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Consumerism versus Environmentalism: Flax Products will meet you in the Middle

by Nicole Braun, Writer

Let’s face it: we live in a consumer society where although we know that a material possession will not bring us any closer to true happiness, we just have to buy it anyway. The things we own can influence our self-esteem and self-concept, as well as our perception of our status in society. Our lust for material things makes it surprising that more people are not caught channeling their inner Julie Andrews, breaking into song with their own personalized version of “these are a few of my favourite things”, right in the middle of a Wal-mart aisle. Yet despite our affection for these beloved objects, we have no problem disposing of them when the latest and greatest gizmo that appears to be newer, better and shinier hits the shelves a short while later.

Interestingly, amidst this throw-away culture has emerged a conflicting media darling and relatively new passion for North Americans: concern for the environment. Eco-jargon has permeated our language to such an extent that phrases like “go green”, “eco-friendly” and “sustainability” or “sustainable development” have become household terms. No longer are environment issues simply a concern for that vegan, peace loving hippie named Sunshine whose favourite organic T-shirt reads “save the trees.” Nowadays, environmental responsibility has become an interest for many, even for the businessman whose social status is not elevated depending on whether his car is fancy and big, but rather if it is fuel efficient and small.

This environmental conscience has not changed the fact that people love to buy, but it has enhanced the notion that people want the things that they buy to make them feel good about themselves. Energy efficient light bulbs, phosphate free laundry detergent, and reusable shopping bags are just a few examples of popular eco-friendly products that when purchased give people that warm, fuzzy satisfaction of being able to say to themselves, “hey, I’m doing my part to save the environment.” Products made with flax have the potential to give consumers that same good feeling because often they can be considered sustainable and environmentally friendly options. Commonly made with natural and renewable materials flax products can reduce the amount of harmful ingredients used in the making of products. Also, because they are usually biodegradable or recyclable the flax products do not have to end up in a landfill once they are worn out. While many of the flax products themselves can be considered eco-friendly, their true environmental value comes from the fact that they can take the place of other environmentally detrimental products that we have for too long used simply because there were no alternatives.

Products made of flax have enormous potential in a cultural climate struggling to find a balance between consumerism and environmentalism because they allow people to satisfy both their need to shop and their desire to lead more environmentally conscious lives. I like to envision a future in which environmentally aware consumers who wear linen clothing, sleep in linen bed sheets and use flax hygiene products will drive their flax panel cars to a mall that was insulated with flax to shop for a new flax product that will be sold with flax fiber packaging and put into a reusable flax bag to be brought home for their family to enjoy. I believe the potential for flax products is endless, and the climate for this potential to be realized exists now.

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