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Trying to live more ethically and sustainably

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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,  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!  

 

 

Catherine Richardson 0
expert
Catherine is a Programme Manager at Think Global, Consumer Classroom's UK National Team Partner. She previously worked as a teacher of Modern Foreign Languages through the Teach First programme and volunteered for a summer in Tanzania to deliver Limited Resource Teacher Training to local teachers. Catherine then worked for a year with PEAS Uganda as an Education Specialist for the eastern region cluster of schools. Just prior to joining Think Global, Catherine worked as Programme and Training Manager with Team Up and graduated from the University of Birmingham with a BA in International Studies with French.
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