This feels like coming home! Until a few years ago, I lived in the ‘Warmland’—farming, vending at the Duncan Farmers’ Market, and writing a weekly column for The Citizen called “Food for Thought”. Not a very innovative title but it did describe very well what I intended it to be all about—my thoughts and observations about the local food scene in the Cowichan Valley.
My time in the Cowichan, immersed in local food, learning about the importance of supporting my neighbours, was where my broadened interest in all things sustainable took root. Food is still a passion of mine (I load up my freezer every year with local free range meat birds) but I have come to realize that our food choices are just one of many we make every day that can have either a positive or negative impact on us, our communities and, in fact, the whole world.
We make many choices each day and one that we all have in common is how we spend our money. Some of us have more, some of us have less, but we all use the money we have in trade for goods and services that we need or want. Which is, quite frankly, all that money is good for and all that it was ever intended to be for (hauling around gold got to be a bit cumbersome).
We regular folk often feel disempowered—we feel that we don’t have an ability to make an impact, to create change, to do much good in the world. This belief is a grave underestimation of our true power. The choices we make every day on how and where we spend our money can, and does, create significant and positive change, no matter if we have much or little. Just think back to when canned fruit went from being processed with sugar syrup. It was consumer pressure—pressure in the form of reduced sales—that caused Del Monte and the like to ditch the syrup and start using pear juice.
We often make our buying choices on price alone, probably because that is the only immediate impact we feel on a personal level. We often forget that our choices result in costs to ourselves, our community and our global neighbours in the form of ‘externalities’. An example (from my food passion, of course), is choosing conventional produce instead of organic. We may not have to reach as deeply into our pockets at the checkout that day but what about the potential increased climate change due to the use of petroleum based fertilizer, and health care costs due to lower nutrition and ingestion of pesticides? Not only are some of these externalized costs falling on others but they will eventually fall on us too, not to mention our children and grandchildren.
So, the next time you open your wallet, imagine this: no matter how small the transaction, handing over your money is like tossing a small pebble into a pond—it may create a small splash but it results in ever expanding and repeating ripples.
Originally from Hamilton, Ontario, Karin considers herself an ‘island girl’ having lived, worked and played here on Vancouver Island for the past 30 years. She is passionate about building resilient communities and has worked and volunteered extensively to further this interest. Karin’s formal education includes a B.Sc. from the University of Victoria and a Masters in Environmental Management at Royal Roads University. She has owned her own accounting, consulting and food businesses, and was the former General Manager for the Van Isle location of North America’s largest organic home delivery business, spud!