Large multinational companies, no matter how powerful they may be and governments, however arrogant they may be, must change
Responsible consumption is the tool that we citizens have to force the producers of any good or service that we buy, to considerably improve their environmental and social actions and practices.
We all want change, but few of us want to change. Well, I want to emphasize that changes in collective consciousness and consumption habits are the most effective tool to generate substantial changes in our environment to protect our only home, planet earth.
Sometimes, we feel tiny and inoffensive in front of the big brands, in front of the big companies and we think, how could I change something that does not satisfy me because I think it hurts the environment? The answer is that our consumption habits are so powerful that they send strong messages to governments and companies about how we want the products and services we buy to develop.
Even, sometimes, our change of conscience can force some big companies to make important decisions. "Either we change or break the new consumption habits of our customers," any CEO of any multinational could say this in the face of a substantial change in collective consciousness.
A visible example is the use of straws, these plastic tubes to sip our drink from a glass. It is as useless as it is harmful to thousands of animals and to the health of rivers and oceans. In Colombia, there has been a revolution against these useless elements that are used only for about 20 minutes and whose decomposition could take about 400 years.
Rejecting the consumption of straws sends a clear message to the manufacturers: "we do not want any more useless waste on our planet". Therefore, the big companies dedicated to the manufacture of this product have only three alternatives:
- They change the product to an environmentally friendly one, such as replacing plastic with old-fashioned paper
- They are dedicated to give better use to plastic through other less useless products
- They close their business and lose their position in the market
This is another example, easily found around the world. There are brands of clothing over which it is suspected that their clothes are made with the sweat of thousands of poorly paid slave children in Asian countries in subhuman conditions.
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If the owners of those well-known clothing brands discover that their sales fall because our consumption habits have impelled us to buy similar brand garments that pay fair wages to their employees, that maintains good environmental practices and that guarantees hundreds of quality standards. This left them with less options:
- They begin by paying fair salaries, offering quality, and respecting the environment
- They will simply disappear from the market
Do we make decisions or let them decide for us?
Our planet can stop suffering if we demonstrate commitment to good purchasing habits, but especially if each one of us demonstrates criteria and character when buying.
Just as in personal relationships we determine whether a friendship suits us or, on the contrary, it does not suit us, we must also look at what we are going to buy.
When we meet someone, to help us determine the reliability of the person we ask ourselves where does he/she come from? Moreover, when we are in the relationship, we ask ourselves: where will it go? Exactly those two questions are what we should ask ourselves when it comes to consumption.
Where does it come from? It is a key question, because if it comes from the other side of the world, its carbon footprint is much greater than if it is a local product. Although the place of origin of some items is far from our city, it is sometimes necessary to consume them, but as far as possible, it is better to consume local products. The transport price is reduced and the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere were not as great as if it came from the other side of the world.
Where is it going? When we have finished using the product we choose, what it is the probability that it can be reused by other people or can be put to good use for recycling. The answer to this, it is an indicator that we are buying amicably. It is not the same to buy a cloth bag that we can use a thousand times to buy plastic bags. These, in the best scenario, we will give two or three uses and then go directly to a sanitary landfill to accumulate as garbage or in the worst case to a river and the sea, polluting our oceans and putting at risk life on the planet.
Finally, another of the factors to take into account is the "Fair Trade", it is very common that in our Latin American countries we ask for rebate or negotiate the price of a product. However, when it comes to craftsmanship, elaborated by the hands of indigenous or peasant communities, asking for rebate is forbidden if we want to call ourselves responsible consumers, because what with the hands of an indigenous person is elaborated, has much more real value than the price that is given in the market.
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One of the most internationally recognized Latin American handicrafts is the Wayuu backpacks made by indigenous people from that ethnic group in northern Colombia, in the arid and desert peninsula of La Guajira. Sadly, this is one of the cases in which the absence of Fair Trade is seen.
An indigenous Wayuu employs almost three weeks weaving one of these pieces of art. The raw material, the threads for a backpack of average size, cost between five and seven dollars. The intermediaries buy them between 12 and 15 dollars, but in the shopping malls of Bogota, this product is found at prices that range between 70 and 100 dollars.
It is unfortunate that after three weeks of work, Indigenous only receive less than $ 10 dollars on average for their work. Would you like to work three weeks to get just $ 10 dollars? I guess the answer is no. That is why it is important to know who benefits with my purchase and if it is an indigenous or a peasant who sells me, never ask for a discount, it is preferable not to buy.
If we want to change, let's change our habits, the big multinational companies, no matter how powerful they are and governments, however arrogant they may be, they must change, transform, evolve, if they want us to continue buying their products and services.
LatinAmerican Post | Alberto Castaño
* Writer's opinion does not represent this newspaper
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