I’ll never forget when my friend went through a phase where she listened to the most abstract music she could possibly find. She took pleasure in informing the rest of us about a new band we had never heard of, hanging posters and memorabilia — proving herself to be the number one groupie. Her consistently desperate need to know every alternative band before anyone else led me to play a trick.
I asked her if she had heard of the “Infected Mushrooms” and their newest album Dirty Roots. “Oh yeah, I love that one,” she responded. It was funny at the time, because there was no such thing as the Infected Mushroom and they certainly had no dirty roots. Looking back I find it sad that I never again took any of her music advice seriously. I wanted nothing to do with her musical conversations because she thought she was better for her taste in music, and we all thought it was absurd.
I often worry that people feel the same way when listening to spiels on ethical consumption and other sustainable practices. Of course, some people simply have different opinions on the matter and will never change their mind. But, for a majority of people who are open to changing their habits, conversations surrounding such topics can be intimidating simply because of the way their peers discuss them.
Sharing information about small farmer-owned businesses, B-corps, organic products or forced labor free companies could not be more crucial. But in order to effectively spread this message, a person must carefully consider how they deliver their pitch. No one wants to listen to a know-it-all spew facts and brag about why their ethical lifestyle is superior to another’s. We all come from different backgrounds and were raised with varying values. It will never be acceptable to dictate how others should spend their money, or needlessly put down the things they believe in.
What we have been exposed to, or what we have chosen to educate ourselves on, determines everything we know or don’t know. The biggest mistake we can make in the fight for ethical consumption is to discredit someone for their lack of knowledge. If the goal is to get a majority of the population to shop with honor, then we must unite as a team. Successful teams have leaders, not superiors who think they are better.
If you are someone who refrains from big-name brands, shops only at thrift stores or grows your own vegetable garden, then congratulations are in order. Now ask yourself how you go about sharing this greatness with your community. Do you flaunt your completely organic fair trade kitchen? Or do you tell people the best place to find certain products and recommend the most affordable options?
Generally viewed as a progressive and sustainable town, Davis is filled with people who will tell you why shopping at the Co-op is better than Trader Joe’s. And they are right. But, telling someone their produce is bad and yours is good will never be an effective way to create change. I always keep a couple statistics that originally convinced me to change my practices in my back pocket to share whenever people are curious. I’m never looking to argue, but simply to converse and hear others’ perspectives with open ears.
If my old friend had ever bothered to stop and ask what my favorite songs were, I may have introduced her to something awesome. Everyone has something to add to the cause. Don’t miss their contribution because you’re too busy boasting about your values or listening to the Infected Mushroom.
You can reach Martha Greenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Twitter @marthazane94