The Consumer Economy
Daniel Goleman, author and psychologist, talks about how Walmart is a leader in innovation for producing low-impact products.
I think that it’s naïve to think that we will get soon to a point where we don’t buy stuff. I know someone who’s a Freegan. She lives in a community in Portland or in Oregon, somewhere near Portland, where there’re a lot of other Freegans. She’s in her 20s. She doesn’t have a family. She doesn’t have a job. She’s dumpster and dives for food. She doesn’t take a car. She will walk or ride a bike and so wonderful. In terms of her personal impact on the planet is great but for the rest of us who buy stuff, who have families, we don’t have that option. So rather than a post-consumer society, it’s exactly what you said, we need a smart consumer society. And now, we have the data at our fingertips that will help us do just that. What you’re assuming is that it’s more expensive for the better product. And that’s an easy assumption. Most of us would think so. And in fact, the marketing has been such that we have come to expect that the premium product will be the better product including an eco in the eco realm. Actually, if you look at skin deep and you look at the 10 safest shampoos and the 10 worst shampoos, the single most expensive shampoo is among the 10 worst. So it doesn’t really equate. Also, as consumers shift, drive companies to upgrade the supply chain. Businesses know how to make things cheaper, even better things cheaper. One of the biggest players in this by the way, is Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is using life cycle assessment to look at all of its house brands. It has 4700 plus house brands, tens of thousands of suppliers. It is going to ask its suppliers to upgrade their ecological impacts. Once Wal-Mart gets into the game, you’re going to find huge economies of scale in this very area. So there maybe a higher price for some of this now but I don’t think it’ll be that way in the long run. I also think by the way, in terms of the present economy, that this maybe finding innovating the better alternative product maybe one of the biggest entrepreneurial opportunities for decades now and coming out of the slump, I think that this maybe one of the things that drives a recovery impact. Well, I think the bottom line is that we can make the bottom line drive the planet in a better direction. If we each take responsibility I mean, if each of us simply went to GoodGuide.com, took out the 10 lists of the 10 things we buy most often every week, look at them and see if they’re the best alternative or if there’s a better one we can get and did that. And then told our friends why we had done what we done, put it on the Facebook or your e-mail list whatever and do something else. E-mail the company. Good Guide gives you the option in a single click to inform the company whose product you have bought are not bought, why you made that decision. The more of us to do that, the stronger we will have leverage and the sooner to get companies to change how they do things. So I think that all of us have a new kind of collective power. I’m actually quite hopeful.