The rules of business urgently need to be changed, so corporations compete on the basis of innovation, resource conservation and satisfaction of multiple stakeholder demands, rather than on the basis of who is most effective in influencing government regulation, avoiding taxes and obtaining subsidies for harmful activities to maximise the return for shareholders.
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I was interested in eating healthier and so I read a book that suggested that eating meat, dairy and eggs, particularly in the quantities that the average person living in the West consumed wasn’t a healthy lifestyle choice. I gave veganism a go. I didn’t find it too difficult because I didn’t particularly like meat. I found it much harder to give up foods like chocolate and cake (luckily I can eat dark chocolate and vegan cakes). It wasn’t easy – when I first started university, I started eating salmon and milk chocolate again. A couple of months later I watched ‘The End of the Line’, a documentary about overfishing, and I found it so shocking I stopped eating fish (the Guardian has lots of articles about overfishing which are very good). I can’t remember how I managed to give up milk chocolate, but I think it was a combination of deciding to boycott Nestle (I used to be very fond of kit kats) and gradually getting used to dark chocolate (I was never a fan of it before).
Motivators (what motivates me to sustain the behaviour)
- Enjoying the challenge of living life differently and learning new things, trying new foods e.g. I didn’t know about raw food before I became vegan, and I hadn’t tried many of my now favourite foods (e.g. oyster mushrooms, kale chips, raw chocolate, nutritional yeast)
- Remembering that it’s not a competition – I’m motivated more by the thought of improving myself than what others are doing.
- Googling – reading articles on the environmental benefits of vegetarianism/veganism (the Guardian has some particularly good articles on environmental benefits)
- When I started uni, I was amazed at other student’s dietary choices, who had grown up eating meat every day. I thought it was very strange, having grown up in Greece, where most of my peers had meat-free meals regularly. This motivated me to continue being vegan as I thought of the enormous quantity of meat, dairy and eggs that were being eaten throughout the country every day.
- Watching documentaries that reinforced the message e.g. Food Inc, The End of the Line.
- Meeting other vegans at uni – they made it look easy and normal.
- Being stubborn.
- Knowing exactly why you are vegan at all times e.g. memorising a few facts about the environmental impact of dietary choices, reminding yourself and others of these reasons. Veganism is often regarded as extreme, but I think that it is a rational response to our very broken food system – environmentally and socially (meat, dairy and eggs are heavily subsidised by the taxpayer, which is a shame because there are so many other areas that the money could go towards. I think these foods should be subsidised (or else they would be a luxury that only the rich could afford), but not to the extent that they are today).
- I was never particularly interested in animal welfare/rights before I was vegan, but after I became vegan I read more about these issues and I now feel more strongly about them.
- Knowing that I’m not depriving myself in any way – I make sure to treat myself to delicious snacks and going to restaurants. Remembering that it’s not a punishment, it’s a choice and it’s something I want to do.
- Positive response from other people – my friends and family were very supportive of my choice, and most people respond positively and usually have lots of questions for me.
- Becoming vegan helped me overcome other challenges in my life. A friend of mine once pointed out to me that yes, being vegan was a positive thing, but had I considered the carbon footprint of buying new clothes? What about boycotting Amazon, Apple, Pret, Play and all the companies that decide not to pay their fair share of tax? I don’t think that I would have been able to act in these areas, which are difficult to do something about, had I not managed to become vegan.
Enablers (What might help you)
- If you enjoy cooking & enjoy the challenge of cooking with different ingredients (e.g. using flax seeds instead of eggs when baking) you’ll probably find it easy to make more vegan meals.
- Sneaking more vegan foods into your diet e.g. lentils (there are so many great varieties), quinoa, beans, milk alternatives (rice, oat, soy, coconut, almond, hazelnut, hemp) etc. From my personal experience, I find that people whose diet is meat/dairy/egg heavy find it difficult to imagine what they would eat otherwise. I ate a lot of veggie food growing up, so wasn’t especially difficult for me to transition to a vegan diet. Getting yourself used to veggie food could help you make the transition in the future.
Barriers (and how I overcome them)
- Inconvenience – I try to plan ahead for this one. I know that I will get annoyed if there’s nothing for me to eat and I’m hungry, so I will usually pack snacks or google restaurant menus in advance to make sure there is a vegan option when I am out and about.
- Not wanting to seem rude at work or in front of family/friends – I try to speak positively about being vegan and explain to people why it’s important to me
- Not being able to cook – I cook almost every day and I’m not particularly good. I’m usually rushing so the meals I make are edible, but not delicious.
- Not being willing to cook – personally I don’t have a choice because I don’t like sandwiches and there aren’t many vegan ready meals that are easily accessible.
- Being thought of as an outsider/ as someone who looks down on others – I try to speak positively about being vegan
- Going on holiday – some places are amazing (American cities such as Boston, New York, Seattle are incredible – there’s so much vegan food and vegan junk food in supermarkets and restaurants that London is really put to shame) and other places are terrible (Norway- not a country for vegetarians or vegans). I usually research restaurants before I go on holiday.
- Enjoying the taste of meat/dairy/eggs. This is a tough one. On the one hand there are some really great meat and dairy alternatives, but I know that many people think that these aren’t the same as the real thing. From my personal experience, your tastes can change. I couldn’t stomach the bitterness of dark chocolate before I was vegan – now it doesn’t seem especially bitter at all. It’s all in the mind.
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I’ve switched to ethical banking! Why?
- By switching to ethical banking you can directly support an ethical and socially useful bank
- The financial crisis and subsequent recession (or depression in Greece’s case) was caused by banks; the taxpayer bailed them out at a huge cost to society. However, little has changed in the banking system, leaving us vulnerable to the next crisis. There are other reasons that such banks are worthy of a boycott – from risky speculation, to avoiding tax, to unethical investments (e.g. in dictatorships, weapon manufacturers and environmental degradation).
- Better interest rates 🙂
The tide may be turning on the big banks however. In October 2012, eleven countries signed up for a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) aka the Robin Hood Tax, as shown in the diagram below. This tax on banks could ‘generate billions of pounds annually to fight poverty and climate change, at home and abroad‘. It’s brilliant news, and I hope the UK signs up soon!
Here is EthicalConsumer’s free guide to savings account. I used to bank with HSBC (which received 2.5/20 in terms of ethics!) but now I bank with the Co-op (7.5/20) and Triodos Online Bank (15/20).
Triodos Online Banking (for savings accounts only):
- has no bonus culture
- only lends money to ethical organisations who are ‘working to make a positive impact – culturally, socially and environmentally’ e.g. financing wind renewables in the UK
- are transparent i.e. are completely open about how they use their customers money – see who they support here
- is set up online. Setting it up from the comfort of your own home is really quick and easy, saving you the hassle of going into a bank.
If you are interested in moving your money, check out this website for more information.
What score does your bank receive on Ethical Consumer?
Are you tempted to move your money to an ethical bank?
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I went to a sustainability symposium today, and much of what the speakers said really resonated with me.
Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. A spot on definition, in my opinion!
Common themes that more or less every speaker touched upon:
- The world is in a pretty grim state at the moment; from alarming news about Greenland recently, the threat of a food crisis, the Eurozone crisis, graduate unemployment, banking scandals and, of course, climate change.
- One of the greatest challenges we will have to face is that it is likely that 9 billion people will be living on our planet by 2050
- We need radical thinking to address the issues we are facing – the ‘business as usual’ model is failing
- The comfortable lifestyle that we enjoy in the West is unsustainable
- The difficulty of persuading businesses to take sustainability seriously, and to incorporate it into their vision & strategy
Slightly contentious points:
- The economic crisis won’t be solved until we stop relying on fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy
- The symposium got personal at one point – the panel was asked what personal actions they took to minimise their environmental impact. One member of the panel raised his Klean Kanteen (<3). The spokesperson for Friends of the Earth stated that he personally only boycotted products/companies when backed by a campaign, in order for there to be an impact (I personally disagree – I would rather not spend my money on a product from an ethically dubious company full stop).
- There was a bit of BP bashing – apparently they aren’t taking their own re-branding (‘Beyond Petroleum’) seriously, and are recklessly pursuing fossil fuels instead of renewable energy, surprise, surprise.
- ‘Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference’ – Joel Barker
- ‘When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world’ – Paul Hawken
I’m hoping to have a career in the sustainability sector. For me, tackling climate change is more than something I’d like to do for a job; it’s a personal issue. Through inaction, we have so, so much to lose.
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I’m listing some of my dreams for the future so that one day I can look back and see if I fulfill them! It’s nice to think about the future because it gives you something to work towards, and helps you prioritise what’s important in life.
So, in no particular order I’d like to:
- Drive an electric car (powered wholly/ partly by renewable energy)
- Ensure that my home is powered by renewable energy
- Have lots of house plants (possibly in every room, if I can look after them all)
- Grow lots of vegetables, fruit and legumes
- Buy food from farmer’s markets & co-operatives (avoiding supermarkets as much as humanely possible, if not entirely)
- Have rescued dogs & cats from a shelter (and feed them homemade vegan food that is appropriate to their nutritional requirements)
- Possibly rescue ex-battery hens; possibly have honeybees (I’m not sure about these two though)
- Have a water butt to collect rain water
- Have an eco-toilet e.g. Geberit AquaClean
- Buy second hand furniture
- Buy organic linen/matresses/curtains/bedsheets etc.
- Not have a plastic shower curtain – in general to have as little plastic as possible in my life
- Become an active member of my community- help improve the community in some way
That is all I can think of for now, but if I think of anything else I will add it!
What are your dreams for the future? Do you think about the future much? I’m enjoying where I am in life at the moment, but I look forward to improving, particularly in terms of environmental sustainability.
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