I was recently talking with a friend about a few different businesses he is involved with. I’m not going to say what businesses or which friend as I don’t want to personalize it or create a sense of scapegoating. One business he spoke of as having a model based on a local/eco-friendly approach. Conversely, other business interests of his had no such vision. In this case the local/eco-friendly approach is done based simply on economic sense. People like to pay a higher price for the local/eco-friendly business instead of from a different business that doesn’t take the same sustainable approach. Being eco-friendly, in this case, is a matter of capitalist convenience. If more product could be sold by not being eco-friendly, such as other business interests of this same person, then there wouldn’t be a point in being eco-friendly in the first place.
It’s difficult for me to want to support such businesses. I have various reasons for wanting to support local, eco-friendly businesses when I can and if it’s not a local business then I hope for it to be conscious about it’s environmental impact and ecological footprint. The world is getting more crowded every day with fewer natural resources to sustain our consumption heavy lifestyles and the effects of our rampant consumerism are being felt in every corner of the globe. To take responsibility for this and change our business practices because it makes ethical sense rather than business sense is an important distinction.
I realize there are a lot of businesses who see the eco-friendly market as a giant cash cow eagerly being let to slaughter and I am glad for those businesses who at least make an effort to engage in sounder environmental practices, for whatever reason. However, it feels sometimes like people are simply waiting for when they are allowed go back to consuming willy-nilly at a discounted price with disregard for the consequences. Ignorance is easy while being responsible for our actions take more effort.
I’ve read about people claiming that this “recession”, this “economic slump” has gotten them to consume less. They are cutting back here or there; less buying, more repairing what they’ve got. Great! We’re being a little more frugal with our natural resources. But is this a period of agreed upon abstaining from gluttonous consumption or simply a forced diet that, the minute the economic tourniquet is lifted, the masses flood back to the stores in energy hungry vehicles and wallets burning holes in their pockets?
I go back to my friend – engaging in an eco-friendly business on the one hand because it is the business model of that enterprise and working on more environmentally mindless projects on the other hand because they make money and being eco-friendly is not a part of that business model. In my own opinion, any possible positive results of the first are outweighed by the disregard for responsibility of the other. At heart, he is a capitalist first and a responsible citizen of the earth second.
We are all in this together, as we like to remind ourselves over and over. Capitalism is about stepping on heads, deregulating trade, and every man for himself using whatever is a viable business model to get ahead. It’s ugly, destructive, and unsustainable. I welcome compassionate alternatives. An environmentally conscious business model is one that takes stock of it’s ecological footprint and does it’s best to trim the excess and find sustainable solutions not because it makes economic sense but because it makes ethical sense. When we look inside and examine those choices in the light of Awareness, hopefully they make it burn a little brighter, stretching our compassionate heart just a little wider. There is no room for compassion in a capitalism. Capitalism hardens our hearts. It’s hard to be compassionate when we know that our paycheck was earned by poisoning the planet just a little bit more. It’s always our choice and I’m hopeful that the compassionate spirit wins out, learns from it’s mistakes, and creates a healthier environment.