Green Goods and Services
> “The future is… telling us very loudly that we will
have to change the way we live in this country.”
—James Kunstler, The Long Emergency
It sounds like an oxymoron: Buy stuff and save the planet. Rampant consumerism is certainly one cause of the global situation in which we find ourselves today. Our demand for more, bigger, better, faster, and cheaper goods, without concern for the ramifications, has caused us to consume ever-increasing amounts of energy and generate ever-larger mountains of waste. Lower prices on everything from clothing to dishwashers to electronics have caused a purchasing explosion over the past two decades. We buy nearly twice as many clothes per capita as we did in 1991, and more than double the furniture than in 2000.
The manufacture, transport, use, and disposal of all those goods affect our environment. In the face of depleted resources, climate change, species extinction, and population growth, the global stakes are too high to continue with consumerism as usual. Yet telling Americans to stop shopping is as productive as yelling Don’t open that door! at the screen to a hapless teenager in a horror movie. They’re going to do it anyway. And we all need food to eat, a roof over our heads, and clothes to wear. (Whether each of us needs more than one car, several televisions, and three homes is another matter.) The question is, can we have these things without wrecking the environment or living like ascetics?
Some people say we can, albeit with profound adjustments toward the green end of the spectrum. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, each of this country’s nearly 119,000,000 households spent more than $21,000—