Written by Doug Crouch
Simple put there are many industries that if we had a green tint to the businesses we were running or consuming products and services from, there would be a more holistic bottom line. Entrepreneurship and its subsequent small business, most often, is the backbone of the economy. While many think major employers are corporations, it is actually small businesses that run the world economy. Unfortunately governments favor corporations too often. Furthermore, brand awareness and loyalty remains concentrated in these lines. However there is a way to keep money more local, to make production more equitable and environmentally friendly, and still turn a profit, which can help to meet the fair share ethic of Permaculture.
From cooking, to food processing, to clothing, agriculture, and energy, and its subsequent movement across the world, drives either destruction or regeneration. For example coffee as it can either be grown ecologically and the buyers of the raw product can reinvest in these communities by buying it at a fair price known as fair trade or living trade. Or it can be grown by huge agro-company giants with the people doing the producing having very little power in getting any sort of value from it and being exposed to dangerous chemical inputs. Meanwhile these companies make huge profits from these often developing nations agriculture base and money is sucked out through the chemical production model and unconscious consumption pattern (demand meeting supply). The traders of this commodity and the retailers, either shops or cafe’s, are the ones making huge profits while the farmer makes very little money working the fields. However each coffee you consume can have a story behind it, it can be used to support education in these villages in remote areas for example, but you, the consumer, must search for these stories rather than blindly consuming. Some call these initiatives of eco-entrepeneurship social enterprises, which in the end they are. Price should only be one consideration when choosing which products to consume like coffee.
Now think about cooking fuel, often electric or natural gas in the more developed part of the world or firewood and charcoal in less developed parts of the world. These all lead to lower environmental health and subsequent human health, whether directly or indirectly. There are places where this mining or deforestation occurs, where the processing happens, where the shipment comes in, and in the end where the consumer consumes it. They have no story of their energy bills either often, just a bill at the end of the month representing usage and the payment needed. However, my mates and PDC students at GoSun, a portable Solar stove invented in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA have pioneered a new way to cook. It uses evacuated tubes normally used in solar hot water heating for cooking. Brilliant design and it addresses with a more green tint a real human need, cooking fuel. It relies on the sun to power it and while made with industrial materials, it’s a great transition. And in these times we need products or services to aid in our transition away from a heavy reliance on fossil fuels to one where we use it where absolutely necessary. Nothing is perfect and with very few people educated on how to be producers not mundane consumers in the more developed (industrialized) part of the world, we need a time of transition. By your purchases, you create jobs and when used over a long period of time it becomes a appropriate technology helping to take strain off the fossil fuel industry. Furthermore, having lived on just a few solar panels and a small battery pack in Portugal for many years in community, we really had to be conscious of our consumption of energy. It was based on present day energy, the sun, not ancient light known as fossil fuels.
Furthermore, there is a series of interconnected businesses that could be scaled up and down to fit urban, rural or ecovillage developments. If they are singular they don’t work but the power of interconnection is what infuses ecology with its growth, permaculture with its growth, and business in its growth. It leverages the idea of energy cycling by looking at inputs and outputs, done in the functional analysis of the relative location principle. Business to business interaction is vital and we must search for ways to form supply connections and deal with waste transformation. Thus there are many chains in the overall business process of production, transformation, distribution, consumption, and waste, and the more we as business owners and consumers opt for green options, the more the ripple effect in society there will be; not trickle down, but ripple effect or the wave pattern. It’s how money circulates locally instead of being off-shored, it’s how soils are built instead of being mined, its how more people make a living wage instead of oligarchical control of the economy. We have a big work ahead to stop relying on the corporations that represent a monoculture and bring diversity back to green the desert. We have a grand opportunity to create local business connections that build natural capital rather than extracting it. It’s a simple switch, and yes its more expensive.
Why is it more expensive?
Because simply what creates the monoculture industrial base of food or fiber, fossil fuel or pharmacy, is subsidies. While it may seem cheap, guess what; you are already paying for it through your taxes and then purchase price at the grocery for something like a bowl of cereal. So now it doesn’t become so cheap and with the amount of debt that governments are in, how is this a sustainable system? It’s simply not, evidence by the 2008 bailouts, which was needed because not enough transition eco-entrepreneurship had been instilled into society. Simply put it would have been Mad Max style society, Atlantis falling of the edge creating complete chaos. And for now we need a smooth transition and we need eco-entrepreneurship. Governments and high-powered capitalists are often just investing in the same old same old, analogous to beating a dead horse and expecting it to move even when they hit it harder. Your governments collect part of your earnings and invest through subsidies to certain sectors that create unfair playing field advantage. Imagine a soccer game where one side got 11 players and one got seven. Who would win? And not only that, they create labour laws that make it very difficult for small business to thrive. Innovation is a gift of transforming new ideas into tangible products and services, which is how a society can evolve. However, some consumers are willing to pay that premium price because they are investing in a story not just a brand name. And this is how our society is evolving right now along with local politics investing in some sustainable measures as well.
Imagine you want to get some food out in a restaurant, the leading shapers of our diets often. You can invest in restaurants buying from local farms doing it with an ethic or you can invest in a national brand relying on other monocultures to create calories but not sustenance. It was the restaurants choice and if you buy into that, they stay with the same model. And guess what, the monoculture is cheaper, but then you find yourself at the doctor more because health and food are so interrelated. We have forgotten this but if you wonder why some people eat organic, its to also save money on not going to the doctor. People don’t do yoga to just be flexible they do it to deal with a myriad of issues that can be addressed passively by it. When we don’t think holistically it’s easy to make the choice of a non ethical food brand that is feeding you but not sustaining you. And the producers are making very little in the countryside, the land
and water and air is being poisoned, and it’s such a broken model that it requires huge subsidies across a multitude of different industries to prop it up. That is why it’s more expensive for organic or sustainable products, we don’t get the same playing field as the big corporations. And I am not asking for the government to necessarily do that because ultimately it’s the consumers responsibility to be informed holistically (subsidizing labour could be a huge boon holistically). Know that your choices in your homes, in your daily lives have ripple effects in so many other places because most are consumers not producers especially with our high levels of urbanization and specialization in our modern world. So you have that choice, it’s the age of the consumer not the producers, but we need more producers moving into a green tint so that when people do make these purchases they are helping to create a new story around business and the care of people and plants. And we need more people making that local or innovative alternative choice in their consumption.
(Pictures below: farm to table project I was hired for in Dominican Republic. The owner was tired of buying normal produce when he had land and a will to grow organically)
Organic industry as an Example
When people became informed holistically about the industrial agriculture model more and more people switched to the organic sector of food. It grew rapidly and still does. It’s great but there are its downfalls, which is why the local food scene has usurped it in some ways, especially within those early adopters sector. The standards of organic got weakened, multinational corporations joined in, and people wanted something even more equitable, which became local foods. The regulations and subsidies inhibit a lot of small to medium-sized farms to be successful, but you as the consumer can invest in these people and create a story behind each meal.
Your choices affect other beings. What legacy will you leave with your choices of consumption and how you can become a producer, even if on a small-scale. So invest with your weekly budgets into the world you would like to see through purchases of food, energy, and household products. And if you have extra capital to play with, the basis of capitalism, then invest in businesses that are shaping the world in a triple bottom line way. And if you have an idea that fills a niche in society where a need is met more holistically, dream it, plan it, search for investment if need be, and do it! Organize cooperatively beyond that so that community involvement is part of your life as we can’t wait for governments to solve problems, we must in the business sector, which as consumers we must put our money where are hearts are. Bring love into business. As entrepreneurs, if you can create jobs in right livelihood sector, jobs that people really want to do and meet the triple bottom line, then that is such a powerful move as more brilliant minds can be applied to this sector rather being cogs in a giant machine. Work as individuals, work as communities, and work especially on the local level of politics to create the change we wish to see in the world. Start with the Man or Woman in the mirror! I leave you with a quote from Wendell Berry, not Mollison this time on his producer/ consumption adage, as Wendell Berry started this movement in the states in some ways.
Written by Doug Crouch
Header art by Anita Tirone