Category Archives: Making a Difference

The Day The World Stops Shopping

“We must stop shopping but we can’t stop shopping: the consumer dilemma has become, quite simply, the question of whether we can sustain human life on Earth.” (page 12)

You can see from the number of Post-it tabs on the pages of this book that there are A LOT of passages I need to return to for additional reflection.

From the back jacket: “In North America, we burn the earth’s resources at a rate five times faster than they can regenerate. Despite our effort to “green” our consumption, we have yet to see a decline in global carbon emissions. And economists say we must always consume more, because even the slightest drop in spending leads to widespread unemployment, bankruptcy and home foreclosures. Author J.B. MacKinnon addresses this paradox head-on. Is there a way to reduce consumption without triggering an economic collapse?”

It may sound ‘dry’ but it’s not. MacKinnon is an engaging writer. The book is a brilliant thought experiment that is as full of hope as it is of amazing and well-researched material. I could not stop reading and want to share this book with everyone I know. But because I also know that ‘everyone’ won’t find time to read it I’ll share some (and there are SO many) quotes from the book.

(page 60) (referring to the early months of the pandemic) Many people said the air had cleared because everyone was staying home. A more precise cause is that the consumer economy had stalled. Factories were closed. Planes weren’t flying. Shipping lanes were empty. Our daily commutes to earn money, or to spend it, were called off. It was the consumer dilemma made piercingly clear: our economics are driven by consumption, yet consumption drives our carbon emissions. The relationship is so strong that climate scientists have long used growth in one as an indicator of growth in the other. Accelerate the fashion cycle, and you accelerate climate change: cut back on the Christmas spending spree, and fewer CO2 molecules enter the atmosphere that year. Yet addressing climate change by reducing the scale of our consumption has never been seriously considered by political leaders.

(page 162) In a world in which billions of people already have enough apparel, the only way to keep them buying is to generate unnecessary demand. The way to create unnecessary demand is to accelerate fashion trends. The way to accelerate fashion trends is to make clothes cheap enough to buy more and more often. And the only way to make clothes that cheap is to cut corners on quality, working conditions, wages or environmental standards – the disaster of everyday life that Bangladesh has been living for years.

(page 247) Anti-consumers are more likely to engage with issues such as climate change, species extinction, racial injustice and poverty – matters that can be disturbing, depressing or even frightening. Since engagement with such topics is congruent with their values, however, it makes life meaningful – but perhaps not cheerful.

(page 10) Those who warn against consumerism have made two main arguments. The first is that a love for money and things indulges the lesser angels of our nature, such as greed, vanity, envy and wastefulness. The second is that every moment you spend thinking about money and things is a moment that could have been spent making a greater contribution to the human community through service, the pursuit of knowledge or the life of the spirit.

(page 83) …low or no economic growth was the norm through nearly all of human history.

(page 292) This book began with a question: Can we solve the consumer dilemma? The answer is yes, we can. In slowing an economy bound to endless expansion, we only rejoin the longer trend of more gradual growth seen throughout most of history: with ingenuity, we can adapt. The more personal question – whether we want to go down this path – is harder to answer. The evidence suggests that life in a lower-consuming society really can be better, with less stress, less work or more meaningful work, and more time for the people and things that matter most. The objects that surround us can be well made or beautiful or both, and stay with us long enough to become vessels for our memories and stories. Perhaps best of all, we can savour the experience of watching our exhausted planet surge back to life: more clear water, more blue skies, more forests, more nightingales, more whales.

If we care at all about future generations something has to give. Please read the book. You will be fascinated, shocked and, most importantly, inspired.

Not just socks ~ socks with purpose!

I recently purchased a pair of socks and the tag noted that they were B Corp certified, sustainably-sourced, ethically-made with zero waste. All good, but what does B Corp mean?

I used to think it meant the product was ‘B’ grade quality as opposed to  ‘A’ grade, much the way teachers mark essays.

I was wrong.

A B Corporation is a company that uses its business as a force for good in a variety of areas. B Corps provide high-quality goods and services, while also meeting and exceeding the highest standards in environmental impact, supply chains, treatment of employees, good for the community, accountability and transparency. Whether your goal is ethical shopping, fair wages for all or eco-friendly, B Corp are also working towards these goals.

Certified B Corps are for-profit busineses that are for balancing profit and purpose. B Corps are out to prove that you can do social good while still making money. (from donegood.co) (also B Corp certified).

Who wouldn’t want to support that?

So the next time you purchase a product or service that is designated B Corp, feel good about your choice. All our small choices add up to make  big differences.

And yes, the socks are awesome.

Pre-loved

When my daughters were very young I used to set them loose in our local thrift shop a couple times each year. They loved choosing clothes, toys and books. And I loved that  I could outfit them for so little money.

Fast forward to their teen years. I didn’t dare suggest second-hand shopping in those days. Brand names and fitting-in were all  important so they had to settle for less in order to stay within the budget. I forgot about buying ‘pre-loved’ merchandise for awhile.

Recently a friend invited me to volunteer with her at a large church-run thrift shop. I hadn’t been in one for years and my last volunteer job had been at a grizzly bear refuge, helping care for the bears. That work had been so interesting.  Could working in a thrift shop come even close to being as rewarding?

The answer is yes. Absolutely. Maybe even more so. I get such satisfaction in seeing all those clothes and household goods get repurposed. I love watching the shoppers fill their baskets with treasures that they may not otherwise have been able to afford. I love knowing that the money earned by the store is channelled into worthwhile charities. And I wonder, why have I not been shopping in thrift shops all these years?

And as I become more involved in fighting climate change I realize how important the whole economy of second hand buying/selling is for our planet.

“According to the Journal of Industrial Ecology, mass consumerism is bad for the environment in a myriad of ways. Millions of shoppers buying and then discarding smartphones and TV’S, for instance, contribute to the fifty million tons of e-waste the world generates each year. If you were to add up all the stuff people around the world consume, everything from food to birthday presents to toilet-bowl cleaner, it would total a whopping 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and between 50 and 80 percent of total water, land and material use.” (from Hope Matters by Elin Kelsey)

So repurposing those items that we no longer need/want is a good solution. Our belongings are kept out of the landfill and charities reap the rewards. Less  ‘stuff’ has to be manufactured. Fewer natural resources are consumed.

And in the ‘what goes around comes around’ category, one daughter recently showed up wearing a beautiful  dress.  It looked fantastic on her.  “Where did you get it?” I asked.

“Thrift shop,” she answered.

 

 

I Am Only One

After viewing Seaspiracy and then the equally disturbing companion documentary Cowspiracy  my heart felt bruised. I’m ashamed of what mankind is capable of doing to sentient beings.

In order to heal my heart and feel some sense of control, I  return to these quotes.

Empowering words. And, I might add, no one is too old to make a difference either. Maybe that is the best time of all, when the distractions  of youth have passed and there’s time for reflection. And action. Every day.

 

Wise Words

The following are the wisest words I’ve heard since the start of this pandemic.

“Undoubtedly, the Covid 19 pandemic has introduced uncertainty into all echelons of daily life. But uncertainty need not inspire fear. Uncertainty is the precursor to innovation and innovation is the precursor to change.

We are offered two choices today: To fear uncertainty and to fear change, or to see this generational challenge as a generational opportunity.” (Andrew Weaver, former leader of the BC Green Party)

When the pandemic first hit I was amazed at how fast the grocery stores installed plexiglass partitions, curb-side pick up became the new norm for small shops and crosswalk lights became automated. No need to touch any surfaces. Yes, innovation quickly evolved from the uncertainty of the lurking coronavirus. These were small, quick fixes. Imagine if this same ingenuity was used on much larger issues. I’m thinking of Senior Care Homes for starters. Climate change to follow up.

This is our moment for leaders and institutions to revamp those systems that no longer serve us well.  I’m going to imagine the day where we live in balance with the natural world and also  live harmoniously  with all of humanity in its many delightful hues and cultural variances. These could be the hidden opportunities the coronavirus offers us.

Image: quotulatiousness.ca

Do We Have The Will?

The coronavirus has taught us that it takes every single individual to do the right thing (self-isolation/social distancing) to curb the spread of this insidious disease. Going forward, can we take what we’ve learned from this pandemic to reverse the human impact on climate change?

It may be too late to  wait for government and industries to pass the necessary laws but if each of us – every single person – changes our behaviour as abruptly as we have with this pandemic, I like to think it might be possible. Global warming may kill us at a slower rate than the coronavirus, but the predictions of climate catastrophes (droughts, deadly storms, melting polar caps) are frightening. For now the planet has been given a reprieve as there are far fewer planes in the sky and cars on the road (you can almost hear Mother Nature sigh with relief) but when this is all over, will we go right back to our old ways?

Frantic consumerism has been slowed as we stay home.  Single-use plastic consumption may have risen temporarily as we focus on  food safety,  but If, at the end of this pandemic we all made positive personal changes perhaps we could stop choking the oceans with our plastic waste. We have seen how it takes everyone working together toward a common goal for it to be be successful.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could turn that same  focus toward our beloved planet?  And if not for us, for our grandchildren and their children? The changes would be much less difficult to put in place. We could still gather in groups, hug(!), eat at restaurants, go out and play.  Is it too much to hope for?  It’s easy to educate ourselves on how, we know the why but do we have the will?

Fast Fashion – Is it worth the cost?

Fast Fashion definition: inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends

We all know the thrill of spotting a bargain – that fabulous-looking shirt or jacket that is dirt cheap. Without thinking we reach for it, our brain mentally scanning our wardrobe for matching accessories.  We check the price tag again  (can it really be that cheap?)  before we remember that no, it can’t be. Someone, somewhere is paying the price. We place it back on the rack.

“If these garments cost so little, chances are the factories where they’re made are filled with child labourers and the dyes used to make those bright jeans are flowing into their drinking water.” https://donegood.co/blog/cheap-clothes-cost-a-lot

But it can be hard to shop for ‘slow fashion’.  First of all, how do we know which products are eco-friendly/ ethically make? And if they are, how can we afford them? Continue reading

Having Purpose – Can it Bring You Good Health?

In a conversation with Jonathan Fields on his Good Life Project podcast, Dr. Frank Lipman shared stories that showed how our health can be greatly improved when we find a sense of purpose.  Jonathan agreed, adding that many of the things we’re afflicted with simply fall away when we find that purpose.

So what does finding purpose look like? It can be working at a job that is meaningful to us. It can be participating in our community on a project of common interest or joining a non-profit to work for something that feels important. Volunteering for an organization whose values match our own can provide deep meaning. Setting personal goals and meeting them also works.

Writing gave my life purpose for a long time, and it still does in many ways. Being supportive of  my grown children also gives me purpose as does participating in my community through friendship and activities. But recently I felt that there was room for more and through a couple serendipitous meetings with old acquaintances I found my way back to a local Unitarian fellowship whose mission is to ’empower people to live with greater depth, meaning and purpose.’ Simply being among other people with these shared values makes me feel that a door is opening, inviting me to live with that greater depth.

It’s not easy to discover what our purpose is and it changes throughout our lives.  We can go for long periods of time feeling restless, but I believe if we consciously open our minds for opportunities to live more intentionally those opportunities to live with greater depth and purpose will appear.

And if you like podcasts, be sure to check out Good Life Project with Jonathan Fields.

It All Matters

Today would have been my mom’s 98th birthday.  Her last few years were spent in a care home and the care providers were truly angels on earth. Being a care provider for the  frail is not a ‘sexy’ job. It’s hard, sometimes dirty, often thankless work, and fortunately there are people who are willing to do it, caring for those in our communities that are the most vulnerable.

This passage from “We Are Called to Rise” by Laura McBride makes me think of those wonderful  care providers.

It all matters.

That someone turns out the lamp, picks up the windblown wrapper, says hello to the invalid, pays at the unattended lot, listens to the repeated tale, folds the abandoned laundry, plays the game fairly, tells the story honestly, acknowledges help, gives credit, says good night, resists temptation, wipes the counter, waits at the yellow, makes the bed, tips the maid, remembers the illness, congratulates the victor, accepts the consequences, takes a stand, steps up, offers a hand, goes first, goes last, chooses the small portion, teaches the child, tends to the dying, comforts the grieving, removes the splinter, wipes the tear, directs the lost, touches the lonely, is the whole thing.

What is most beautiful is least acknowledged. What is worth dying for is barely noticed.”

So I’m thinking of my mom today, and I’m thinking of those angels who cared for her at the end of her life. Through them I learned that ‘it all matters’ and it matters a lot. I’m trying to be that person who does those small, seemingly unimportant tasks, those little things that matter as much as anything else. I fail every day, I’m so far from perfect, but I will keep on trying.

  • Angel craft by artist Carole Burdett

Be Imperfectly Sustainable

I love this. It’s about awareness.

Could I use a reusable container to pack the leftovers instead of plastic wrap?

Can I find a similar product (for purchase) that’s not sold in single-use plastic?

Could I  eat a few more vegetarian/vegan meals this week?

Could I walk/cycle to my destination instead of drive?

Small conscious changes, yes, which become habit forming and make us strive to do even better.