When a company serves their smoothies and other hot beverages in ‘compostable cups’, recycles bottles and cans, and installs energy efficient lighting, they can claim their ‘sustainability fame’. What does sustainability mean to you? For many, the word itself is now attached with ‘green’, ‘eco’, and ‘environmental’ connotations, but for me, the word has been overused and is dead. It’s lost its meaning. Think about everything that we buy and do every day. Have you ever asked yourself if I keep doing this for the next 10 years, how will it create value for myself and our communities? Most people don’t care to think about it, but for the next few days, I challenge you to. Is your choice and action viable? And who does it benefit beyond yourself?
Forget about sustainability. I like to talk about viability: changes and actions that are possible, practical, and reasonable. A friend of mine has a tradition every Saturday brunch where he treats himself to his favourite Indian butter chicken. Upon Fall season, he realized he didn’t have enough money to buy a ticket to go home for Christmas. So I asked him, I know the Indian Butter Chicken is something you look forward to every weekend, but what if you sacrificed that and saved the money for a few months, and stopped your smoking and drinking habits so that you can save for a flight home. I pulled out the calculator, made the calculations, and showed him the numbers that it was a viable plan. It took some convincing, but he agreed to commit to the challenge I was proposal. It was probably something he never thought he could.
Before he flew home for Christmas that year, I invited him for cup of fair trade coffee at Habit Café downtown, and congratulated him for what he had accomplished, but also told him, you not only did yourself a favour economically, but socially and environmentally as well. He looked at me as if I was speaking in an alien language. By cutting out cigarettes, he was being socially and environmentally responsible so that others would not have to breathe in second-hand smoke, and there would be less litter and garbage. By cutting out the Indian butter chicken from his diet, and going for mid-day runs to achieve his target of building healthier physical habits, he improved his long-term health. “I never thought of it that way.” He said. “I was just trying to save money so I can buy a ticket home to see my family, but now that I see the bigger picture, I see how the benefits are interconnected.”
We live in an ecosystem. Our human bodies are ecosystems of their own. Without a healthy pumping heart, our organs won’t work, and without healthy kidneys, urinating would be very difficult; everything is interdependent of each other, and this is how our bodies are able to function day after day in a viable working system. The current economic system we like to focus a lot of attention to does not work, and we see it, but choose to ignore he issue. We choose to focus on economic differences because it’s what we’ve been taught in school, in books, at home, at work, but does it really work? I’m not proposing everyone should care about buying ethically sourced products, but I am proposing we should change the way businesses are run, and that ethical purchasing should be the norm, and that they can drive behavior changes a lot quicker.