Over thirty years ago, the country of Sweden became the first to completely ban the use of CFC-based aerosol sprays within the country. The government of Sweden was responding to two major factors. The first was science; these sprays put out very stable compounds that depleted the ozone layer when they reached it. The second was public concern; Sweden's citizens have always been very vocal on environmental issues, and demanded that action be taken to reduce the use of these sprays.
Sweden's law was one of the earliest examples we have of a country taking steps on the national level to limit the ability of a product to be sold that damages the environment. The issue, of course, was that the depletion of the ozone layer would directly affect the health of humans and the planet in general as more harmful UV rays from the sun would reach the surface. People from an English nanny, a local dental clinic or even a Japanese businessman affect the environment daily with their purchases.
The passing of the non-CFC aerosol can law was just the beginning, however. Although several other nations followed suit, CFCs were still heavily used in households all over the world for the next decade. It was not until citizens themselves became aware of the harm their consumption could do to both to themselves and to the planet that CFC production began to be curbed. In 1996, the use of CFCs was completely eliminated worldwide, and scientists have since found that the ozone layer is decreasing at a much less rapid pace.
The ozone layer crisis is an excellent example of the way our purchasing power can have a great impact on life as we know it. It works in two ways. First of all, our purchases can play an active role in the deterioration of our environment. Using the wrong products means that we increase the damage already done to the mechanisms that keep our planet healthy. We've seen this on many levels, we even stopped using rice to give to wedding guests to throw because it injures the birds that eat it.
Second, and more positively, the CFC example shows how we can use our purchasing power to effect change. The total ban on CFCs did not actually come about until people had mostly stopped buying materials with CFCs in them already. Increased awareness about CFC harm had led to a massive boycott of these products, so that producing companies found no market for them. Companies responded by coming up with alternatives, which people then purchased.
Today, we face environmental crises even more sinister than the melting of the ozone layer. Once again, our individual choices in the products that we buy and use, from deodorant to bluetooth speakers, can have a direct impact both on the problem and on the solution.
In this section of our site, we will be taking a look at the different products we buy and how they can contribute to efforts to save our planet. From organic diapers to hot water systems, there are dozens of household purchase choices that can both reduce the environmental footprint of the individual and stimulate innovation at the corporate and governmental levels.
Our goal is to increase awareness when it comes to environmentally friendly (and unfriendly) purchases. We all have the power to bring about positive change as long as we have the knowledge to act. This section will help you get started in the right direction.