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Guest Column: We are the 5 percent

Excerpt from a guest column by Paul Ventura, chair of the sustainable business department, in the Sustainable Energy Guide, January 2012. Marylhurst University is a sponsor.

I try to avoid Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It's not that I don't like to buy things. I just don't like to be driven to buy because something is a good deal.

With billions of people unable to meet their basic needs there's something distressing to me about the idea of consuming for the sake of consuming, like a dog chasing its own tail.

Patagonia, whose founder Yvon Chouinard has long advocated for limited business growth, placed a full-page ad in Thursday's New York Times, with the heading, "Don't Buy this Jacket." The company explained: "We ask you to buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime on this jacket or anything else."

As the good business folks at Patagonia realize, we are the 5%. That is, as Americans we comprise less than 5% of the world's population but consume 20 to 30% of its resources.

Is there an exit ramp from this spending highway?

The answer might be found in the movement toward collaborative consumption, a fancy name for sharing. A recognized example of a business model using shared access is Zipcar, whose subscribers have access to a variety of cars from a Toyota Prius to a Mini Cooper when they need them.

Why is responsible consumption important to me, especially in my role as the administrator of an MBA in sustainable business? Isn't it a goal of business to increase purchasing? Isn't continuing consumption the engine of economic growth?

Both business people and the public are answering "not necessarily" to these questions.

Read the Full Article.

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