How to have more impact?

How to have more impact? - Tatjana Blum, Jan. 2020.

This first session made me reflect on how I for myself define the word impact. When we were supposed to come up with one example of how we have (recently) had an impact in our lives, I immediately thought of my time in a sustainability-minded association at my previous university. Before starting my Bachelor’s degree, I had not been overly concerned with sustainability – merely interested – but with this group which mainly consisted of other university students I became very passionate about it.
Together we organized many impact events at our university to expose unsustainable practices in our university environment and beyond, and to advocate for more sustainable structures at university and conscious consumption and living. So, it is the activities of this association and my input as active member and board that came to my mind when thinking about how I have impacted people positively and with respect to sustainability.

Yet, when one fellow student brought up him being vegetarian as an example of a positive impact, I realized that a positive impact need not necessarily be visible. While my first idea on me having had a positive impact was one where I was visible on campus, campaigning for our sustainability goals, I started to think about the “hidden” impact I have had since I decided to ditch meat and be more aware
of my nutrition in general. In this sense, a positive impact for me can be visible or invisible. Whereas a visible one may be more likely to inspire others to change their habits for the better, an invisible one can still make a difference e.g. in terms of animal lives that are spared.

I would also clearly distinguish between a positive intention that did not achieve quite the desired outcome/impact and an actually positive impact. For example, when I started being vegetarian and first learned about the cruel practices of intensive animal agriculture, I was so keen to tell all the people in my surroundings about it. Although I wanted to have a positive impact and inspire them to reduce the consumption of animal products so badly, I was probably too brash in my way of communicating the issue. This led to some of my friends feeling offended in their ways of living and refusing to reconsider their consumption in defiance. A positive impact – which I would rephrase as a beneficial influence that we have on someone or something – can hence be visible or invisible and it may take several attempts to achieve the positive impact one is aiming for.

3 Things for a more positive impact & my personal challenge
One thing which I definitely want to include in my daily/weekly routine is to be in touch with my parents more regularly. As I have just come back from an extended Christmas holiday at my parents’ place, I am now aware that they appreciate me contacting them more than I thought. Even though my parents do not usually reach out to me that often – since they believe that I am always busy – I realized
that they have been lonelier than I thought since my brother and I left home. At least for them, and maybe indirectly for other people who they encounter, it will mean a positive impact if I text my parents several times a week and call them once a week.

Another thing I would like to change about my routine to have a more positive impact on the climate, is my streaming behavior. I have recently become more aware of the impact that people’s use of Netflix, Youtube and co has in term of energy use when servers far away are activated and data are sent around the globe so that some individual can watch a film. Hence, I want to be more reflective in my use of these media and ask myself if I really need to watch a random Youtube video an episode of
some series or if I am just bored and might as well do something else.

My last idea goes together with my personal, small challenge. I really want to be more consistent in respect to ethical consumption. Product labels are one means of telling consumers if they are buying a product that meets certain (sustainability) minimum standards. Yet, not every label which features the terms “fair” or “organic” might mean this in the way I understand it. For example, there are labels that certify a sustainable production of wood – yet, if one looks closer, the criteria these labels set for sustainable forestry are far below what one might have expected and in addition some have a reputation of being corruptible. In order to know more about which products are worth paying more for and which ones only use labels for green-washing, I have made it my personal challenge to do research on sustainable and ethical labels that can commonly be found in the EU. Once starting my research, I can have a positive impact in my routine through choosing products that have been
produced as sustainably as possible. This challenge, I hope, will not only give me more guidance in my consumption choices but can also impact those reading the blog positively as they will be informed about the meaning and credibility of common labels.

-> Read Tatjana’s challenge: - A jungle of eco-labels: What’s behind sustainable labels? and here.