The Power of Everyday Choices
Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Large, complex problems are often difficult for us to process mentally - let alone act upon. Where do we start? What is the best way forward? What if we choose incorrectly? We may not end up taking action at all; the decision seems so fraught with unknowns that we end up paralysed.
For those of us that truly care about our Pale Blue Dot (info) in the void, we can be left in this exact position. Is saving the rainforest most deserving of our attention? What about the health of the oceans? We are losing biodiversity at such a great rate (due to human activity), scientists refer to the current era as the anthropocene; maybe we should help save endangered species …
Of course, it may be that all these efforts mean little if runaway climate change alters the natural balance of life-supporting systems beyond recognition.
There’s no easy answer, but perhaps let’s start on what we can do, with minimal effort. These are everyday choices that, on an individual basis, admittedly, barely move the needle. Yet, as we consumers in greater and greater numbers make these changes, effects will compound and make a real difference. Below are some suggestions. Have some more? Please share in the comments.
Buy locally sourced products where possible (and affordable). Not only does this help the local economy, but the item will have a lower ecological footprint; the related attached fuel consumption will be much less than a product that has travelled halfway across the world to you.
For wood and paper products, look for and support those with a FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) or PEFC symbol. This is our best indication at this time that it was derived from sustainable forestry.
If you enjoy seafood, look out for the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) logo. Again, this is our best way of determining sustainable sourcing. We can fish forever, providing we don’t capture beyond the replacement rate of target species. This has happened for far too long, which is a no-win situation for the environment and, in the long run, the livelihood of fishermen (and women).
Say no to plastic bags. Bring your own reusable bags; leave some in the car so they can’t be forgotten. They come in many shapes and materials, and ought to last for a long time.
Try to avoid products with excessive packaging. The hope here is that consumer choices will influence producers and manufacturers to change their ways. For example, wrapping a bunch of bananas in plastic wrap is extraordinarily wasteful, as I’m sure you would agree, dear reader.
Consider second-hand or "Op" (opportunity) shops; there may be some great bargains to be had, plus we all benefit from product reuse. The true cost of clothing, in particular is mostly hidden. This is illuminated in The True Cost documetary - see https://truecostmovie.com/
Recycle where municipal systems exist. This typically covers "green" waste, plastics, glass, and paper/cardboard. Do not believe the ill-conceived view put forward by some that recycling "is not worth it". Nature is cyclical, and we need to learn to do likewise. (This will be the subject of a future article.)
No organisation is perfect, but make a conscious decision to support companies that are legitimately moving in the sustainability direction. There’s many ongoing problems and legitimate issues to be sure, but Google and Apple, for instance, have carbon-neutral operations.
Spare a thought for animal welfare; your purchasing behaviour can make a difference here by helping to influence demand. Please consider free-range eggs over cage eggs, and sow-stall-free pig products; these are just two examples where unconscionable cruelty in the “meat growing” industry (a rather objectionable term, to be sure) is accepted by far too many.
For those particularly meticulous (congratulations!) individuals, refer to environmentally aware buyers’ guides when shopping. The Sustainable Seafood Guide (somewhat out-of-date) and the Greenpeace green technology guide are just two examples.
Collectively as consumers, by reflecting on our everyday choices, we really can make a difference.