Four hundred and fifty

The problem with trying to make ethical, sustainable choices…

Last year I examined a lot of different topics that changed me to the core and I hope will influence the choices I make for the rest of my life – for instance the information I learned when I lived at the poverty line and during good deed month, some of the videos I watched during vegan month, and what I learned about food during many of the months.  I’ve tried to make as sustainable and ethical choices as I can since learning this information, but it’s hard to draw a line between what is sustainable and what isn’t.  I’m reading Vanessa Farquharson’s book Sleeping Naked is Green (how an eco-cynic unplugged her fridge, sold her car, and found love in 366 days) and she mentions the problem with spices:

Things like basil, thyme, and coriander can all be grown locally, but garlic and ginger usually come from China, cinnamon from Sri Lanka, cumin from the Middle East, vanilla and curry powder from India, and so on, which means the more flavourful your meal, the bigger carbon cost it may have.

So unless you are a raw vegan who adds only locally grown herbs to your food, you are leaving a carbon footprint.  I never even thought about the environmental impact of spices.  The more I find out, the more it becomes overwhelming.  It feels like no matter what you do, you are screwed.

I recently went on a rant about TOMs shoes (for every pair you buy, they donate a pair to an underprivileged child in a developing nation somewhere) and how they might be doing more harm than good by giving shoes instead of helping bring jobs to poorer countries by manufacturing the shoes there (they are made in China).  I was upset that I tried to make the ethical choice and instead my purchase could be supporting something that hurts not helps.  Sometimes it’s so overwhelming I feel like giving up and just buying whatever I want to without the thought of where it comes from or how it’s affecting the environment and other people.

A friend of mine and former roommate who is more educated in ethical and sustainable products than anyone else I know (she owned a company that sold these kinds of products, as well as has a degree in nutrition, and has influenced me to use natural products and eat organic over the years) had an interesting opinion about it.  She told me that yes, TOMs doesn’t do everything perfect, but at least they’re doing something.  They are better than buying a pair from a company that makes their shoes in sweat shops and doesn’t try.  And her husband is from Africa and he often brings shoes to give to the kids because even if they were made there, there’s a lot of corruption and often the kids don’t actually get anything.  “You can only do what you can do.  Try to make the most informed decisions you can and continue to try to choose sustainable, ethical products.  None of them will be perfect.”

It made me think about how making simple choices can help.  If we all made simple choices, like used vinegar and water for cleaning instead of chemicals (which cleans just as good and is cheaper) or chose to buy shoes that were trying to help people instead of hurting them, the world would be a better, cleaner, nicer place to live – and might actually be around longer for generations to come.

So, here are my TOMs.  And I’m going to continue to do what I can do and make the best choices I can with the information I can find out.  Maybe my great grandchildren will thank me for that.