By: Meadow Funkenhauser
We’ve all heard the endless debate over the effectiveness of individual efforts in the environmental movement. And you can believe whatever you want about the effectiveness, but I believe the real message to be learned from this debate is the idea of supply and demand.
Of course it is important that we hold corporations and governments responsible for their behaviour. Why should Canadians pay a carbon tax when they are not even responsible for the largest amounts of greenhouse gas emissions? Major industries are destroying the environment and the only question I have is why? Why, when we as consumers have all of the power to start trends do we allow such outwardly destructive behaviour to occur?
As of recent, corporate social responsibility has become very prevalent in the business world and this is indicative of the attention that is paid to consumers. Based on the very principles of supply and demand, we as consumers have the most power to make change. Think about the last time you walked into a grocery store. How many plant-based milk alternatives did you see? Now, for those of you who live in Canada, you can probably recall that our stores carry many varieties of different dairy alternatives. This is as a result of the growing popularity and the trend of vegan and plant-based lifestyles. As consumers change the way they view the world and choose to only purchase products that align with their values, industries will be forced to either change their practices, or risk economic loss as a result of a dwindling demand for products. Looking back to our example of plant-based milk alternatives, we see that the demand for cow’s milk has decreased, demand for plant-based alternatives has increased and as a result, dairy farmers such as Jay Wilde from the UK have retired their herds and switched to alternatives like oat milk.
From this example, we can see that consumer trends are powerful and can have a great influence on industry. Despite this, we still choose to ignore the power we hold and discourage others from trying to create change. We shame people who choose to skip a straw saying that they are doing nothing for the environment, yet continue to buy seafood which is an industry that is responsible for up to 70% of marine pollution each year. We can not continue denying the fact that consumers influence demand and thus directly impact the supply kept of certain products and so it is important for us as individuals to do everything we can for the environment.
I know it can be difficult when we see others around us refusing to make personal changes and I can’t blame you for feeling discouraged and wanting to give up. But ultimately, you can not give up on doing your best because why in the world would corporations and governments change their behaviour when individual consumers won’t?
Feature image source: Unsplash