Interested in what your answer will be Maxine. Thanks for your time.
First off, thank you for the question Richard. Anyone that is open to adjusting their behaviours deserves a big high five in my mind. As for actionable steps, I always like to list a few because I'm not sure there is a one size fits all solution out there. Here are ones I tend to focus on:
- Buy used when you can. If you think about it buying used has little to no external costs on the environment. Buying new however requires an entire supply chain of resources to produce that good - inputs, transportation, packaging, etc.
- Shop local when you can. Shopping local eliminates some of the negative environmental externalities associated with goods such as transportation. Shopping locally ensures that the labour that was used to produce that good adhered with your countries standards. And lastly, shopping local often keeps more money in the economy than buying products from larger corporations that outsource most of their processes.
- Become educated about which companies are the sustainable leaders and which are not. There are a number of companies out there that are going above and beyond to ensure that their supply chains are more ethical and green. And there are a number of companies that are not. Find out which companies are and support them. You are voting with your dollar every day. Make sure your purchases align with your values the best you can.
- Gear towards certified and/or organic products. Processes for certifications vary country to country however, for the most part they are an environmental, social and economical step up from conventional. We should support that step up.
- Lower your consumption of meat. Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, a diet rich in meat and dairy products becomes unsustainable. According to the U.N, a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
- Avoid purchasing anything with palm oil in it. Palm oil plantations are currently the leading cause of rainforest destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia. Given its recent bad environmental reputation only a few manufacturers – mostly in the organic sector – label their products as containing palm oil and palm fat. Most companies disguise it, referring to it as “vegetable oils and fats”. Read your labels and purchase accordingly. It pains me to think that we are burning our rainforest down for coffee crisps, mars bars and chips.
- Adjust your pension/investments so they aren't funding unsustainable companies. More often than not our investments are connected to companies that don't align with our environmental/ethical values. Look into your investments and evaluate them from an environmental and ethical standpoint. Even the Rockefeller Brothers divested from fossil fuels - they said its was their moral duty.
- Avoid plastic as best as you can. Plastic is one of the biggest environmental problems of our time and it is going to be incredibly difficult to fix. Try your best to reduce your plastic consumption anyway you can.
- Avoid laundry detergent, soap, shampoo, etc with mirobeads and/or chemicals in it. Most of our soaps, detergents and cleaning products are not fit for the environment. Be aware of that fact and adjust your purchases accordingly.
I also like to list a few action items that have a multiplier effect:
- Demand transparency from the marketplace. Wonder, ask inquire about where our products come from? What they are made from? What the social/economic/environmental standards behind those products are? If we start to ask these questions it may start to register that this information is important for consumers.
- Teach your children how to be conscious consumers. Conscious consumers breed conscious consumers. Conscious consumers also demand more environmental and ethical products. We need to stop funding the companies that have "dirty" supply chains and in order to do that we need to educate consumers that there is a difference between products.
- Become educated about what is going on collectively and not being shy to talk about it. Spread what you know. Especially if you are well respected. Listen to the scientists. Listen to the researchers. Act in accordance to their recommendations and spread that information to those that have yet to come across it.