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Practical alternatives for responsible consumption 03

soporte 22 November 2022

In the heat of the development of capitalism, in the middle of the last century, a new way of consuming originates that does not adjust to real human needs, but revolves around the acquisition of non-essential goods and services. This is possible thanks to a solid economic and marketing apparatus that, through advertising and the media, creates a multitude of unnecessary and false needs-satisfiers. The main problem with this ‘invitation and devotion’ to consumption comes not only from the inability to really satisfy the needs we have, but also from the consequences that the productive mechanism generates on the lives of people and the planet as a whole, such and as we saw in the previous topic.

Faced with this, we find responsible consumption, an international movement that arises in response to the social and environmental impacts of the current consumption model and that seeks to adjust said consumption to real needs, asking ourselves in the first place if we really need what we are going to buy. . This is connected with decrease, an emancipatory proposal from the system that questions the logic of infinite growth and that proposes to redefine our relationship with Nature to recover the lost balance as well as the relationships between human beings themselves.

Illustration of Responsible Consumption. (Source:

This critical and conscious process regarding what we consume contemplates the following assessments:

  1. The type of trade we want to favor. Are we favoring with our purchase the viability of small local businesses and therefore the local economy and wealth? What kind of employment is behind each product or service? Have there been fair labor relations within the production process?
  2. The quality of what we buy, in order to acquire healthier and more durable goods, which do not force us to buy these products again within a throwaway logic with a strong environmental impact.
  3. The environmental impact, taking as a reference the complete life cycle of the product we buy; from production, transportation and distribution to consumption and the waste it generates. It is essential to become aware of the limits of the resources we use, trying to advance the decoupling that is generated between the production and consumption of natural resources. This implies that:
    • Renewable natural resources are not used at a rate greater than their own renewal capacity.
    • Non-renewable natural resources are used at a rate equivalent to the substitution capacity they have for other renewable resources.
    • The emission of waste and pollution does not exceed the assimilation and self-purification capacity of the ecosystems.

These operating criteria or principles should be applied taking into account the global reality as a whole, which would lead us to demand a redistribution of sustainability from the North to the South with historical, present and future equity.

Consuma Crudeza in Carne Cruda podcast on the impacts of conventional consumption and some alternatives

In the heat of this current, numerous initiatives have emerged that try to respond to the needs of the population in accordance with these values. Thus, we can find ethical banking and insurance companies, renewable energy or conscious telephone cooperatives, cooperative supermarkets, cooperative housing initiatives in transfer of use, ethical and sustainable fashion companies, responsible tourism and leisure options… We list some of these main initiatives to deepen their proposals and the differential value compared to similar companies in the capitalist economy.

Ethical Finance:
It has become clear, especially since the 2008 crisis, from which we had not yet recovered when the health pandemic broke out, the enormous responsibility of the banking and financial system with respect to many of the problems that our societies suffer, and that They have been the product of a system based on global financial speculation, the virtual economy and the usury business with which they have mortgaged our futures. But, there are alternatives. As established by the Ethical Finance Observatory(FETS), ethical and solidarity finance make economic and financial profitability compatible with the achievement of social and environmental objectives. Its purpose is to contribute to social transformation, avoiding speculative investments and investing in a real and solidarity economy, that is, in those projects that have a positive impact on people’s quality of life, provide a series of social benefits and promote sustainable development. . To do this, they apply ethical and social evaluation criteria to assess the ethical, social and environmental responsibility of the projects that request financing. In this way, they guarantee that they offer financial support to projects with a high social, environmental and cultural impact.

Within this sector we highlight the following initiatives:

Fiare Banca Ética : a benchmark cooperative bank in Europe with more than 42,000 members between Italy and Spain, and whose democratic management and ethical commitment to the participation of members adheres to the cooperative principle of “one person, one vote”. It seeks to recover the social value of money and therefore finances projects for: social and labor insertion of people, agroecology, energy efficiency, education and culture, and fair trade, among others. Check the projects it finances and its general social balance results .

Seguros éticos caes: is an inter-cooperation project between the SERYES and Arç Cooperativa brokerages for the promotion and development of ethical and solidarity insurance in the social and solidarity economy, which understands insurance as a financial instrument that must be at the service of people and which is based on three principles: mutuality, equity and transparency.

Coop57: Coop57 is an ethical and supportive financial services cooperative whose main objective is to contribute to the social transformation of our economy and our society. Its main function is the financing of social and solidarity economy projects through financial intermediation. This means collecting and attracting savings from civil society in order to channel it towards financing social and solidarity economy entities that promote employment, foster cooperatives, associations and solidarity in general, and promote sustainability on the basis of of ethical principles and solidarity. Coop57 is a democratic and assembly-based organization made up of people and entities from the social and solidarity economy.

Renewable energy:
Access to energy reveals the threshold of inequality and exclusion present in our societies, which prevents the satisfaction of the most basic needs of a large part of the population in situations of energy poverty that should be unacceptable, which should be a sufficient basis to reconsider a change in the energy model different from the one proposed by the current energy monopoly, guided exclusively by private profit. But, in addition, as the Seeds of Transition of Love Guide of the Seville initiative Amor Barrio warns, “climate change warns us that we should stop burning fossil fuels as soon as possible, if we want to avoid the worst future scenarios, a situation that will be aggravated with the near arrival of the peak of extraction of all these fuels and that warns us that sooner rather than later, whether we like it or not, we will be forced to do it anyway. Therefore, the way in which we make this inevitable energy transition may be the most decisive task of our time, since it will determine, to a large extent, the resilience and configuration of our future societies”.

Our role as consumers is once again decisive, but fortunately we have numerous alternatives, some of which are included in said guide and which give us keys to reduce our energy consumption. But, in addition to these keys to incorporate new practices in terms of energy saving and efficiency, we have collective alternatives for the production and sale of renewable energy.

renewable union: It is the union of cooperatives of consumers and users of renewable energies that brings together 19 municipal/regional cooperatives that are dedicated to selling electricity to their more than 85,000 members, who are trained and informed about responsible consumption, adjustments bill to save and the electricity sector. It advocates responsible consumption, the local economy and distributed renewable generation. The environmental cost of producing and consuming locally is much lower, while local management increases the social benefits (jobs stay in our environment, taxes are paid locally, more money stays in the region). Within its framework it is possible to contract 100% renewable electricity, participating in the decisions of any of its cooperatives (under the principle of 1 person,

Food: Food
corporations have become a very powerful agent with enormous capacity to condition the food production and consumption system. Its enormous weight also significantly influences political decisions, having become one of the main lobbies in the world and also in the State and other Administrations. The progressive industrialization of our food is a factor, but so is the progressive disconnection between the population and food, its origin, variety, seasonality, cuisine and culture, combined with a sophisticated constant use of promotion and persuasion by large companies. food corporations.

Faced with this, there are numerous alternatives linked to organic production, that is, that based on the optimal use of natural resources, without using synthetic chemicals or genetically modified organisms, thus achieving organic food while preserving the fertility of the land and the environment is respected. These products usually move through short marketing channels, those that allow a more direct relationship between producers and consumers (small shops, consumer groups, markets, restaurants, schools…). They can be defined as those channels of circulation of economic goods in which there is only “a single intermediary between the final product and the consumer, and between the producer and the processor.

In this wide field, we can find numerous alternatives:

Consumer groups :
Groups of consumer people who come together to make joint purchases directly with the producer people. Therefore, they are local initiatives, generally of organic production, that adjust to the times and seasonal productions, respectful therefore with the cycles of life, where direct relationship with the producers, also from the economic and commercial point of view. They build assembly and self-managed spaces, where people become aware of the responsibility that the act of consumption implies, which is a tool for social and political transformation. In Seville, for example, there is the Sevilla eco-artisan network, “network made up of consumer groups and producer people who share the concern for “eating well”, understanding this concept as something that goes beyond a mere exchange of food for money, promoting Food Sovereignty and care for Nature” .

Organic food stores and cooperative supermarkets:
There are also numerous stores where you can buy organic and local products. Some function as conventional stores (for example Red Verde, in the center of Seville) and others incorporate the figure of members, such as the emblematic La Ortiga(in the center and east Seville), involving consumers in project management and carrying out numerous activities to promote peasant culture and agroecology, bringing the lives of producers closer to that of consumers. A step further in this model are cooperative supermarkets, cooperatives where the clientele is a co-owner of said supermarket and in which there is no profit motive. Most are participatory since the partners contribute social capital by paying a registration fee and carry out voluntary work attending to the daily tasks of the supermarket. In Seville we do not yet have any similar experience, but experiences such as La Osa in Madrid or Som Alimentació in Valencia are a reference .

Community orchards:
On their own land or on land donated by the municipalities and that are managed collectively, small productions that promote spaces for self-management and that work for food sovereignty. In Seville we find the Huerto del Rey Moro, the social gardens of Ecologistas en Acción in San Jerónimo, those of Miraflores or El Alamillo. All these options allow production to be brought closer to food consumption, promoting food sovereignty and self-management, as well as a deferential use of urban space and our relationship with food and the land.

In the Spanish state we know better than anyone else the effects of a constructivist and speculative policy that we have had in recent decades, and which has devastated an important part of our natural heritage, as well as has speculated with housing to such an extent that it has turned into luxury what should be a basic good. Faced with this, there are experiences of collective and cooperative housing that, as exposed by the Group of cooperative housing in transfer of use of REAS Red de Redes, “understand housing as a good for use to guarantee the right to housing in the long term and not as an investment good.” Many of these experiences are also pioneers in bioclimatic architecture, incorporating criteria of sustainability and less environmental impact into the design of the project. All this amalgamation of initiatives are, moreover, reconceptualizing housing practices, allowing new life and socialization options, for example, for the elderly. In Seville there are experiences in the making but none have crystallized yet. We do, however, have references in Spain such as Entrepatios in Madrid , La Borda in Barcelona.

As denounced by the Carro de Combate journalistic collective , “behind the fashion industry there is a whole production chain that involves many more actors than we think and that is built on exploitation. The textile industry is one of the easiest to relocate because assembling and disassembling a maquila is tremendously easy. .. On top of that, there is a tremendous environmental impact, which in turn has a social impact.” Many of these atrocities have been collected and denounced year after year in the Clean Clothes Campaign.Promoted by Setem and other NGOs, trade unions and consumer organizations, it operates in 17 European countries. Again we have alternatives to this, and there are numerous lists of ethical and sustainable companies such as this tank or this guide to certification seals of options . In Seville we have the sustainable fashion store Verde Moscú and various second-hand stores such as Humana.

In addition to these options that go through buying with ethical and sustainable criteria, looking at the conditions of the producers as well as the type of materials, the way of production and their origin, there are also other alternatives that go through reducing our consumption of clothing giving a longer life to our garments, favoring second-hand stores, free fairs or even barter and exchange.

Leisure and tourism
As the alternatives website, , states, “culture, rather than a set of consumer products, shows or leisure activities, is above all a right and a common good that develops the more it is used” . From this point of view, a multitude of options open up to us that seek to decommodify culture, many of them included in said website and that give us options to access music, cinema, theater, literature, the media… There are also numerous lists and information in the network that collect cultural and responsible tourism initiatives, such as the one that the Social Market network collected last summer in El Salto Diari o.

By participating in these initiatives and supporting them with our money through our consumption, we will be an active part of the creation of a new, fairer, more sustainable and supportive economic model. But it is also about inspiring initiatives whose experiences can guide us in our projects and companies to incorporate practices according to this social and solidarity economy or transformative economies. Cases like the battle of the riders for their rights and their trajectory of self-organization in collective and cooperative ventures such as Mensakas in Barcelona or Zámpate Zaragoza in Aragón are a good example.