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The Unburdening of Sustainability

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Sustainably manufactured products are few and far between, the very idea runs contrary to the notion of the relationship between the consumer and manufacturer, a product is manufactured, advertised, sold, used, and then disposed. And in recent times the disposal timeline has shrunk from consumer demand for new, better, bigger products to replace those that are not quite as good as the new models, or perhaps the manufacturer has optimized the warranty period down to one or two years, and that truly is the typical lifespan of the item. Neither of these ways of playing out the consumer manufacturer relationship can be sustainable until both the consumer and the manufacturer have incentives to reuse and recycle consumer products.

Today I read an article in the Edmonton Journal by Allison Lampert of the Montreal Gazette, (18/10/06 – p A19) which states that Dutch laws require manufacturers and importers to take back all consumer products they sell at the end of the products life, which encourages the manufacturer to find a way to reuse the components or materials used in the product.

This seems extreme to us in the West, as we sit in our houses looking at all the disposable items we surround ourselves with, but if we as consumers made conscious decisions to purchase sustainably, despite the immediate cost, our purchases will help make a difference, by supporting industry champions we are talking with our dollars, and in business, that’s what counts.

So next time the sustainable decision feels like a burden, turn it around and be un-burdened by the little difference you can affect in your realm of influence of purchasing.

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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