Mitigating the externalities of consumption
Externalities are the negative effects that come from our consumption. This article explains how we can offset them.
Estimated reading time: 3 – 5 minutes
Go back if you’re looking for a quick overview (video clip w/ some detail) or to take a deep dive into how externalities impact sustainable living
The costs of externalities
You’re at a food truck event and can’t decide what to get.
There’s a Burger Truck you’ve been wanting to try out, but you’ve heard that their meat comes from questionable sources. You’re aware that they’ve replaced the majority of their jobs with mechanized systems. You know they have a massive carbon footprint.
But alas, that sizzling quarter pounder with cheese wins out.
While you’re waiting for your order you start thinking about the poorly treated cows, the loss of jobs, and the pollution. What you’re thinking about are the unintended consequences of consumption (in economics speak, the externalities)
Externalities are the result of a cost being externalized (an external cost) onto an unknowing third party, typically the environment or society as a whole.
It looks like this. The Burger Truck could have bought their meat from sources that fed their cows a slightly more expensive natural, grass-fed diet. They could have listed additional quality-control jobs. They could have implemented state of the art pollution controls. Instead, these external costs were avoided and we see the resulting externalities (unhealthy animals, unemployment, pollution).
A hidden cost on the other hand is a cost that you personally will end up paying for, but they are either not included, or hidden within the purchase price. Hidden costs would be things like future doctors visits or medications needed from an unhealthy diet.
Becoming Active Consumers
When we consciously consume and actively engage with the economic consequences of our consumption we become more than Conscious Consumers, we become Active Consumers, if you will. (See what we did there?)