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Inconspicuous Consumption Still Has A Cost

Tatiana Schlossberg looked into the environmental footprint of several sectors of the fashion industry.
Emily Orpin,
Tatiana Schlossberg looked into the environmental footprint of several sectors of the fashion industry.

We've all heard of conspicuous consumption -- big fancy houses, big fancy cars, designer clothes, and luxurious vacations. That kind of lifestyle comes with a big price tag and a big carbon footprint. But here's the thing. We are all consumers. And the food we buy and the clothes we wear have environmental impacts that we often underestimate or ignore altogether.

Tatiana Schlossberg shines a light on those issues in her new book, Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have.

“It's the hidden and unconscious environmental impacts of all of our stuff,” she told Living Lab Radio. “The consumption that we do all the time that we don't think about--things we take for granted or think of as necessities.”

One of the chapters is about the carbon footprint of the internet and another focuses on fashion. She also looks into the environmental impact of buying a single red rose.

“It's not necessarily the fault of the individual or the consumer for not thinking about them because it's not obvious and we’re not told about it,” Schlossberg said. “And it's really hard to find this stuff out.”

On fashion, Schlossberg said she resisted the temptation to make a judgement whether buying cotton clothes is better for the environment than buying synthetic fabrics—they each have their own environmental costs. Linen, flax, and hemp clothes are environmentally friendly, but are hard to find, she said.

Ultimately, no single person can change the way our goods are made and transported, Schlossberg said. It will take action by the government and corporations. But there is a question we can ask ourselves.

“Do we really all need to have everything we want all the time?” she asked. “You know, not buying something just because we can.”

Elsa Partan is a producer for Living Lab Radio. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.