It used to be that we bought a lot of stuff and didn’t overthink it. It did not matter how something was made or where it came from; if we wanted it, we had to have it. That buy-and-go culture, however, put a heavy stress on the environment.
Today we now recognize that purchasing decisions can be tied to things like air and water pollution, habitat alteration, and climate change. We are more selective and thoughtful while shopping, turning away from unsustainable and unhealthy products. According to a recent Harris Poll, more than 75% of us feel it is very important for companies to be environmentally responsible.
Image from the film Confessions of a Shopaholic
There is more to this shift in consumerism than simply reading labels and questioning contents. Our persnicketies have actually grown a local, greener economy that responds directly to our demands.
Sustainability spurs innovation in business, and the general trends include:
- Greening product design
- Improving operations
- Conserving resources
- Rethinking business models
- Marketing social responsibility
If you look hard enough, you can see these trends in action in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Businesses Innovate
Take Construction Junction for example. Construction Junction sells reclaimed building materials. Instead of throwing used building materials into dumpsters, people are making the conscious effort to move reusable materials back into the marketplace at Construction Junction. This effort helps to reduce what goes into landfills while minimizing the need to extract natural resources just to duplicate what already exists.
Many restaurant owners and operators have made the turn toward sustainability. Instead of buying produce from all over the globe, they are purchasing from local farmers who can provide fresh food. Tomatoes from a nearby farm reduces the carbon footprint of a supply chain while favoring local farmers who welcome the business. The food is typically fresher and tastier, too. And finding markets for local food is easier with organizations like Farm to Table Pittsburgh, which guide people to places that offer local food in Western Pennsylvania.
Photo from local farm Cherry Valley Organics
Some companies have transformed their entire business by going green. SEEDS Green Printing is a Pittsburgh-based green printing company with tree-free stocks, 100% recycled materials, and eco-friendly inks and coatings. Zipcar Pittsburgh is part of the sharing economy, offering cars on demand. Animal Nature is an independent, local company selling only eco-friendly pet supplies and touting green business practices.
This year, Pittsburgh is celebrating its first large-scale Earth Day. With a plethora of events in Mellon Square, Market Square, or Schenely Plaza, it’s an exciting time to see many of the organizations celebrating sustainability. It’s also an opportunity to stop and smell the roses and see how a strong demand for greener products has grown the economy and improved our lives.