Steven Cohen on Sustainable Consumption

Steven Cohen, the executive director for Columbia University’s Earth Institute and program director for the Master of Science in Sustainability Management recently wrote a piece for The Huffington Post about the changing nature of consumption.

Cohen writes that technology, population changes, and consumption shifts have forced an economic transition. Cities like New York must adapt to these changes.

In the process of changing the economic role of the city, we need to pay more attention to the impact of our production and consumption on the environment and on all elements of the supply chain that bring goods and services to us. Building systems that reduce environmental impacts is more important than individual consumption patterns. That is not an argument for wasting energy and other resources, but to imbed new patterns of consumption in more sustainable supply chains. Individual behavior is not enough. We need institutional behaviors that ensure production and consumption with the least possible impact.

Cohen also says that we must shift from consuming material goods to consuming thoughts and ideas, which are more sustainable.

[Sustainable consumption] will happen to the extent that our consumption shifts from filling our closets with shoes to filling our minds with ideas and our souls with friendship, relationships, music, film, theatre, culture and dance. Visits to the mall may be replaced by visits to cafes to argue politics with friends, watch the ball game, or by trips to the gym, the ball field, the basketball or tennis court, or by a hike in the park.

Read Cohen’s entire article on Huffpost Green, and learn more about the graduate program in Sustainability Management.