I want to buy local and organic, but if I can’t find food that is both, do I buy local or organic? I believe in supporting local businesses, but if I can only find the notebook with recycled paper at a national office supply store do I buy it or go with a less environmentally-friendly version at the local store?
Everyone has a set of values that they live by, or try to live by. Whether it is supporting local businesses, union made goods and services, eating organic food, or buying recycled goods, the list goes on. Often times, though, the values start to overlap one another and it is difficult to find a product to buy or a company to support that falls in line with all of your values, let alone one that you can afford. So what are you to do?
Fran Hawthorne has spent time sorting through these dilemmas of everyday life, and then some. The author of The Overloaded Liberal, spoke last week at the Unitarian Universalist Society on exactly how to juggle each value and principle.
Fran, who discusses the values mentioned above, and more, in her book said that she hears from a lot of people that they “feel guilty” when they can’t do everything or support every value all of the time. So, instead of trying to do it all, she says, choose one or two things you can do – and do them. For example, Fran mentioned one of hers is buying organic, cage-free eggs because it gives the chicken a better life and she can afford the price since eggs are cheap anyway. For you, it could be recycling every soda can you drink, going through your closet every season and donating the clothes you no longer wear, or making one meal a week utilizing local ingredients. Once you establish the routine of doing your one thing, push yourself to the next step, she says. Slowly spread the word and more and more people will start catching on.
As a college student, who is on a tight budget, it can be difficult to budget in a grocery bill of organic food, which often times can be more expensive. However, there are ways that you can do your part and spare your wallet. Fran suggests turning off your lights (an obvious action, but one that many of us forget while rushing to class), buying used textbooks and selling them back (just in time for fall semester!), recycling, and being fashion forward by buying used clothes (they don’t have to be your grandma’s clothes).
Furthermore as a college student, she says, you have the best resources to learn about the ethical and consumer debates and recognize movements. Whether it is going into a related department or emailing a professor who is teaching an intriguing course, get involved and be active.
Lastly, you can’t be in constant gloom if you don’t recycle one soda can or you buy blueberries from New Zealand during December, Fran warns. You need to balance humor and the serious side of the issues, unless everyone would get too discouraged. Her bottom line: “you aren’t perfect, laugh about it.”
Fran Hawthorne has over 20 years of experience specializing in health care, retirement issues, and the nexus between business and public policy. I am a former editor and/writer at Fortune, Business Week, the Bergen Record, Crain’s New York Business, and Institutional Investor. Visit her website at, http://hawthornewriter.com/