Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about everyday actions and how they affect our society and the world in general.
Ever since living in China for almost a year, I’ve been growing up in different ways, I feel I’ve become more aware about how everybody’s choices shape our society.
Every action has a consequence.
While I was in Hangzhou I was exposed to a completely different culture, people who lived in stark poverty and people who were saturated in luxury, we waded through massive crowds and I saw mountains of rubbish, then people going through that rubbish and trying to make a living from it.
All these new experiences changed me and started making me think of how things work.
What can we do to avoid fuelling such a disparity?
From my – perhaps overly naïve – point of view, most of us have the power to make every day choices go further.
I go to work, I work, I earn money.
I use that money for the rent, bills, transport, food, activities, etc…
Every time I spend money I am creating demand for something.
So every time I pay for something I am supporting that “something”: that company, that business and what they stand for.
Personally, I would like to support something that shares my values, something sustainable for the workers who enable this “something” to get to me as a consumer and which hasn’t got an awful impact on the environment.
Most of us spend money, even if only a little, every single day. So if we were more conscious of where and what we are spending our money for, wouldn’t it be a bit like having a small opportunity to “vote” for something and support what we like with every purchase?
Of course, I am only 1 person.
It seems like all of this consciousness may be ridiculously diluted in the ocean of purchases made every day. However the more people can give a little thought to what they are supporting, the bigger the change.
I would rather not support businesses that favour making as much money as fast as possible over caring about their workers and respecting the environment.
I would rather support businesses that are more conscious about how and where they produce their products, how workers are treated and which care to make their products in a sustainable way with Fairtrade and/or organic standards, companies which regularly give money to charity etc.
For example, I do not want to support the production of Styrofoam, an expanded plastic foam that is (too) often used for take-away food containers and coffee cups that usually get used for a few minutes, that is then discarded and then take hundreds of years to decompose.
So, I don’t buy Styrofoam.
Just suppose everyone stopped buying Styrofoam: with no demand, things would soon change.
-And if your favourite take-away place used Styrofoam but customers shared their thoughts about it and encouraged to use greener alternatives such as moulded pulp, or took their own reusable containers (optimistic scenario, yes, but completely doable too), that would be enough of a nudge too…even better together with a tougher ban on EPS and a clear legislation with a need for greener and cheaper alternatives, rather than them being a merely preferable option.-
Styrofoam-producing /using companies and businesses would research the market and find out where the demand has shifted, trying to make money there instead.
If that happened to be a more sustainable option, then that would be a favourable change which would have a lower impact on the environment. Small change -> BIG change = YAY!
Small / local / independent businesses are usually a better option in order to support more sustainable companies.
They provide jobs and help the economy of the area they are located in – for every £1 spent with a local, independent business, between 50p-70p circulates back into that local economy whereas shopping online or away as little as 5p out of £1 crawls back into the local economy – and they include family businesses, local shops, small manufacturers and producers which provide food, clothing, entertainment and different kinds of services.
I’m not saying all chains and big businesses are evil, but when I purchase something from an independent business I know more about what I’m supporting, I can get to interact directly with the owners, I can talk to people who are really passionate about what they do, what they offer to the local community…it’s a pretty different experience where quality is more important than quantity and cost is more related to value.
Supporting local, small, independent businesses can save you money too.
I go to our local farmers’ market pretty much every week and get really good deals on organic, local produce – even better than at the supermarket!- when I go there towards closing time.
I found an article which lists 10 Reasons to Support Local Businesses, additional favourites of mine are:
- The more successful a business becomes, the more likely they are to employ local people
- The more vibrant a local business community is the more ‘influence’ they will have as a collective for things that really matter in the area
- Independent retailers often stock items that the larger chains don’t
There are initiatives that I find akin to this sort of thoughts that have been storming in my head, so one thing we could do is simply be more aware of, and support, small businesses.
Small Business Saturday, which happens to be this Saturday, 6th December 2014.
Great if you still need to buy some Christmas presents 🙂
Small Business Saturday UK is a grassroots, non-political, non-commercial campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities.
Here is an interesting article from last year’s Small Business Saturday, Support Your Local Shop and Join the Counter Revolution, giving a few examples of independent businesses that have sprouted in place of tired shops and how they employ more people in proportion to their turnovers, while keeping prices low and quality high.
I am but a small ant in a jungle, but if being more sensitive to where I make my purchases can make a big difference for small establishments around me then I’m more than happy to.
A few useful links:
How do you feel about shopping in independent businesses rather than chains?
What do you take into consideration when you choose where to buy?