Well it’s about that time again.
Earth Day is around the corner, so get ready for those obligatory Earth Day Resolution lists that will inevitably saturate the Internet on April 22.
Some will suggest turning off the water while brushing your teeth or lowering your thermostat. Others will tell you to try carpooling or recycling. And these are all great ideas. But at the end of the day, I’m still convinced that the best way to do right by Mother Earth is to use your power as a consumer.
A Few Free Market Ideas
About five years ago, while speaking at a sustainability conference, someone asked me what I thought was the best way to stop the industrialization of our agriculture. My answer was simple – buy organic!
The best thing you can do to slow the growth of industrial farming practices is buy organic food. Buy your produce directly from farmers that are growing their crops without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Or buy it from grocery stores that carry these organic offerings. If you eat meat, make sure it’s free-range, organic, grass-fed, doesn’t contain growth hormones, etc.
Without a doubt, the most powerful tool you have to fight environmentally-irresponsible practices is your wallet.
This goes for energy too.
Think coal-fired power is poisoning your air and water?
Well, if you can afford it, and it makes sense where you live – go solar. If that doesn’t fit into your budget, see if your local utility offers a plan where you can purchase power produced from utility-scale wind. It may cost you a few extra bucks a month, but by using your purchasing power to make this decision, you’re telling the utility that you want to power your home with renewables, and not coal. I guarantee this makes a much bigger impact than writing a letter that’ll inevitably end up in the trash.
Or just make your home more energy efficient. From weather stripping to new energy efficient windows to smart meters, there are dozens of ways you can decrease your consumption of fossil fuels, and even save a few bucks in the process.
Tired of paying to power your car with something that you know is depleting our natural capital at an alarming rate? Give public transportation a try. One of the best ways to reduce your consumption of oil is to take mass transit. The more folks do this, the stronger the message becomes to those who fund the expansion of mass transit.
And let’s face it: We’re significantly behind the rest of the world when it comes to public transportation. The longer we wait to get on board, the longer our very dangerous reliance on oil will continue.
But it can be done, and we can take proactive steps to lessen our reliance on oil if we opt to get out of our cars and onto the trains and buses.
In fact, according to the American Public Transportation Association, if Americans used public transportation at the same rate as Europeans (approximately 10 percent of total daily travel needs), the U.S. would reduce its need for imported oil by about 40 percent!
Yes, it’s important to be vocal and let folks know, rationally, that the status-quo of unsustainable living is no longer acceptable. But just remember, your wallet speaks just as loud as your voice.
Think about it.
Do you really think we’d have as many organic offerings as we have today without a very profitable Whole Foods Market?
Do you really think we’d be able to power the equivalent of 9.7 million U.S. homes with wind energy without the very successful companies that manufacture wind turbines, like Vestas , General Electric and Gamesa?
Do you really think we’d have natural cleaning products like those offered by Seventh Generation, or sustainable carpeting options from Interface, Inc?
These companies exist because responsible consumers are enabling their success.
So for this Earth Day, I would suggest dipping your toes into this free market solution. Go for that free-range chicken or organic green leaf lettuce. Give mass transit a try one day next week (after familiarizing yourself with the schedule first). Look into getting on the renewable energy plan with your local utility.
And if you have any other suggestions that you’d like to share, please don’t hesitate to add them to our comments section below.