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PGC Notes: As a reminder, you must follow all submission instructions in order to be considered for a daily prize. This means including your name, username, email address, and school in every submission. Please be sure to fully read the instructions for each challenge! Thanks.
“The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats and biodiversity… that’s all there is. That’s the whole economy. That’s where all the economic activity and jobs come from. These biological systems are the sustaining wealth of the world.” ~ Gaylord Nelson, activist, politician and founder of Earth Day
When you think about the economics of a healthy, just and thriving planet, there is quite a bit to consider, learn and understand. There are many new terms that have been coined to help explain this concept; sustainable economics, natural capital, true cost and more. We invite you to read through today’s intro and click on all of the hyperlinks to help you really dig in. There are quite a few but you will learn a ton. Today is a class about the Economics of Sustainability. And, it’s a culmination of so much of what you’ve learned in the past 20 days. We are inviting you to begin to apply what you have learned to shift the economy, care for our natural capital (Mother Earth) and move toward solutions that can allow our planet to thrive for generations to come. It is up to us. And a big part of the decision making at the policy level comes from the people that we elect. Economics, values, and the health of our planet come down to voting for what we believe in. This is just one more plug to register to vote if you haven’t already. And now on to the challenge!
The terms “capital” and “value” typically have one association – money. But to only associate capital with money would be a gross oversimplification of the true marketplace – our earth. A truer reflection of the market would be the inclusion of natural capital. Natural capital is defined as the “world’s stocks” of natural assets that include geology, soil, air, water, and all living things. The economy relies heavily on natural capital assets, yet all too often the economy is still seen as separate from the environment. Take a few minutes to watch this video, featuring environmentalist and actor, Adrian Grenier (founder of #stopsucking). Natural capital can be a tricky concept and he does a great job simplifying it.
Unfortunately, our current market system subsidizes environmentally-destructive practices and restricts values-driven and conservation efforts in business. Concepts like true cost accounting are addressing this. True cost accounting looks at impacts to the environment, soil, climate, biodiversity, and public health. Here is a short film from Lexicon of Sustainability that illustrates just that.
Every choice we make plays a role in the global economy, Nearly everything we buy comes from natural resources; trees, water, coal, minerals, and so on. Our dollar has more power over the fate of our planet than we may believe – every choice we make as consumers, matters!
So how can we care for our planet and still be consumers? Conscious consumption or making decisions that have a net positive impact on the planet takes many forms:
Conservation. First and foremost, buy fewer things. Consuming less means you are conserving natural resources and preserving them for generations to come. Remember, less is always more when supporting our planet. Just in case you haven’t seen it, watch Shailene Woodley is Forest.
Vote with your dollar. That means wherever possible purchase ethically and sustainably made products. This likely means buying fewer things and spending a bit more (since many cheaply-made products are at an artificially low price – think true cost accounting).
Luckily, there are plenty of businesses working not only to do no harm, but to also create a global benefit. Check out the B Corp Declaration for an idea of how business can be used for good or One Percent for the Planet which uses 1% of a businesses’ profit to fund environmental causes. You can see these principles in action with B Corp companies, like TG partner Everyone, which considers people, planet, and profit – or the “triple bottom line.” Treat every purchase like an investment.
Divest. It’s not only about how you use your dollar, but also where you put your dollar. Banks lend money for various projects. When you put your money in a bank you are indirectly funding those projects. It is important to make sure you supports projects aligned with your values. Bank of America, PNC, Wells Fargo, SunTrust, BNP (Bank of the West), and U.S. Bank are funding pipelines across the country. Divesting your money from banks that support environmental harm and placing your money into funds that support people, communities and planet allows your hard earned dollars to make change. Friends of the Earth has developed an entire Economics for the Earth program to alter lending processes and help advocate for policies that “fund a brighter future”.
Problem-solve. As you become more aware of how you use the earth’s resources, you will also become more sensitive to important economic issues like global warming and fair wages. Sometimes the solution to these tricky problems isn’t as obvious – that’s why we need innovation. Know that as a consumer you hold lots of power, so always be thinking about creative ways to employ it. There are many ways to inspire human-centered problem solving if we think with intention, some of which you have explored in the past few weeks; DIY, buying less and better, volunteering, or making other small lifestyle shifts are places to start.
Prioritizing sustainability in our daily lives is possible and requires planning, intention and smart budgeting. If we use less, consume less, reuse, and change our behavior we will see individual action = massive collective impact. Here are some places to start.
After 20 days of PGC, you should feel empowered. You can transform world markets simply be making smart, informed purchasing decisions. But individuals, non-profit orgs and government can’t solve all of the challenges in front of us alone. Hundreds of corporations and businesses who have significant power to make a difference are using their for-profit enterprises to have a positive global. One way that businesses are committing to reducing inequality, lowering levels of poverty, working toward a healthier environment, stronger communities and the creation of more high quality jobs with dignity and purpose is by becoming a Certified B Corp. By harnessing the power of business B Corps use profits and growth as a means to placing people and planet before profit =equaling positive impact for their employees, communities and the environment, a trio commonly referred to as the triple bottom line. B Corps certification states that the business meets a certain set of social, environmental, performance, accountability, and transparency standards.
Upload a PDF Document with your responses. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
How can you live within a budget in a sustainable way that allows for the earth and its species to thrive? You’ve learned during PGC that consuming less “stuff” and voting with your dollar are good places to start transformation in your own life. As you start to take inventory of your own life and where change can happen, we want you to understand that seemingly simple actions or purchases like buying a cup of coffee have very real and massive impacts. If we consider all of the externalities of supply chain including seed, land management practices, pesticide use, health, social and environmental impacts on farmers and communities, delivery systems, carbon emissions, and how that cup of coffee is priced and dispensed to consumers, we will begin to understand the true cost of our own actions.
Coffee is a commodity that’s prolific. We drink it, have coffee ice cream, chocolate, cold beverages etc. The intention that individual consumers employ in their purchasing choices around coffee can have huge implications on natural capital, fair wages, community and environmental health and economics.
For this challenge, we are asking you to dive deeper into understanding the true cost of one commodity that millions of us consume every day – coffee.
Next, watch this video and take the Coffee Challenge
Share three things you learned from these resources about the the impact that coffee has on natural capital and economics and three benefits of intentional and informed coffee purchases. (feel free to draw on what you have learned throughout PGC)
Select two items in any category that you use daily and tell us how if you change the way you buy, you will change the footprint of this product. (Think big picture and true cost). Use some of the resources provided throughout this challenge to write impactful (and visual) explanations. Be creative in your presentation.
Come up with a great social post either highlighting a video that you have seen in this challenge or a visual and caption of some information that you think will prompt change in others.
Upload a PDF Document with your creative responses and screen shot of your social post. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
How can you live within your budget in a sustainable way allowing for the planet and its species to thrive? Here is an exercise that we think is an important next step.
Put together a budget of what you spend weekly or monthly. Two helpful resources are Mint or YNAB. Think about where most of your discretionary spending goes. Could any of this be eliminated if for example, you bring your own reusable water bottle instead of buying a drink in a single use container. One really important thing to also consider is how you can integrate ethical purchasing into your weekly spend to lessen your impact.
Find a way that you could realistically cut money out of your weekly budget. Multiply that savings by the 52 weeks in the year and see how much money you might save and at the same lessen your environmental impact.
Share some benefits about how this kind of thinking and planning will benefit your lifestyle and the planet.
Upload a PDF Document with your budget and responses. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.