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How to Be Better and Do Better

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My recent post about roadkill and global warming generated some thought-provoking comments, among them this note from fellow inspired protagonist Kevin:

Jeffrey, if you eat meat despite the evidence that a meat-based diet is non-sustainable, how then can we have hope about the future of ethical consumerism?

To shed light on the answer, Stanford's Center for Social Innovation recently came out with an interesting report.

There may be a fundamental disconnect in the marketing of socially responsible products. It is the difference between what people say they want, and what they actually buy.

http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/the_other_csr/

If you have the time, I would certainly appreciate hearing your response.

I was going to post my reply here simply as a comment on the original post, but then I thought that maybe it deserved to be a post of its own. So here goes…

Kevin, I look forward to reading the Stanford report. In terms of building a culture that embraces ethical consumerism and the challenges that exist relative to people (like me) who don’t always do what they know may be the right thing to do, I have the following thoughts:

  • No one will ever do everything they believe they should, and we should not expect them to. We are all imperfect, hopefully in a process of becoming the people we aspire to be, but life is a process of becoming. The question is: do we know who it is we aspire to be and are we actively engaged in that process of becoming?
  • One could rightfully ask whether or not someone like me should be setting a leadership example. The answer is that I should be, and hope I do, but perfection isn’t part of leadership. In fact, I actually believe we need more leaders who are willing to expose their faults, limitations and weaknesses. No one can trust a leader who attempts to appear perfect.
  • How do we do more than we are already doing? By celebrating our successes, admitting our failures, and charting a course toward that which we are committed to doing next.
  • How do we build the movement for ethical consumerism? We need to help people connect the purchase of ethical products to the creation of the type of world they want to live in and leave to the next generation. Ethical products create the possibility of causing positive change in the world whenever we purchase anything. On one level, it requires changing people’s beliefs that they can’t make a difference. From my vantage point I’ve spent the past 18 years telling people they can change the world one roll of bathroom tissue at a time.
  • How bad is eating meat? A few weeks ago I was lectured by a local Vermont cattle farmer who let me know that eating organic, grass fed beef was critical to rebuilding our soil so that it can be an effective source of sequestering CO2. I’m still investigating.
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