Eat, drink, consume

Published: Saturday 31 July 2004

-- Good Stuff? World Watch Institute USA

Around 1.7 billion people have now joined the consumer class. Nearly half of them live in developing countries -- 240 million in China and 120 million in India. In contrast to consumers, there are 2.8 billion people who consume too little. They suffer from hunger and poverty.

'Good Stuff? A behind-the-scenes guide to the thing we buy' is a free online publication (available at: containing tips for a less consumptive society. It tells consumers what goes into the production, use, and disposal of 25 common consumer items. The World Watch Institute, a Washington-based independent research group which has published the guide, says it is an "action-oriented" approach to "green our purchases".

The guide is simple: a list of damages a consumer good does, simple steps that can limit the damage, success stories, a did you know section and web links to more information. Lighting (compact fluorescent bulbs can cut electricity use for lighting at homes by up to half) or gold jewelry (roughly half of the gold produced worldwide has or will come from the traditional land of indigenous people), the guide wants consumers "to take a fresh look at their buying choices".

"The news is always filled with grim environmental challenges like global climate change or air and water pollution," says research associate Lisa Mastny, who co-directed the Good Stuff project. "But as individual consumers, we have surprising power to bring about positive change through our purchases."

At the end of the publication, there is a challenge for consumers: try to take three actions which change the way you consume and dispose of products. If you need help, you know where to look.

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