The Devil whispered in my ear, “You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.”
Today I whispered in the Devil’s ear, “I am the storm.”
I used to be terrified of what was happening in our world—of what the future would bring. I could be fearless in the face of a 15 foot ocean wave, but I couldn’t turn on the news because I couldn’t bear watching our world go down in flames. It hurt too much to see the government perpetuate hate, and unceasingly squander precious resources in the name of big money corporations.
I felt like a slave on a sinking ship, bonded and locked below deck with no control over any future. My vote didn’t count. My voice wasn’t heard. Instead, greed and evil were at the helm, calling the shots.
When my family asked me for the hundredth time, “When are you going to give us a grand-baby?” I had to tell them the truth: maybe never. I couldn’t bear the thought of bringing an innocent child into this world, into this madness, into a future that looks bleaker every day. In response, they half-laughed and half-scoffed at me. “Oh, stop buying into it; the world is a pretty good place.”
That’s when a light bulb went off in my head. Stop buying into it.
I used to believe that big money corporations controlled our world: They kept the government in their pocket and my life under their thumb. However, I hadn’t really thought about where the money that fueled their power came from.
Those four words, “stop buying into it,” made me realize the truth. I have the corporations in my pocket. We all do. Without us, without our purchases, their activities would come to a screeching halt. We control them. We are the majority shareholders. We have all of the power.
I remember loving the “Fight Club” quote, “You are not your f**ing khakis,” because it freed me from trying to identify myself through materialistic things. But the real truth is that we are what we wear, what we eat, what we buy, and what we do. Our purchases represent the life we want for ourselves, and what we want for our world. We get the choice: reusable or plastic, organic or toxic, health or sickness, oppression or freedom, love or hate, war or peace.
If we want the world to change, we need to take back control by putting our money where our heart is. There are already good businesses making products and offering services that align with our ideals, but honestly there aren’t enough. To tip the scales toward good, I have been pouring my heart and soul into building The Acoustic Collective, an eco-ethical surf brand that donates 100 percent of profits to protect the ocean and environment, rescue stray animals, help end poverty, and enrich humanity. If we want to ensure a future that is a hell of a lot better than the present, we need to support good businesses, and also create more of them. We need to make sure our actions and purchases align with our values.
I want to buy food from farmers who are in love with the earth; who live to plant seeds, nurture, grow, replenish, and bring health. Who think about the world they will leave behind for their grandchildren. Who are committed to protecting the waterways from pollution and in turn protecting their neighbors near and far from cancer. Who take great joy in knowing their work nourishes others. I want to buy their tomatoes. I want their strawberries. I want to support them because their ideals reflect my greatest hopes for our world.
I want to eat at a restaurant that is passionate about making delicious, earth-friendly food, and that donates its surplus to help feed the poor. I want to know that nothing is wasted; that when I eat not only is my own hunger being satisfied, but there will also be less hunger in the world.
When I go on vacation, I want to know that I left the place better than I found it, and that my incredible experiences tilted the world on its axis, in a good way.
When I buy gifts, I want to know that no one had to suffer for me to give joy. I want to know that my purchases empower people, create health, protect the earth, and bring more peace.
Those aren’t head-in-the-cloud ideals; they are foods, services, trips, and products available to us right now. It is up to us to change the world through our words, actions, purchases, and votes. Through the things we make and the legacy we leave behind.
How can we cast our votes as majority shareholders? Here are five beginning steps we can each take:
1. Focus on quality over quantity.
For products, choose things that last longer and are made better. It may seem more expensive at first glance, but when something lasts twice as long, or does twice the job, it holds twice the value. A three-dollar pair of sunglasses will likely fall apart in under two weeks, but a well-made pair can last years.
For food, remember that healthy food often costs more because it provides more nutrients. A handful of almonds will nourish us, a four-pound box of processed cookies will not.
Instead of buying bottled water, invest in a water filtration system and a few non-BPA reusable bottles. Start using a travel mug for coffee instead of disposable cups; most coffee shops even give a discount.
For kids’ toys, look for ones that are designed to withstand hours of play—usually these are not made of plastic. Also, consider joining or starting a toy share, where members trade quality eco-friendly toys each month.
2. Buy eco-friendly, organic, and ethical.
It is easier now than ever to choose earth-friendly goods. The more we do, the more companies will change their ways to meet our demands. We can start by buying things with at least one of these words on the label: Organic, Fair-trade, Fair-wear, Pesticide free, Non-GMO, Recycled, Re-purposed, or Sustainable.
3. Choose reusable and renewable.
Use tote bags instead of paper or plastic, and re-use the small plastic bags from the grocery produce aisle.
Buy from bulk bins (dry beans, rice, nuts, flour, etc.) as much as possible, and re-use the bags/containers too. Choose products sold in containers that can be recycled where you live.
Get reusable plates, cups and utensils for picnics or camping, and wash zip lock bags (one box can last a long time—just don’t put pasta sauce in them).
Replace paper towels with cotton towels; these can be laundered and hung out to dry. Replace throwaway diapers with washables.
Refrain from purchasing anything “single-use” (disposable razors, cameras, gift wrap, plastic bags, etc.).
4. Support local and small businesses.
Pick up fresh produce from a farm stand nearby. Start a community garden or plant one in your backyard.
For gifts, buy things that are handcrafted by local artisans, and before racing to the closest big store check to see if someone in town offers the product or service.
5. Dig deeper and support corporations that give big.
Learn more about products, how they are made, the companies behind them, and the impact they have on the planet. We can direct our dollars to the ones that make an effort to protect the environment and give back to society.
Perform random acts of kindness.
Bringing positive change is about more than what we buy or eat, it is the constant actions we choose to make. We don’t have to join the Peace Corps, or give all our money to charity, we can simply help in little ways: donating clothes to a shelter, letting someone ahead in line, sharing our garden tomatoes with a neighbor.
“Kindness is free, sprinkle that sh*t everywhere.”
I am no longer afraid of the future, because I know it is in my hands. I am not a helpless victim or an innocent bystander. The government and big money corporations aren’t the only ones to blame for the current state of our world; we control 70 percent or more of our income. We are the majority shareholders. We make the call. We are the storm. What is our vote going to be?
Author: Danielle Ciminero
Image: Roman Kraft/Unsplash
Editor: Taia Butler