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  • Aaryan Doshi

The Hidden Costs of Consuming Less

The Hidden Costs of Consuming Less image: adobe firefly

One constant theme in a circular economy is reuse and recycling. If we reuse and recycle, we will have less need to produce. And if we make less, it will imply less stress on the resources used to create these goods.

But this also presents an interesting dilemma. We live in a world where goods are produced in one country or, like a mobile phone, by several countries. The goods are then shipped or transported through many countries. When the goods reach the destination country, they are transported to the ultimate destination - be it a store or a person like you and I who wants that item. This journey from source to destination supports the livelihood of various communities - be it the textile workers, people working in assembly plants, sailors working on large container ships, workers in restaurants that happen to be in the path of the journey, postal workers, and truck drivers. I am sure I missed so many more people who all play a role in this journey of making and shipping goods from the source to the destination.

What would happen to all of them if we started to reuse and recycle more? Meaning we need less of everything. Implying less work for textile workers in other countries? Less materials to be shipped? Fewer trucks required to transport fewer goods? Fewer container ships and fewer workers needed to pack them? Fewer transitory workers visiting the restaurants? With fewer visitors in the restaurants there will be need for fewer workers. With fewer people driving to ship packages in need, we will have less caffeine - so drivers will purchase less coffee from cafes and McDonald's.

I see the immense benefit to the environment. Less pollution and CO2 emission due to less traffic. Reduction in trucks and container ships would mean less fossil fuels burnt. Fewer resources means we will letting our planet recover and replenish gradually at its natural rate.

But I also realize the impacts on people's lives involved in this journey of goods from their sources to the eventual destination. How will they make a livelihood? How will they make up the loss in income if we buy less? Will you or I be willing to pay more for less?

Adapting to a circular economy mindset will be challenging. It will be costly. It will be disruptive. And will require us to make tough choices.


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