Do the actions of one person really make a difference? When it comes to sustainable behaviour, part of the challenge is convincing people that small changes by one when combined with small changes by others can have big impact. It's one of the reasons companies like Unilever are working so hard to change consumer behaviour. One person using less water may have little impact. But get one million people to use less water and the impact is tremendous. The same applies for companies and municipalities. Every bit helps.
Often the reason for not engaging in sustainable behaviour comes down to ignorance: not knowing what to do, how to do it or what impact it might have. But sometimes, ignorance isn't the problem; arrogance is.
It was disheartening to read recent reports (in the New York Times and at Triple Pundit) about a high profile chef who doesn't believe that sustainable behaviour applies to his restaurants. Here is Thomas Keller as quoted in the New York Times article:
"With the relatively small number of people I feed, is it really my responsibility to worry about carbon footprint?" Mr. Keller asked. "The world's governments should be worrying about carbon footprint."
And also: "Is global food policy truly our responsibility, or in our control?" he asked. "I don't think so."
You're wrong, Mr. Keller. It is your responsibility to worry about your carbon footprint. It is your responsibility to effect policy change where you can. And it is your responsibility to use your influence to communicate to your customers and your suppliers the need for a sustainable food industry.
It is in the last where you have failed most egregiously. Instead of championing local suppliers and other sustainable options, you have told the New York Times readership that sustainability is someone else's problem.
Mr. Keller's argument is "that his priority has to be taste, above all other considerations like sustainability, seasonality and food miles." But quality and sustainability do not have to be separate issues.
Unfortunately, there are sustainability laggards and deniers in every industry. Mr. Keller is likely not alone in his opinion. As consumers, we can choose not to support them and perhaps then they will get the message.
Image via Flickr user Psycholabs