Does it really matter if you recycle that plastic bottle? Does it matter where you buy your clothes or where they are made? Does taking public transit really make a difference? If you believe that our choices affect our lives and the lives of others, it does.
Today, more than ever, we are part of an interconnected global community. I am typing this on a computer that was designed in California and made in China, from materials harvested in South America and Africa. My food, furniture, and the items in my closet -- they were made by, and touched the lives of, hundreds of thousands of people I will never meet. From design, to production, to shipping -- most of the items in our homes and offices have traveled around the world by the time they land in our possession. We have never been so connected -- from our supply chain to the Internet. Therefore, we must think about what it means to be a good "neighbor" differently.
The critics of globalization will point to the negative effects of this connectivity -- sweatshops, decreased cultural diversity, the increasing disparity between rich and poor, and the speed of climate change. They have strong ground to stand on. The flip side to this reality is the opportunity that comes from our shrinking world. When I was in undergrad, a handful of friends and I met to discuss what could be done about the genocide in Darfur and three years later the University of California regents voted to divest from several companies that provide revenue to the Sudanese government. More recently we've watched the backlash against Apple for the working conditions in the Foxconn factories in China. There is also an increase in proactive business initiatives that link people across continents in a way that provides employment and quality products -- from jewelry made in women's co-ops in Ethiopia to wooden children's toys made in Hondurans. From Tahrir Square and Twitter to Fair Trade products, we have an unprecedented opportunity to build a better tomorrow without leaving our hometown.
Building a better tomorrow doesn't have to mean protesting poor labor conditions in foreign countries. Individual lifestyle choices often have longer lasting and larger global consequences. For example, one area where we regularly make choices that matter is our food and beverage consumption. According to a 2012 Gallup poll the average American spends between $150 -- $180 dollars a week on food. There is no argument that we need food to live, but given that most Americans are eating for more than mere survival, we are well positioned to make thoughtful choices about our consumption. Noting where and how our food is grown, looking for items with less packaging, using reusable bags when we shop, consuming what we buy, and eating in-season produce all make a difference. For example, by eating in season, locally grown produce we not only garner the health benefits of more nutrient rich foods, we also reduce the carbon footprint of our dinner plate by cutting down on transport. As the distance food travels decreases, so does the need for processing and refrigeration to reduce spoilage. Americans throw away almost half of their food , which if reduced could help feed millions of Americans annually.
As we advance in a new year, our interconnectivity will no doubt only increase. It is my hope that we leverage this connectivity, our access to information, and the power of our own choices to make a positive impact on our world.
Recently launched, deliberateLife available through the iPad Newsstand, presents readers with practical ways to be a good neighbor, to their immediate community and the global collective, right from their everyday lives.