How Proper Purchases Can Shape a Sustainable Future

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Written by Nur Atiqah Kamarudin and edited by Teoh Jaemie

You are sitting on a chair by the lawn, grinning from ear to ear while you watch your grandchildren running around the area with flowers blooming everywhere as they take a deep breath of clean air and some take a short rest under one of the shady big trees in the neighbourhood. What a beautiful future in mind - but how can it be achieved? A healthy future is realized when we, as today’s generation, practice sustainable consumption. And what does that mean? Sustainable consumption is the use of any product or service that will have a low impact on the environment. For example, products made of recyclable items or services that do not waste much energy and cause pollution make up a better environment for the future generations.

Are we aware that our purchases are extremely crucial in promoting sustainable consumption? Every time a consumer decides to buy goods and services, it lies within various benefits and implications of the consumers’ purchasing behaviours. Each product or item sold carries personal, ethical, and resource values whether it is made locally or internationally from the time it was manufactured to the time of its consumption until it is thrown away. This was where the term green purchases emerged as a part of sustainable consumption. It refers to purchases which are pollutant-free, environmentally friendly, and does not cause much harm to the planet from its manufacturing process to the time of its consumption until it is thrown away. The power of purchases is very crucial to ensure that there is a presence of sustainable consumption, and not only by using sustainability themes to commercialize purchases. The main pillars of sustainability include environmental, economic, and social aspects. The environmental aspect includes the need to maintain the Earth’s wellbeing by ensuring the replenishment of fertilized soils, continuous supply of raw resources, as well as clean water and air for the future generations. However, there are differences in opinions regarding the economic and social aspects to contribute to sustainable consumption. For example, purchase of lands for tourism in the name of sustainability promotes more damages than the environmental message that the developer may be trying to convey to the public. Trees and wildlife are sacrificed to feed on the need of development. 

Therefore, the main question continues to be pondered on. Is Malaysia ready for sustainable consumption? Are there enough efforts of the NGOs and policies of the government to enhance sustainable consumption?

The Malaysian Government is incorporating its Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) policies in its 11th National Plan. The private sectors and entrepreneurs have recognized the importance of a sustainable nation by 2020 and are progressing through production of green products and services as a part of joint efforts along with the government and environmental NGOs in Malaysia. However, the great difference between the local and global trends of consumer behaviour towards green purchases/consumption can be seen through a lower understanding of environmental knowledge and interest towards green purchases/consumption of the locals compared to higher understanding and awareness of the global trend. As a result, green purchases are more common especially in developed countries where the access to green knowledge is more prominent and well-accepted. The pie chart illustrates the awareness of the European Union citizens regarding the environmental impact of products bought or used. 

chartSource: The Gallup Organisation, Hungary, analytical report for the European Commission (2009)

The public’s high level of environmental knowledge and awareness is parallel with the European Union’s policy of Green Public Procurement where it can contribute to long term benefits of cost and energy-saving as well as a slow pace of depletion of resources for the regional countries. The power of purchases made by the public can greatly influence the policy and lower the risk of damaging the environment and create more sustainable consumption. This culture is not seen as a need in Malaysia where sustainable consumption through green purchases is not a matter known to most people, especially those who live in the rural areas. For Malaysia to have a firm national green procurement as the European Union’s, Malaysians need to be more vocal and direct in spreading the word of environmental awareness, make it reachable to the citizens, corporate leaders, big branded entrepreneurs, and most importantly, the government itself that holds the absolute power of policy-making. Absence of these communications disables the degree of importance of sustainability consumption in Malaysia. The continuous efforts of the ENGOs might not be sufficient enough to deliver the message. Instead, all of the components should work together for better exposure and knowledge of sustainable consumption and how green purchase is the first step to reach that goal of Malaysia.

Therefore, for the 9th International Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Fest 2016 (KLEFF2016), EcoKnights is back with its own initiative to promote green purchases towards sustainable consumption through the Green Market 2016. Green Market is a medium to engage the consumers and the sellers with the environment as well as promote local products to the public through handmade accessories, clothing, household products and others that have their own portrayal of environmental value. Not only that, the event will feature determined ENGOs which aim to promote sustainable consumption and environmental awareness as well as how the public can work together towards a more sustainable nation as what the government has been promoting in its policy. It will be held on the 15th and 16th of October 2016 in Publika Shopping Gallery with over 50 booths that will hopefully occupy not only the visitors’ grocery bags, but also occupy their minds concerning awareness on sustainable consumption. There will also be workshops on various environmental themes such as energy-saving through how to carry out energy auditing, waste management through DIY composting as well as other interesting workshops on how to beautify your home and turn your lawn into a food paradise through urban farming etc. Be sure to check out the KLEFF website here for more information on the featured vendors and exhibitors in the Green Market as well as other events during the 9th International Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Fest 2016. See you at the festival!

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