How much does your ecological rucksack weigh?
This concept can help us understand how owning a lot of “things” can damage the environment. An ecological rucksack is the total quantity (in kg) of materials moved from nature to create a product or service, minus the weight of the product. They represent the materials necessary for production, use, recycling and disposal of a product. I have learned that, for example, a rucksack factor for aluminum is 85:1 (85 kg materials moved for every 1 kg of aluminum obtained), but for recycled aluminum it is only 3.5:1. I was horrified to learn that diamonds have a rucksack factor of 53 000 000:1!!!
So should I feel guilty for owning a diamond ring?
I believe that there is a huge amount of ignorance and a lack of awareness in the Western society today about where and how things are produced? who produces them and under what conditions and circumstances? Increasing our awareness about these matters will help us become better and more environmentally responsible consumers.
I shouldn’t feel guilty for owning a diamond ring, because I didn’t know the ecological impact at the time it was given to me, or at the time it was purchased. However, notes for the future: I am aware that certain behaviours and decisions that we make will probably have an impact on the earth and its inhabitants. By being aware I am able to take small steps in the right direction.
Awareness is the first step towards change.