By Lisa Pellegrino – Strategic Partnerships Manager at TerraCycle
Just like that it’s the last month of the year, but not before we got through the crisp fall air and weather mood swings that are so quintessentially November. Many of us know November as the time to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and the last breaths of autumn. Some of us also associate the month as a time we engage in this great democratic experiment we call the United States of America with Election Day, when we come together to decide the leaders we want to be making decisions that best reflect and represent our values on our behalf.
However, the election ballots cast at the polls are limited to specific windows of time, as well as to the regional politics they effect. On our mission to make a difference, what if we more fully leveraged our power to influence the world we want by being highly selective with where we choose to spend our hard-earned money?
Don’t boo. Vote.
Every time we purchase a product or service, it is a form of support for that company, validating and reinforcing its existence in the marketplace. Each time we buy something, we either knowingly or unknowingly endorse and fund the entire supply chain it took to bring that product or service to market.
For example, we work with a number of consumer brands sponsoring national recycling programs for the products and packaging public systems don’t currently accept. They sponsor these solutions so they are free for you to use; if you agree with these initiatives, supporting these companies with your dollars keeps them in business and shows you want to see more of this type of behavior from brands.
It’s in this way every purchasing decision we make is a vote for the type of world we want to live in. This notion of voting with our dollars works both ways in that where we choose not to spend our money also has an impact. When we band together, our individual actions have a collective effect, yielding far greater change than any one individual can make on their own.
If everyone decided tomorrow we no longer will buy a certain type of jeans style, brands would be forced to stop supplying it, since there would no longer be a demand for it and to continue making them wouldn’t be profitable. Same goes for the opposite direction: when a certain style of jeans is “in vogue,” all brands will strive to have their own version.
In a world where so many things seem out of our control, where we shop is a choice we have complete autonomy over. These everyday decisions are literally in our hands (just like where we put our discards!), and they influence the way the world works and producers operate. How empowering!
More vs. Enough
Time is a finite resource and we lead increasingly busy lives, so it can be a challenge to vet every purchase we make. As you go on your journey for more conscious consumption, you can use helpful resources like Green America’s “Vote with Your Dollar Toolkit” and the “Better World Shopping Guide,” which can help save time and quickly determine a company’s ethical report card.
We’re in shopping season, yet so many of us own more belongings than we’re able to manage. It’s become normalized to accumulate beyond our ability to even make good use of all the things we collect. Longtime sustainability leader, Annie Leonard, talks about this and how cathartic putting together a box of stuff and getting rid of it can be.
Clearing out items from our home can feel great. In the same vein as shopping with your values in mind, you can take care of clearing out stuff in a conscious manner, such as passing on items to friends or family members, hosting swap parties at your home or workplace, or by donating to local shelters and nonprofits.
The items that can’t be passed on because they are old or damaged have value, so try to find a way to recycle; our Zero Waste Box™ system can fill the gaps for recycling everything we don’t have a free program for. This season of hosting, cleaning, and giving and receiving, our Plastic Packaging box in particular is a perfect catch-all for many types of plastics produced this busy time.
The season of gift shopping, indulgence, excess, and gift-giving is upon us, but hopefully the spirit of giving thanks is still with us. Gratitude is known to be directly linked with happiness, enhancing health and wellness both mentally and physically, and is a perfect counterbalance to a culture that consistently whispers in our ear that we need “more.”
Taking stock and appreciating what we have versus being in a constant state of wanting shifts our awareness and recalibrates our understanding and experience of “enough,” which can lead to more conscious consumption. After all, consumption in and of itself isn’t bad; it’s, in fact, necessary. So when we cast ballots with our bucks, we bring an intention and influence towards the type of world we’re co-creating together, every day.