Monday, October 01, 2012

Thinking About Consumption

Caught DIVE! a documentary by Jeremy Seifert on America's food waste problem. Proving that dumpster food can be safe for consumption, he along with others rifle through dumpsters regularly--not compelled by poverty but by a reluctance to see valuable food go to waste.

Seifert reports that America dumps 96 billion pounds of consumable food every year, which takes up 20% of landfills. Key fact to remember: there is a cost, i.e. resources, that's expended to produce food, although it's not visible to the consumer. So throwing away a single pound of food means we actually waste all the resources that went into putting it on our dinner table.

It's not just a film that aims to change consumer behaviour, but more than that, to highlight how food companies have a crucial role to play in deciding how to manage excess/expended food.

Something to seriously think about as we bite into our foods, not just our favourite but also those that we don't fancy and would feel nothing about letting it go to waste.

Which leads me to...

In Must-Have: The Hidden Instincts Behind Everything We Buy, Geoffrey Miller breaks down how consumers' display of their lifestyles, through the cars, music, clothes, books, foods, life partners, opinions etc. are all driven by innate evolutionary desires to appear more attractive and therefore better able to mate and find success.

Miller offers many ideas and explanations for our consumer behaviour--he can be tongue-in-cheek at times--including "Central Six" attributes and not demographics that can fairly accurately predict behaviour. He concludes with suggestions to change social norms such as imposing extra retail taxes on brand new products to curb consumption, raising the prices of products with intangible costs (e.g. social costs such as ammo for guns).

The main takeaway: Consider and weigh our own motivations for lifestyle choices.

Food for thought: What motivates people to give or get involved in charity? If it's sympathy-inducing situations coupled with latent desire to do good without being too inconvenienced...why do most of us brush aside people who beg on the streets? Do givers/carers need to have positive giving experiences in order to encourage them to continue giving/caring?

e² design by PBS features inspiring projects and architects/designer who have consciously implemented designs that are--here comes the E word--environmentally conscious.

Key points: Good design requires forethought and consideration of context and culture. Implementation of bold ideas requires willingness and flexibility to try. See the larger picture in order to appreciate various factors at work.

It's not about tree-hugging sentiments, but actually about practical concerns such as how to save costs in the long run, how to reduce energy usage, how to create a conducive, comfortable and culturally-relevant social space etc. If only we can just stop and ask ourselves them questions.

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