If you’re reading this, you’re probably doing work based on values about making things better. But often, we get caught up in our thing and forget about other areas where our values could have greater effect. So here are some useful actions you can take in a few minutes from your computer.
Feed your head
Most of us use at least one social network, like Facebook or Twitter, that gives us a stream of what people are saying. If you haven’t already, pick one or two issue areas that interest you and, for each, seek out one or two individuals or organisations who are saying good things.
Maybe they’re bringing together info that more people should know, or challenging accepted ways of looking at things. For example, I have the New Economics Foundation in my Twitter feed, which gives me a glimpse of ethical economic thinking and critique of government announcements. It doesn’t mean I have to do a detailed read of everything the organisation puts out, but it keeps it in a corner of my awareness.
Our brains are very good at cutting corners in the continual editing of our worldviews, so keeping your perspective open is a useful social action. And it’ll come through in our conversations with other people, helping ideas to spread.
You could also get hold of Positive News, a newspaper full of stories about great things people are doing to make a better world. You can sometimes find it at places like wholefood shops, but you can become a member and get it delivered or just read the website.
Click for action
Start using one of the online petition sites, where you can add your name to calls for action on a wide range of issues. Once the site knows who you are, it usually just takes typing your email address and clicking a button.
I call this crowdlobbying. It’s a way for large numbers of people to tell decision-makers that they do care about something and expect to see action. Because it’s about the numbers, every person who joins in helps to build momentum.
The main one for a global view is Avaaz, and the main one for a UK-specific view is 38 Degrees. Others have been springing up recently, like SumOfUs and Change.org. Avaaz has 34 million members worldwide: it’s like a virtual nation of people who want things to be better.
One thing to be aware of: you will get emails alerting you to further actions and asking you to help, and sometimes the stories are hard to take right then, so you may want a way to filter them. I don’t know whether the organisations let you choose what you hear about. The most important thing is to resolve in your own mind that you don’t have to respond to everything, and that’s OK. You could filter the emails to a specific folder, but that risks missing actions that need a rapid response.
Redirect money you’re already spending
You pay a chunk of money to an energy company for electricity and/or gas. Are you happy with what’s being done with it? There have been a lot of stories recently about the ‘Big Six’ energy companies in the UK, and how they handle pricing. They certainly come off poorly for customer satisfaction in the Which? annual survey.
For me, a big issue is how much of my energy comes from renewable sources. A lot of big suppliers now have a ‘green’ tariff which includes some percentage. But there are also smaller companies who give much more support for small renewable suppliers and invest much more in building new capacity. I recently switched over to one of these, Ecotricity, and I feel pretty good that the money I pay every month is also helping to build a sustainable future.
Switching is just a matter of contacting your chosen supplier and giving some info, and providing meter readings just before you switch (it takes about six weeks). It’s an administrative thing, and doesn’t involve fiddling with anything at your house. (Proviso: if you’re locked in to a contract or have ancient meters etc it might be less straightforward.)
A similar approach applies to investment and banking. If you’re lucky enough to have financial assets, what are they working for and does that fit your values? Places to investigate if you’re interested include yourethicalmoney.org, Triodos Bank and the Ecology Building Society.
Making even a few choices differently is participating in the world we want to see.
If you want to gather info about the impacts and records of products and companies, Ethical Consumer may be a good resource for you.
I’m not necessarily recommending any of the specific service providers above. I’m recommending you check them out for yourself.
It’s small things about the shape of our lives… Even things we haven’t thought about may be serving someone in a way we never intended. It just needs shining a light on and a quick adjustment to get more of our life heading the right way, and feeling better for it.