I have been asked to think about my own ethics and how my personal consumption affects our use of sustainable resources. What are your thoughts of your consumption of resources?
In answering this question, I will start with a few general observations about personal consumption and ethics. I will then move on to talk about my own consumption and to point to things that you might consider about your consumption.
In general, I would argue that we all have an ethical obligation to be as “green” as is reasonably possible. I say this because our consumption will end up affecting the lives of people in the future. We do not have the right to be profligate in ways that we know will make their lives more difficult. Therefore, we need to reduce our consumption as much as is reasonable. At the same time, I do not believe that we have a duty to make our own lives miserable in order to try to avoid affecting the lives of people in the future. It is still ethically proper for us to live good lives even if that means consuming resources.
In my own life, I try to do many things to reduce my usage of resources and help the sustainability of our society. I own cars that get good gas mileage. I ride my bike instead of driving as often as possible. I allow my house to be cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer than many of my acquaintances are willing to do. I have compact fluorescent bulbs and LED bulbs. I recycle everything that I can and I do not buy many food items that have a lot of packaging. All of these are things that you might think about when you answer this question with regard to your own life. Transportation, air conditioning, and the amount that we throw away are all major ways in which we impact the environment.
On the other hand, I do not make sacrifices that would truly reduce (in my mind) my quality of life. I still put up Christmas lights. My family goes on vacations. When we do, we drive rather than flying, even though that probably consumes more fuel per person-mile traveled. We do this because it is more fun and more convenient for us. In these ways, and others, I have not cut my consumption as much as I possibly could. I try to strike a balance between having the lifestyle that I want and doing what I see as my ethical duty with regard to sustainability and the lives of future generations.