Written by Faaria Ahmad, Think Global Programme Manager
On 24 April 2013, 1134 people died in a crowded factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. These people were working in a garment factory which makes clothes for major companies in the UK and Europe. The building collapsed and with it pulled open the curtain to the reality of mass production. This event gave a face and name to those making our clothes. For me, it was a bitter realisation of how my own consumption had directly impacted the lives of innocent people living half way across the globe.
I belong to the Bangladeshi dias pora community living in London and I have seen for myself the stark difference between the developed and the developing, between rich a nd poor, between those with choices and those with none. But it was the events of Rana Plaza which woke me up. We are a generation brought up in excess and we lo ve it. We love the choice s , the price cuts , the ease by which we have it all available . We don’t need to know how workers who supply these products are treated or paid, how fish are sourced or chickens are kept and slaughtered.
I started to think twice about everything I bought. I questioned butchers about the treatment of the chickens and lamb before they were slaughtered - majority of the time they had no idea . I questioned the impact on our environment when vegetables and fruits were flown over to the UK, when cows were slaughtered and the whole production process that follows. I researched how supermarkets ranked in terms of taking an ethical stand on human rights, the environment and sustainability. None of them did very well!
When the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were announced, I particularly noted SDG 12- Sustainable consumption and production. This is a vital part to the wider narrative connecting the Global North to the Global South and connecting companies to individuals. Although the focus is very much on the environmental impact when producing and consuming products , I believe that it highlights the interconnectedness between consumers and companies. We all have a responsibility to create change through our actions.
After I had done all my questioning and research, I started to implement small changes in my consumer habits- where I shop, how often, what I buy, what I eat. It is not easy to lead a n ethical and sustainable life. The main issue is that it is expensive and this pushes you to rethink exactly what you can afford to change and where your progress will be slower. There were things I cut down on and other things which I have started. For the last few years I have cut down on meat and invested in purchasing locally sourced organic vegetables - this has meant being super creative in the kitchen with random vegetables I have never heard of, let alone eaten. I don’t know how much the impact of my actions are worth, but I hope that in doing this small action on a regular basis I am supporting the SDGs.
The first step towards change is to educate ourselves and share with those around us. If you would to learn more about how you can teach your students about living a more ethical and sustainable life, Think Global have created resources to help you. Our new wallplanner for 2017/18 is based on ethical and sustainable consumption, this is accompanied with a teaching resource . We also have teaching activity kits which explore supermarket waste and plastic and purchasing power and global learning .
There is so much that we can do as individuals , the important thing is not to feel overwhelmed by it all. Pick one thing you want to change or adopt and do it regularly. I f we all take small steps for a better world, collectively that step won't be as small as we think. Good luck!