n'Drive and Granville Island Toy Company’s EPIC Kidzone.
(Photos from EpicExpo.com)
The Ethical Consumer in Canada
The Ethical Consumerism movement is one of the most significant of the last decade. Consumers, realizing the impact their daily choices and actions have on the environment, have created a protocol of new habits and consciousness-in-action by doing tangible things like participating in recycling programs, reusing bags and other items, buying organic, and using environmentally friendly cleaning products.
A number of ethical issues go along with this movement, such as the push for fair wages and working conditions, regulations on animal testing and certain marketing practices, and anti-union activities, as well as company boycotts and the establishment of new ecological and ethical standard bureaus and fair trade organizations.
The idea that citizens can effect change through their behaviour and consumption choices has become an integral part of the environmental and activist discourse. It follows that many political scientists consider ethical consumption, including boycotting, a form of political participation, because its objective is to provoke social change. (Statistics Canada)
And yet, there’s still a long way to go. Some alarming statistics on consumption from our friends at GreenLivingTips.com:
- 12% of the world’s population lives in North America and Western Europe—this population accounts for 60% of the planet’s private consumption spending. 1/3 of the population, who live in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, account for only 3.2 percent. (WorldWatch Institute)
- In 1950, the global population was 2.6 billion people. We had 53 million cars – which works out to be one car for every 50 persons. When Earth’s population hit 6 billion people, there were 500 million cars – more than one car for every dozen inhabitants. Sierra Club
- Grazing occupies over a quarter of the Earth’s terrestrial surface and feed crop production requires about a third of all arable land. UN FAO
- Global oil consumption grew from 59.9 million barrels a day in 1980 to 86.9 million barrels a day in 2010. IndexMundi. In 2010, consumption exceeded production by over 5m barrels per day for the first year ever. The Economist
- The uptake of air-conditioners continues to grow, with 144,300,000 units expected to be sold between 2011 and 2017 (ACR News). Air conditioners place one of the heaviest loads on electricity infrastructure; creating a need for peak power plants that may only operate for a few days each year.
- Industrialized nations, representing only 20% of the world’s population, consume 87% of the world’s printing and writing papers and global production in the pulp, paper and publishing sector is expected to increase by 77% from 1995 to 2020. The pulp and paper industry is the single largest consumer of water used in industrial activities in OECD countries and is the third greatest industrial greenhouse gas emitter, after the chemical and steel industries. Co-op America
- Freshwater withdrawals have tripled over the last half-century and demand for freshwater is increasing by 64 billion cubic meters annually. Worldometers.
- In 2009, 8,454 million gallons of bottled water were consumed in the USA. BottledWater
- The world’s annual consumption of plastic materials has increased from around 5 million tonnes in the 1950s to nearly 100 million tonnes today. WasteOnline
- Between 2000 and 2005 around 10 million acres of forests were lost per year in South America, which incorporates the mighty Amazon forest. The land is cleared primarily for cattle ranches and soybean plantations. Choices Magazine and Monga Bay
- The food we eat now typically travels between 1,500 and 3,000 miles from farm to our dinner plate (also known as food miles). The distance had increased by up to 25 percent between 1980 and 2001. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University
- To grow a pound of wheat requires around 130 gallons of virtual water. For meat, depending on the type – multiply that by five to ten times. Water Footprint
- 148 million hectares of genetically modified crops were planted in 29 countries in 2010, with over 66 million hectares planted in the USA alone. The Economist.