Tag Archives: cell phones

“Conscious Consumption to Create Change” — Justin Smith

Where does all this stuff we buy actually come from? There are a staggering number of nonrenewable materials and toxic chemical processes that are involved in nearly every single consumer product on the market today. And for all of these things that go into making our stuff, so very little of it is properly disposed of for reuse. Our planet is running out of resources, but the price of consumer goods continues to drop. This is because companies are externalizing costs* so that everyone pays for it, but not just monetarily.The price of most products today, from food to oil, do not reflect their true costs because someone other than the purchaser is paying in some other way for the goods being produced (1). The goods that are being made are created at the expense of the environment, of those in third world countries who are paid next to nothing, and at the expense of the health of every single organism, including humans, who inhabit this planet.

The current system of consumption our global society has invested in is far from a sustainable one. It is digging us deeper into a hole from which we may not be able to escape.The demand for a variety of cheap products continues to go up as our supply of resources decreases, both of which at exponential rates linked to population, industrialization, and consumption (2). This downwards spiral is depleting the Earth and replacing it with garbage.

When a consumer is ready to buy a new computer, the old one is not sent to be stripped down so that the valuable metals they contain might be reused in the next one. Instead, the old one is chucked in the dump and a new one is purchased. Our linear system of extraction, production, distribution, use and disposal results in tons of perfectly reusable resources such as gold, copper and mercury being thrown into a landfill and sealed up for future generations to deal with.

Computers and phones both are made with many processes and components containing mercury. The average computer contains as much as 0.7 grams of mercury (3), which is vastly higher than the EPA’s minimum “safe” dose of .1 microgram (4). Investigations are finding that many unexpected products, including children’s toys, contain far more mercury and other potentially toxic compounds that could could have potentially devastating and lasting neurological impacts.

The very things we wear are made of synthetics material that can leach toxins into your skin, the air, and the ground. A common detergent used by many brand name textile manufacturers has been proven to affect sexual maturation and reproductive abilities of both the individuals in the factory working with them, and in the consumers who wash them, releasing the chemicals into the water in which all of their clothes are (5). This is a great example of an externalized cost: the shirt you buy at the mall is sold for less money than its total cost because now included in the cost is the price of healthcare for everyone exposed to the toxins, and the loss of productive workers since people are getting sick and having fewer, less healthy children due to the product design decisions made by the producer. The lesson to learn from this is to look into what may be hiding in the products you buy before you contribute to the system that put them there in the first place.

I hope that all of this scares you because it certainly scares us. The good news is that there is a simple way that each of us can contribute to the solution to ensure that humanity can coexist with our planet for generations to come. In order to stop this destructive, linear system of consumption, we must become more conscious of the products we purchase and of the companies who we patronize. By not buying into the current system, we put pressure on corporations to change their selfish ways, and can encourage smaller, environmentally concerned companies to make greater progress in sustainable goods. Next time you’re looking to buy a new computer because yours is not running the latest software, or a new pair of shoes since the old ones are out of style, consider what went into those products and how it affects the entire world just to make a new one. The only way to conserve the limited natural resources we have left is to buy fewer products, and make the most of the ones you do.

Justin Smith

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Additional resources include:

An ethics index of many well known producers of consumer goods: http://www.thegoodshoppingguide.com/ethical-business-rating-tables-and-ethicality-audits/

More information about externalized costs: http://p2pfoundation.net/Externalization_of_Costs

Information about electronics waste: http://toxicslink.org/?q=content/electronic-waste

Discussion about the relationship between world human population and environmental decline: http://www.prb.org/Publications/Lesson-Plans/HumanPopulation/Environment.aspx

More information about mercury: http://www.mercola.com/article/mercury/no_mercury.aspx

Article about NPE’s and other toxins found in clothing: http://www.naturalnews.com/033436_toxic_chemicals_clothing.html#

A great book that argues to remake the way we make things: Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.

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The Listening Challenge – Rosie

Take this 4 Week Challenge to become a better listener. Pick a few people you regularly speak with and start the first week by trying to talk about 20% less than you normally would. In the second week, start asking some basic questions to encourage your chosen audience to talk more. In the 3rd week, deepen the conversation by asking deep questions. During the 4th and final week, start trying to steer the conversation in different directions. I bet the conversation partners won’t even notice.

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Digital Distractions – Jonathan

We often find ourselves distracted by our phones, computers, and the floods of ads and entertainment competing for our attention. Have you ever taken a moment to step back and analyze how these distractions impact your life? Here are some tips on how to start!

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“Technology” by Devon Sweeney & Dr. Eric Pappas

Have you ever taken the time to notice how much you use your cell phone or your laptop? Chances are you spend a good amount of your attention every day with your eyes glued to a screen. So what? It’s the 21st century, it’s innovative that we’re connected in every way. You can access anything or anyone, in ANY place (at ANY time)! Isn’t it fabulous? It can be blessing, but it’s also a curse of modernity…there is a danger in relying on technology as much as we do.

Through the connections we have to our gadgets, we are constantly pummeled with information, photos, calls, text messages, and status updates to the point of INFORMATION OVERLOAD! Seriously, count the ways you are connected. Even take a moment to count the minutes, and hours, you spend with your electronics per day. It might be safe to say that you may have a problem… we all do. Most of us are addicted to technology. It’s a 24/7 habit.

What are the implications of this addiction? We are rewiring our brains to have electronics think for us. This is robbing each one of us of our critical thinking and interpersonal skills that we would be utilizing if it weren’t for the easy out we get in the various forms of laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. One can’t truly unplug or relax when every level of communication comes through a tiny screen that fits in one’s palm. Countless moments are ruined when one person can’t put his or her phone down, and many conversations lose their intention and true meaning when expressed through a text or e-mail (or are interrupted by one). One might say that some of us don’t even know how to say what we want to say in a face-to-face conversation. Might as well just text it, right?

For some people, checking their phones or e-mails is compulsive. Every time an alert goes off, they reach to check out who might be needing their attention next. Sometimes there must be space to pay attention to oneself. Technology robs us of ever being able to really just be alone. Cultivating personal motivation to take care of oneself both physically and mentally requires moments of undivided selfattention. And no, your Iphone is not invited.

If you’re in need of some technology rehab, where do you even start? You could go cold turkey and totally unplug (we don’t recommend this), because seriously, things that change fast often don’t stay that way for long. Start with baby steps, leave your cell phone at home one day in the next week. Try it, how bad could it possibly be? You won’t lose any friends, we promise…but if you do, maybe you were just another nobody on their “Friend List.” You can also just go offline, maybe a few hours before bed and simply enjoy life without being plugged in. Or, take note of your average daily technology intake, and make an effort to cut back an hour or two a day (you decide). Spend your time enjoying the lost art of conversation, reading a book, or just being inside your own head.

So, what are we gaining by taking a break from our electronics? You can gain more time to think and reflect when you’re unplugged. This can help you have more clarity when it comes to decision-making, solving problems, and paying attention to your daily life. Constant connection to technology can be truly emotionally and intellectually draining. Letting go of a few hours you previously spent connected can help you make more progress in other areas of your life, like school, work, relationships, and even the future.

By now you’ve probably admitted that you’re addicted or at least far too dependent upon your gadgets. Unplug? You might be thinking that this is like losing a part of yourself! How will you go on? The trick is to become less dependent upon the “self” you’ve created electronically, and more aware of who you truly are…offline.

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