Happy New Year and meilleurs voeux! I wish you all kindness, creativity, collaboration and fullfillment! #2020 for me is all about respect for all ecosystems (individual, collaborators, business, local, global and climate) and how this helps everyone, including businesses, not only survive but prosper.
This is not some high-minded value-signaling but a pragmatic truth, our margin is disappearing or gone in all our capitals (social, climate, economic…)
But the good news is, in this transition, there is a lot of opportunity, as we move from…
old system to new
linear to circular
unsustainable growth to self feeding
throw-away to long-term assets
brittle to supple and learning
consuming to curating
This is my declaration!
We are in this together! One step at a time. Each in their own way.
Stay tuned for more and please let me know if you want to collaborate together or could use a transformation coach like me.
Where you are in your own journey as a business or individual? No shame, we all start somewhere.
Saying no to treating myself to that new watch or stopping my Amazon Prime… What a sad world!
Actually, no! There is a transition period, but…
Becoming a conscious consumer has made me happier, healthier, freer, and more present.
I treat myself well. I just have removed “stuff as a solution” from the equation.
So, if you are considering becoming a conscious consumer (ecological and social concerns), minimalist, or zero-waste... Have no fear! Here are some of the benefits you could enjoy.
NOTE: I am not striving to be nor I am perfect. Nor do I advocate for “perfection.” These are some of my reflections mid-journey. I leave out the ecological and humanitarian benefit, which is ++++ but less obviously touches our daily lives.
1. More disposable income and time
Duh, I suppose. Buying consciously often means buying less which means more money at your disposal. This can then be spent on experiences, food (yum) or big ticket items that mean more to you. Better yet, it can be saved so you can work less! My husband and I have our own company and we have been able to move down to four day work weeks, partly in thanks to our spending habits and…
2. Realization how little stuff you need to be happy
Sometimes I laugh at ads that try to convince me how their product will make me happier. It almost feels like a super power in this digital targeted-ad world to no longer feel the pull of consumerism. Though this perception shift does not come overnight, it is a gift in tough times:
Realizing you can be happier with “less” because you already have so much.
3. Super Sheila: Impervious against impulse buys
Cutting down on disposable plastic means you just breeze past half of the options in stores. I just do not consider it and now I do not even miss it.
4. Eat fresher and healthier
No disposable plastic and limited to no packaging EXTREMELY cuts down on impulse buys of junk-food and processed food and over-shopping. Minimal packaging often means fresher, so if you buy too much, it will spoil.
Also, I stopped going to places for takeout unless I can use my own containers, so that means no fast food. You will be surprised how many restaurants love it when you bring in your own containers.
5. Move your butt
I have to be more active with my new lifestyle. I have replaced delivery with takeout using my own Tupperware. We carry our own containers to the bulk store (detergent, dry goods, …) which for us is a little farther a way. We have a bit more laundry due to using cloth diapers and cloth towels instead of paper towels. It is a great way to bake in some exercise.
6. Enjoy the thrill of the hunt… or not!
There are whole categories of items and businesses I have cut out of my field of options when I shop. The result is that it is easier to just pick something and go, less decision paralysis. Also luckily for everyone, in the past couple years there is a great ecosystem out there of vetted social/eco good companies to patronize, so you do have more options but not too many.
In some cases, since I am buying with a long term vision (example: one coat for 10+ years) it may prolong the search to find that perfect item. But, when I do find it and I know it will last me a long time the gratification is 10x more than what I used to experience with retail therapy. And sometimes I even find.. that I did not need it after all, so do not even purchase! Pst… for those who love changing out their wardrobes there is still the possibility of clothing-swap events. Free, fun and social!
7. Get Creative! Scratch that innovation and crafting itch.
I have moved from thinking products are what I need to focusing more on solutions. This means I take the time when a new need arises to reflect.
Is it a product I need or can I solve this need another way?
Or better yet, thanks to upcycling and crafting, Can I make it? For example, I thought I needed an expensive breast-feeding pumping bra but ended up just adapting an old-bra to make one. I just put holes in it… lol.
I will not act like becoming a conscious consumer completely frees you, as it introduces a whole new parameter and existential dread that is not always easy to navigate (Hello, The Good Place). But I simplified the task by also reducing my consumerism. So now there are whole consumer holiday seasons and fads I just do not care about any more. No pressure to save or deal hunt for. Also, due to minimalizing my house it takes less time to clean… less things to maintain… less responsibility… more space to move all around. *does apartment snow angels*
9. Free your relationships up
Making the shift towards requesting and giving no gifts and prioritizing just time together, has been a big relief. Instead of scouring for the PERFECT gift that the person may or may not even want… Honestly, even if they ask for it it just may gather dust… I am moving towards instead spending time with and treating the other person. Could be as simple as just a dinner out together. Win-Win: memories on all sides!
10. Open up to your community
I am bonding and finding new friends as we share our tips and mobilize for a better future. I also am getting to know my local restaurants and vendors. I feel even more connected and invested in my neighborhood. It is getting easier and easier to maintain this life-style thanks to our collective efforts.
Finally… Treat yourself!
Most importantly, being minimalist, a conscious consumer, or zero-waste does NOT mean “depriving” yourself. It means just shifting to realign with priorities that were probably there all along. In fact, it often means more resources to treat yourself with, just in a different way. Whether it be a night out at the theater or that jar of really delicious organic macadamia butter….. mmmmm…….. or some extra time-off even if unpaid.
In fact, DO NOT go cold turkey. Much like a diet, it will not stick if you are too tough right away. Ease into it! It takes time to adapt to a new lifestyle and to see the benefits. We need billions of people doing this semi-well and not thousands perfectly.
And what if I use my professional skills for social/environmental good?
Are these two worlds so mutually exclusive?
I am just at the start of my journey but so far from my ‘market’ and in person research (lol Product Owner habits die hard)… The answer is:
Yes, it is possible.
Not only is it possible, more than ever, but there are many people out there like me who want to do the same. In addition, companies are awakening to their societal and environmental responsibilities, if only for the reason that their clients desire it and it will increase their employer desirability.
I am increasingly convinced that the economy of tomorrow is one that is socially/environmentally (social good) conscious. It will not be a question but a fact for companies, that they must integrate social good into their DNA to survive. If we look purely at money, the market will demand this even though the environmental doomsday we are heading towards should be motivation enough. But, hey money talks.
Quick background: How to have an impact without switching jobs? And what is Pro Bono Day?
So in exploring all my options, one option came up called: Pro Bono or donating skills (without switching jobs) to causes that could not normally pay for them. Or for company owners, allowing and facilitating their employees to do this on company time and dime.
This is a great opportunity as not only is it an opportunity to share what we love to do at work but we can develop our skills further by using them in new domains. Also, often it is a write-off for companies providing it on their time, win-win.
All skills can be used for the betterment of society. We need all our minds on the issues at hand and not just our “best” minds. You may think your skills are unique to your job but often if you break them down into general know-how areas they are easily applicable elsewhere. Example: A project manager who manages CRM software system deployments knows: logistics, time management, detail orientation, systems thinking, interpersonal skills etc. So despite being quite specialized in their daily work, this person could share their knowledge with a charity that needs help structuring their supply chain or deploying an intranet. Do not forget, this arsenal of skills includes those acquired in your personal life. This same project manager organizes family meals for 15 people every Sunday? Logistics and people wrangling again! This time for nonprofit…
You are your greatest masterpiece, with no completion date.There is no expiration or prematurity of your skills. We tell the young they are not experienced enough to share their skills to help others… The old, too much experience or not relevant. The middle-aged too irresponsible… Must earn money, no? Enough, we all have something to share and gain. Often just a different perspective alone is an asset. Resource: Mélissa Petit of https://www.mixinggenerations.com/ is doing a lot of work to help us understand the unexploited power of our elder generations (a.k.a. us one day!).
The best way to learn is to do and create, working on the causes that you relate to. Programs such as Toukouleur and Enactus believe in this power of learning and gaining confidence via launching projects from A-Z, especially for adolescents. So why not create your own local project or Pro Bono help someone with theirs? In addition, it is recommended to focus on the causes that motivate you most personally as they will keep you driven. There is enough diverse interests out there to cover our most pressing issues.
The best way to gain understanding of others is to do alongside them. To do Pro Bono is to not subjugate your help on others but to come to the table to see how you can collaborate and elevate each other’s efforts. Those we are “helping” have key essential knowledge that must be taken into full account.
There is no “too little” and each cause their merit. Any drop of help is not too little nor should be shamed. Some can give an hour a year, some dedicate a whole sabbatical to helping, and that is fine. We are also not all motivated by the same causes and all enter this journey at a different time and from different places. What counts is we take a step and open up to and grow our spirits thanks to social good.
On a company level…
Pro Bono or social good programs should never be used as a band-aid for bad HR and unethical practices or to sway public opinion. (Anita Kirpalani – Epic Foundation) They should be done with the pure intention to inspire our employees and enrich their lives and skills. You may try to fake it but this is a type of “greenwashing,” where the intention is only to hide faults, will easily be recognized as false from within and around.
True intention? With time people will tell. There is a lot of public apprehension when money enters the social good sphere, but be consistent in all actions and persistent and with time your intention will be clear. Even if you have to take breaks at points to rethink your approach, that is more than fine, it does not mean people will not understand in the long run your intent.
One way to embody this intention is for the direction or company leaders to go out and move forward their social-good goals. This could be as simple as the leaders taking part of a Pro Bono or nonprofit initiative themselves. Lots of social good organisations or nonprofits may need your experience! As mentioned above on the personal level, this is an opportunity not only to share knowledge but grow and better inform the leadership of the company. It is valuable time spent.
Set your intention… have a mission statement that is clear and guides all actions and products on all levels. This mission must be co-created, owned and referred to constantly by everyone involved and surrounding you. Perhaps this means reconnecting with an old mission statement or emerging a new one. This mission statement can be the driving force to go from ‘doing’ to ‘being’. Find or refind your mission’s pulse regularly by seeking the opinions of your employees, clients and society at large. They are the true meter and not your own opinions. Do not just stop at your clients but take in consideration the opinion of those in the locations where you produce and the localsphere of your clients.
As often… When we build a product we think: will it work and can we scale? But we are missing an essential 3rd question: and how does it effect our society? There is no private-only sphere of influence… Everything has a societal effect. – Charlest Benoît Heidsieck of Le Rameau
Forget the “perfect” model, we must all find our own “pertinent” model. Our strength is in our diversity. – Charlest Benoît Heidsieck of Le Rameau on finding the perfect social-good model. This principle can be applied to so many other situations! Best is to be inspired by others but in the end build a model to fit our, our clients’ and our localsphere’s needs and unique motivations.
So that means… As organisations we must break down silos between government, public and charitable organisations. What was once a small microsystem is rapidly expanding and now an ecosystem. We can harness this power by collaborating and doing business between all types of social good organisms. Also, as consumers we must vote with our money.
It bears repeating: Companies must engage or die. Impact + profit, not just profit. Consumers want sincerity and social awareness. And our children will (and already do) want even more.
One last big question…
“No, the question is not how can tech save us… But how can the Probono and sharing our skills for a societal impact save tech?” – Charlie Tronche of HelloAsso
In the end the gift I got out of this conference and my recent adventures into this new world, is hope. Easy to be fatalist until you go out and see the doers. And we are amassing an army.
So go out there and do. And don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss in the meanwhile. If you live in Paris, our next meetup for social good curious and doers is November 20th. Join us! Allez-y!