When you imagine me, an individual who went out of his way to start an “ethical” business, what comes to mind?
Am I vegan? Do I gift my friends and family trees for their birthday? Do I limit my clothes shopping to companies that pay their workers a living wage? Am I living a zero waste lifestyle? Do I subject myself to a voluntary carbon tax?
What if I told you that none of that is true about my life at this moment?
Would you call me hypocrite?
“He claims to support ethical businesses. He says he wants to empower conscious consumers...
But he still buys clothing from H&M. He eats meat. He buys bottled water.”
Yes, those are facts.
But are the facts the end all be all for judging people—and, more importantly, ourselves?
Ideally, we would be able to snap our fingers and wake up tomorrow as perfect individuals with completely ethical and eco-friendly lifestyles.
In reality, it's not so simple. (After all, we ARE only human.)
Becoming a conscious consumer is easy. You need only decide to start buying "consciously," giving thought to the social and environmental impact of your purchases.
To adopt a completely ethical lifestyle is a longer journey, one that takes time and effort.
I'm not saying that the facts—or our actions—don't matter. I'm simply saying that we would do well to consider people's intentions as well.
There are plenty of people who WANT to live sustainably and buy ethically, but aren't at the moment.
The truth is, it's probably complicated, and it wouldn't be fair to judge. After all...
We don’t know a person’s financial state. (At the moment, ethical living favors the privileged.)
We don’t know where they are in their life’s journey. (Many people haven’t been exposed to these issues yet.)
We don’t know what kind of access they have to products or services. (Yes, I know there’s the internet nowadays, but ethical businesses are not yet ubiquitous or as convenient as logging onto Amazon.)
And, regardless of all that, it's hard to change our habits. Period. (Think New Year's Resolutions.)
Remember, life isn't black and white. There's plenty of nuance to be found in every situation.
The best thing we can do as human beings is to strive for continual growth in our lives.
We need not be perfect.
Empowering ourselves means allowing for room to GROW.
The worst thing we can do—besides nothing—is to try to do everything, get burnt out, and fail completely. For most of us, that sequence of events comes with a sprinkle of guilt on top too.
Instead, we should focus on taking steps forward when we can. Of course, life holds many surprises and challenges. Sometimes, we may even take steps “backwards,” by choice or out of necessity.
Whether you want to live plastic-free, cut your personal carbon emissions, go cruelty-free, or shop ethically-made, choose one thing that you believe in and own it, one small step at a time.
Let's accept that we're not perfect.
In fact, let's give ourselves permission to be imperfect on our journey towards building a better world.
Then, we'll be free of the burdens that keep us from progress, and, perhaps, we'll find ourselves one step closer to where we would like to be.
What can you do right now to take you closer to your goals?
I'm supporting ethical businesses while challenging toxic marketing and business practice through Unconventional Agency. In my personal life, I'd like to maintain my weekday vegetarian diet and start buying eco-friendly products for my day-to-day life.