Eat it up … the less discussed aspect of sustainability

One ongoing topic on this blog appears to be the need to be forever conscious of the consumption dilemma that arises due to expanding markets to untapped communities, specifically BoP and the rural populous. Providing the fringes with first rate technologies and products to better their lives is an integral part of the development quest, but it comes with its own costs.

Triple Pundit writer AS directly discusses this issue with regard to the new effort for building globally sustainable businesses by talking about how consumption itself must also become sustainable.

I want to discuss something that rarely gets discussed in the sustainability world but which I think is going to be a subject of increasing attention. It’s the fact that sustainability is really a two-sided coin. On the one side is sustainable production, which is what all of us in business like to talk about–how companies can get leaner and greener. But on the other side is sustainable consumption, which is something that we don’t talk about much.

AS’ mentioning of water supply and scarcity is especially relevant to the topic of sustainable consumption. (See See Evil, Click Evil …).

Water is the most dramatic example of the coming resources crunch. The list of areas that are likely to run out of water in the next thirty to fifty years is scary, and it is already happening right here at home. Las Vegas, the fastest-growing city in the U.S., is built in the middle of a desert, and the lake that supplies it with its water is drying up from the top and silting up from the bottom. Similar things are happening in many large areas of the world.

To put things in context, AS also recognizes the disproportionate levels of consumption that occurs across nations, particularly with the high consumption rates of Americans vis a vis the rest of the world.

Jared Diamond recently observed that the average American consumes 32 times as many resources as the average Kenyan. When you consider that a billion people live on less than $1 a day, that my lunch cost probably $20 and I am already thinking about dinner, you’d think the ratio would be even higher.

Now put this in a global context. It has been calculated that if the rest of the world were to start living at the same standard of living as people in the U.S., it would take twelve planet Earths to support our collective lifestyle. When I think about how much stuff I throw out every week, that doesn’t really surprise me either. But as far as we know, we only have the natural resources of one planet Earth at our disposal.

Simply put, scary …

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