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Sustainable Consumption

What Is "Sustainable Consumption?"

The Lowell Center for Sustainable Production (LCSP) uses the term "consumption" to refer to the sequence of activities involved in purchasing, using, and passing along goods, services, materials, energy, or resources. (By "passing along," we mean discarding, destroying, reusing, or recycling.) Consumers include individuals, businesses, institutions (such as universities and hospitals), and governments. Consumption per se is not inherently bad -- indeed, it is necessary to sustain life. Yet certain patterns of consumption deplete nonrenewable resources, degrade the environment, or contribute to the perpetuation of unacceptable conditions in society or the workplace. Such patterns are unjust, inequitable, and unsustainable.

The concept of sustainable consumption offers a different paradigm. LCSP defines sustainable consumption as the selection, use, and disposal of products and services in a way that conserves energy and materials, minimizes the depletion of natural resources, avoids toxic and hazardous substances, and optimizes the quality of life of consumers and workers throughout the life cycle of the products or services ("from cradle to cradle"). Like sustainable production, sustainable consumption involves meeting present needs without compromising the capacity of future generations to do the same. Examples of sustainable consumption practices include: the sharing, repair, and reuse of products; the use of durable, long-lasting, and upgradable products; and the use of products whose constituent materials are renewable or replenishable.

You may be interested in the LCSP Sustainable Products Initiative.