Spare a thought for your consumption habits...

Consumption, in its broadest sense, is something that we do everyday often without thinking about it at all.

Consumption is necessary as we need to eat and drink, have clothes to wear, resources like phones and transport and so on. Everything we consume has a history (and a future). When we consider what we “consume”, where it came from, how our world was involved in its production, who was involved in creating it and who will be involved in disposing of it we can make better choices about how we consume.

This sounds more complicated than it really is. The 3 ‘R’s – Reduce, Reuse (including repurpose) and Recycle make it as simple as it can be. Perhaps think about trying to use less and to take care of what you have to help it last longer.

how does our consumption affect others?

It is easy to forget that our consumption impacts the lives of many around the world: human and animals as well as the planet itself.

This impact can be really positive – creating employment to help sustain individuals and communities; maintaining skills and crafts; helping communities flourish and grow; bringing self esteem and opportunities for individuals and families; enabling sustainable production. Thoughtful and careful consumption can bring many benefits across the world.

an exploited people and planet

It is when we consume more than we need that our consumption is likely to have negative consequences on people and our planet. Many poor and vulnerable people across the globe are involved in the production of items which we often take for granted. These are often the same people who are robbed of the natural resources they need for their own livelihoods by the global west and north. In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis highlights the link between the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. The Bishop’s in New Zealand asked what the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” means when 20% of the world’s population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poorer nations and future generations of what they need to survive.

Exploitation of workers and resources is common – in our cities, our country and across the globe. In many places the poor work for a pittance to create goods that we expect to buy cheaply and throw away when fashion changes. Children are still used in many countries to mine the minerals that our phones and tablets need to make them work.

Products may be made using unsustainable materials, produced in unethical working conditions, manufactured using hazardous or polluting processes or by a company that is not adhering to relevant legislation.

"A Christian who doesn’t safeguard creation, who doesn’t make it flourish, is a Christian who isn’t concerned with God’s work, that work born of God’s love for us."

What can we do?

Informing ourselves on the impact, both positive and negative of our consumption, can help us make better choices and priorities, consistent with our faith.

It sometimes feels overwhelming when we realise the different impacts that our consumption may have. How can I affect this in any way? I need all the things I have. Changing our habits and bringing consideration of those involved in the production of what we consume and how the earth is treated will help us to live consistently with our beliefs. As Christians, we are taught to value each other, to treat people and our world with respect and dignity.

We call this ethical consumption – and we can take guidance from Catholic Social Teaching to help us on this journey.

All aspects of parish consumption and life can be reviewed and changes made to ensure that the parish can be a shining example to parishioners and others who use church facilities. A toolkit will be available to assist parishes with this process – taking it step by step.

The parish can also help by hosting information on the website, using noticeboards and newsletters to raise awareness about how we can change our consumption.

It is often easier to make small changes when we are supported by others – there will be people in your parish who want to make the same changes as you, others may have more experience and knowledge. If you have a Justice and Peace of Caritas group, you can ask them for suggestions. It may be that the people you talk to after mass want to know what they can do – we can extend the care and concern we have for each other out into the world.

An image of the author Celia Fisher

About the Author

Celia lives in Leicester, the most diverse city in the country. She is an aeronautical engineer by profession, but more recently had a career change to work for an HIV charity, LASS, in Leicester. At LASS she did community development and outreach work across different communities in the city (2004 – 2015). The career change was motivated by visits to her uncle, a Franciscan priest, in KwaZulu Natal South Africa.
Her interest in modern slavery, human trafficking and ethical consumption developed during her time with LASS, working with vulnerable and marginalised people, including asylum seekers, offenders and others who can be targets for exploitation.
She now volunteers with the diocese of Nottingham Justice & Peace commission doing work on modern slavery and ethical consumption. She has been part of the local Justice & Peace group since 2016 and is part of the local Laudato Si’ circle.