The Power Of One’s Money

This is one of the ideas that I adhere to most closely, the one that I not only vote once every 3 years in an election, but every day – when I buy things. Every single item I buy has influence, because the transaction talks the only truly international language – money. Let’s consider just one item, a tin of tomatoes, and dissect what we might be voting for when we part with our $1.20.

–       Large supermarket vs small grocer, or somewhere in between

–       Global vegetable supplier vs independent producer

–       Local vs overseas grown and processed

–       Shipped vs trucked vs flown

–       Organic vs pesticides

–       Additives vs none

–       Fair workers rights vs poor working conditions

I’m sure there are more factors one might be voting on in this circumstance, I welcome any additions via the comments section! Of course, you can also vote to not have packaging because after all, a tin of chopped tomatoes is just that – chopped tomatoes, which is not that hard to do.

Some votes are simple choices to make, ie I would suggest that if the supply chain were transparent then most shoppers would favour humanely slaughtered meat over non-humane. Others can be more difficult – I spent a good deal of time recently trying to choose between an organic coffee vs fair trade coffee, the deadlock in my head being broken by my dad who was keen to leave the supermarket (thankfully because I might have gone a bit loopy).

So, it is virtually impossible to be in control of every aspect above, and often one needs to choose between one area and another. Being a vote, everyone can make their own choice too, ie I might choose organic overseas products over chemical local ones, but others would sit on the other side of the fence. The point is, just this single item in your basket influences many people, animals and places in many other parts of the world – and this voting occurs with every item of every transaction.

Every purchase can also have unintended consequences, if one buys entirely from a big chain supermarket one should not be surprised to see the walking-distance fruit store close down, or if one favours cheaper overseas products there should not be complaints when local jobs are lost.

What I try to do is picture the perfect world I would like to live in, and vote for the products that best follow that path.

Small Habit, Big Change – be conscious of the signal your money is sending everytime you shop. Try thinking about it when you’re travelling to work instead of at the shop shelves.


My waste-saving efforts are wasted

I grew up being taught that recycling is the way, so it came as some shock recently when I read two different books that suggest it’s not the best solution to reducing waste.

Household waste only makes up a very small fraction of all man-made waste – the majority is output that is never seen by us, from the factories that produce everything that we can’t live without (and plenty of what we can). The position the books take is that it whilst it is commendable to recycle, you should not think that your duties to a healthy planet stop there. One author even suggested that big industry lobby groups actively promote household recycling as the best solution – and try to make you feel guilty for not doing it – just so that your attention is focused on your own small contribution rather than their massive one.

The author’s preferred household contribution would be to continue recycling of course, but understand that until regulations are in place to limit waste upstream then nothing will really change. Taking this one step further, they suggest putting your plastic to paper by writing a letter to your politician demanding regulation action is much more effective than sorting your paper and plastics.

There are two parts that prevent me from taking this action, the first – which is a no-brainer to solve – is that I’ve never written to my parliamentary representative before, and find the concept a little daunting. The second – which I’m happy to have debated out of me – is a growing belief that they actually don’t do much unless there’s a bit of ‘something’ behind a suggestion to ‘push them in the right direction’. I don’t have that kind of ‘something’.

I’m planning on procrastinating about writing a letter, and remain conflicted that this is the best mode of action. At least I’m aware of the facts now. Until I put plastic to paper, I’m going to continue to try and take the first step in producing less waste – by avoiding it in the first place. The best way I know how to do this is to buy food from bulk food stores – they stock a wide range of products in big sacks direct from the producer, and you take either your own container or fill a paper bag there, thus not using yet another can or box or disposable container.

My favourite store in Adelaide is Goodies and Grains in one of the Central Market Arcades, I have found one in Göteborg called Fram Livs near Linnégatan, and don’t know much for Melbourne – suggestions for there and any other city welcomed, along with good tips for avoiding waste!

Small Habit, Big Change – Find a bulk food store to start avoiding waste. It means soaking beans etc overnight, but what where you doing at 4am anyway. It’s cheaper and you can store more, therefore spending less time and energy shopping.