On Wednesday, March 15, Dr. Madhavi Venkatesan hosted a Pizza & Prof on the importance of conscious consumption. Students who attended learned about their place in the economy, how their actions foster economic outcomes, and how to align their consumption with what what they value.
An overarching theme of the discussion was that with everything we consume,there is a cost to not only the consumer, but the environment. “We consume life to have life,” emphasized Dr. Venkatesan. For example, when one wears leather shoes they rarely think about the life of the livestock that was killed to manufacture those shoes. Everyone may agree that all life deserves fair treatment, but most consumers rarely think twice about the origins of their food, clothing, and other goods.
Product life is not the only life we consume. Students were encouraged to consider that a significant amount of labor went into the manufacturing of a product – and question whether the laborers were treated and compensated fairly. When making purchasing decisions, do we take seriously the well-being of those who created the product?
Students learned that demand has power, because demand drives supply. If consumers purchase products that align with their values, they promote the success of that product over another that may have unsustainable or unjust practices. To promote a better world, consumers may have to spend more to support companies that fairly compensate employees or humanely treat animals.
Dr. Madhavi Venkatesan is an assistant professor of economics at Bridgewater State University, an advisor for the BSU Students of Sustainability group, and the faculty advisor for Phi Kappa Theta fraternity.