Early in my life, I found success as an investor and entrepreneur.
I created my worth one dollar at a time, and I was quite successful. I started my first company when I was 13 and was managing a band at 23, but I didn’t feel fulfilled. I couldn’t point to anything I’d done and say, “This is something I’m proud to leave behind.”
My growing dissatisfaction in the services industry hit its peak when I was in the middle of negotiating a major deal between two household names. One of the parties involved mentioned that his dad was having surgery and that he might need to leave. The response to this from the other negotiators wasn’t empathy—or even sympathy. Instead, they told him they would walk away from the deal if he left before talks were over.
That was a clarifying moment. I realized that I didn’t want to waste one more second of my life helping the rich get richer. I wanted to use my talents to help people and the environment in which we live. I just needed to figure out how.
How to Change the Way We Consume
When faced with a life-altering decision like this, it’s easy to cast our eyes to the stars or some grand mission. But I didn’t want to pour time, money, and effort into something theoretical or light-years away; I wanted to see the effects of my work during my lifetime. So I decided to focus on a subject I knew something about: consumer purchasing.
This might not sound like the most obvious place to do good, but the way we consume has enormous repercussions for the planet and the people around us. Most of us don’t spend much time thinking about the products we use every day—or the stockpiles of trash that are the result of our purchases.
The beauty of focusing on consumer purchasing is that doing good in this environment doesn’t require some paradigm-altering, disruptive technology or idea. It just requires a slight shift in priorities. By tying a cause to every purchase of a particular item, businesses and consumers can be proactive in making the world a better place while feeling better about what we buy.
This effort can be as simple as contributing toward the planting of a tree for every purchase made, like Forest Remedies does with One Tree Planted. It might also include creating more sustainable, natural products. Each step toward thoughtful consumption is a pebble in a pond that creates bigger and bigger ripples.
Cause-Related Purchasing Doesn’t Have to Be an Afterthought
Giving back to nature through thoughtful purchasing habits should be more than just a nice thing to do—it should be an imperative. The Earth’s natural life-support systems (coral reefs and rainforests, for example) are declining at an alarming pace—caused, in large part, by how we consume. We all share the same planet, and part of what we do every day should be dedicated to making our home a better place.
There are so many ways to use our purchasing power for good. We can shop at companies that practice fair trade; avoid animal testing; and use local, sustainable, or recycled ingredients and materials. Every purchase we make can be cause-related in those ways—and many others.
If we like a brand but know it isn’t producing sustainably or treating its workers fairly, then we can encourage its leadership to make positive changes. Every little bit counts.
When we turn consumption into something good, with every purchase having a positive effect on the planet and the people on it, then we can quickly change things for the better.
People have an incredible amount of purchasing power; we just need to use it to help those around us and the generations to come. Let’s take time to pause and think about how we can use our influence for the betterment of this world and show our true worth in the process.