Okay guys. In this post from a couple months ago, I talked about the importance of using our power as consumers to try to influence companies’ corporate policies, especially with regard to social and environmental responsibility. As some of you may remember, the main target of that particular post was the Canadian coffee giant, Tim Horton’s. Franchise owners opted to shorten breaks and scale back benefits for employees after the minimum wage increase in January, and I decided that they could do without my business.
I wasn’t a loyal Tim’s customer to begin with, but you must understand that I’m a lone Southerner trying to make a life in the Great White North. And Tim Horton’s, though they don’t advertise it very well, serves breakfast sandwiches on biscuits. On days when Georgia’s on my mind, there’s really nothing else that does the trick.
I hadn’t set foot in a Tim’s since before Christmas, and I was feeling pretty good about myself. But yesterday, the craving hit me. It was palpable. I needed a damned biscuit. I swallowed my pride, and with more than a little shame, I found myself in the Friday morning queue at the Tim’s across the street from the office.
As I waited in line, I struggled a bit as to whether I was making the right decision. The hype’s died down, most people have written the whole boycott off as a media stunt, and really, how much difference would one biscuit make anyway. Plus, people I’d spoken with after publishing my initial post had rightly pointed out that Tim Horton’s franchises are in large part independently managed—the people behind the counter at the location I frequent might not even be affected. I was beginning to doubt whether my decision not to spend money at Tim Horton’s served any purpose beyond massaging the part of my ego that likes to feel like I’m doing the right thing (whether it’s actually effective or not).
All of this in my head, I decided that when it was my turn to order, I would simply ask the person at the register whether their benefits had been effected. I could think on my feet from there.
When I got to the register, the cashier greeted me with a smile, and I politely posed my question. The cashier’s expression changed completely. With actual tears in her eyes, she answered that yes, their benefits had been scaled back, and then she thanked me for checking up on them. At that point I knew I couldn’t spend a penny there again. I told her that I wouldn’t be placing an order knowing that, and she thanked me again for supporting them.
I want to point out that I did nothing noble here. In fact, I was compromising my principles, both because I felt like the time to make a statement about Tim’s treatment of its employees had passed (and because frankly, I wanted a cheesy breakfast sandwich). When you’re making sacrifices—however small—in favour of social, environmental, or even personal improvement, it’s easy to get discouraged, especially when you can’t see results yourself.
Only by testing our convictions can we get rid of the hype and find the solutions that really work.
Now, some of you may be wondering how any of this relates back to the purpose of this blog. I’m still nailing down my mission statement, but my ultimate goal with a Quill of Conservation is to develop my own practical approach to conservation. Listening to the loudest voices in the media, it’s easy to believe that you only really have two choices when it comes to the environment: quit your job and become a fully-fledged activist, or keep living your carbon-guzzling life and maintain the status-quo. In my own experience, I find both camps based more on belief than evidence. Now, I obviously identify more closely with one side than the other. However, wherever your alignment lies, it’s imperative for all of us to stop simply doing what’s trending this week without stopping to explore why. Jumping on a bandwagon is easy, but when it comes to changing your lifestyle to reduce your impact on the environment (or support social causes), I think we can do better than acting on blind faith. Only by testing our convictions can we get rid of the hype and find the solutions that really work. Human faith can be a powerful thing, but it’s our reason, creativity, and innovation that will help to ensure a better future for the coming generations.
So when you find yourself doubting whether the changes you’re making are having an impact, know you’re not alone. Moreover, rather than feeling ashamed, let that doubt fuel some deeper investigation. It may help you to uncover important evidence that you’re on the right track, much like my simple interaction at the cash of a Tim Horton’s helped to put my overwhelming desire for a biscuit back into perspective.