How us Millennials can change the world (in one minute, with our phones)

We’ve been spoon-fed some nonsense.

The idea that each of us gets to play our part in the world’s direction once every four years. That it’s voting in an election that empowers us to build a world we’d like to see.

This isn’t the main way that we shape the future.

We’re, in-fact, casting far more important votes every single day… with our wallets.

Whoever gets our money receives financial support for their mission.

Now, that mission could like A, just as easily as B.

A) We’ll raise pigs that lead happy lives, even if it means selling meat at a higher price

B) We will deliver you bacon at the lowest-possible price, so long as you never ask how we make that happen

Every one of our purchases supports an initiative.

And these days, we’re equipped to do what our parents couldn’t: research before we buy.

Ever hear of someone showing up on election day to vote for who they think is prettiest? Well, that insanity is no different from us choosing to buy everything with lowest price as our guiding star.

In the same way that we’d be idiots not to research a party’s policies before voting, it’s up to us to look below the surface of price and understand what each purchase stands for.

The good news? With the phones in our pockets, it literally takes a minute to jump on Google and figure out if a company cares about our welfare.

Bargain hunting has to go.

The more we learn about our world, the clearer it becomes that low cost comes with a true cost.

A little research shows that the true cost usually involves humanity’s ugliest features: poor labour conditions, disregard for animal welfare, and ambivalent environmental practices.

The tough part = us shouldering a small burden.

To build an ethically beautiful world, we can’t avoid spending a higher proportion of our incomes on everyday living. But, while that may sound tough, the truth is that normal spending habits are ridiculous:

Despite food being the second most important human necessity, New Zealand households only dedicate 16% of their income towards it, on average.

I want to practice what I preach.

So, besides researching what I’m buying, I also audited my investments to check what I was endorsing...

  • My index fund was cool — its managers have the policy of avoiding unethical stocks
  • My (tiny) lump of gold in the safe wasn’t hurting anyone
  • My retirement fund… would have made Dr. Evil proud. It supported companies with histories of environmental violations, and even weapons manufacturing.

I got the heads up from an awesome group of Kiwis called Mindful Money.

Their free service gave me an instant x-ray of my Kiwisaver fund (if you’re outside New Zealand, Kiwisaver is our national retirement-savings scheme).

Here was mine:

I’d encourage you to look at yours.

And, if you end up switching to an ethical Kiwisaver fund through Mindful Money (it’s free), your new provider will toss them a referral fee so they can stay alive.

You can check yours here.

Before you go,

There’s one scenario that makes it uncomfortable to analyse your spending habits: when you’re habitually buying things.

If that sounds like you (and I’ve been there), you might like to know that it’s a symptom of a deeper problem. The book that woke me up to my issue was The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga. It turns out that the deep restlessness I’d felt for years was the result of directing my energy and talents at building a life for myself, rather than at servicing others. If you’re curious, you can read my book notes here, (warning: they’re deep).

The world really is in our hands

But that’s enough from me. If you’ve got thoughts of your own, I’d love to hear them. [email protected]