Ethical consumerism is a tricky beast.
On one hand, you want to buy ethically and not contribute to exploitative tax-avoiding planet-killing companies. On the other, you only have a limited budget and time, and the alternatives can be hard to find and expensive.
Fear not, for your efforts are meaningless!
To be exact, your individual decisions are trivial and insignificant in terms of material difference to these enormous corporations and to the planet. Your consumerist friend is actually correct when she says one plastic straw will not make a difference.
As a society, our cultural norms are already changing.
To ignore the climate we depend on is becoming unfashionable, and the conversation is changing.
Your individual decision will never make that large a difference.
But luckily, the world is not relying solely on yourself to make all the right choices.
You are part of society. Your green impulses are being echoed around the country by others who are like you, sensitive and conscientiously-minded.
As small tiny cogs in the larger construct we call society, what is our role in the green revolution, outside of direct protest movements?
- Reach others.
Especially those who are not instinctively affected by the environmental crisis. This doesn’t mean becoming the painful eco-terrorist at the dinner party. Instead, we can become the human face of environmentally more conscious choices for our co-workers, our friends, our peers. People generally want to do good things. By simply representing someone who does care about the planet and still manages to maintain a normal life, you help make it attainable and realistic for others to change.
- Support each other.
The internet is not directly good for the planet, but the information we share on it is huge. Bloggers and YouTubers and online shops all contribute to unlocking alternative business and lifestyle practices. Sharing hints and tips in online communities helps them to spread and to become mainstream. When things become mainstream, markets try to capitalise on them, which makes ethical choices more accessible. Changing business practices in a capital-led world is far more influential than changing any consumer opinion alone.
- Directly support green or ethical companies where possible.
This should not be a self-sacrificing act. You buying one wooden toothbrush won’t save the world, but will hurt your cause if it becomes something you are miserable with. What is brilliant about moving society towards more ethical consumption is that it should be easy. Everyone should want a tangibly better world, that treats people and planet better. It’s uplifting to endorse genuinely better options and support smaller businesses (aka actual people). This enjoyment is what we want to spread to win hearts and minds with. We should never lose sight of this.
Rome was not built in a day, and unethical profit-driven capitalism will not be dismantled in a year. The most important thing is to keep going. Practice better choices where possible, spread the message where possible, and know that others around you are doing the same. Together we are all slowly changing the world.
Thanks for reading!