Green Entrepreneurs Need to Think Like Eco-Citizens

Eco-citizens are people who commit to healthier communities for a more sustainable world. They choose places to live, careers, foods, products, and leisure activities that are environmentally friendly and that encourage green consumption. These initiatives include everything from energy efficient devices to reusable shopping bags. As a result, the point of view of a green business person should extend well beyond cost savings or environmental protection. Green entrepreneurs need to think like eco-citizens, which involves an environmental ethics philosophy.

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Eco-citizens adopt a philosophical approach to life. It’s holistic. Instead of an “anthropocentric,” or human-centered belief system that assigns intrinsic value to human beings alone, eco-citizens see themselves as small cogs in a large interwoven ecological system. They care for sustainability and biodiversity and, yet, understand that the industrial world has already used much of the planet’s ecological capital. They are keenly aware of the increasing human population and its impact on the poorest people, as well as on loss of biodiversity, freshwater scarcity, overconsumption, and climate change.

Eco-citizens are committed to solving the problems of ecological damage as an essential ingredient in any credible form of sustainable development, and they hold strongly to the belief that, as Nanda captures in Climate Change and Environmental Ethics, the alternative to decisive action may result in the diminution not only of nature and natural systems but also of human dignity itself.

Background of Environmental Ethics

A report called Our Common Future was produced by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. The report defines “sustainable development” as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key premises:

  • the concept of “needs,” in particular, it points to the the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and,
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.

In keeping with the vision that Our Common Future encapsulated nearly 30 years ago, green businesses today can help define shared perceptions of long-term environmental issues. They can demonstrate appropriate efforts needed to deal successfully with the problems of protecting and enhancing the environment, a long term agenda for action during the coming decades, and aspirational goals for the world community.

Interaction with the natural world helps us to capture the sacred and can deeply affect our lifestyle choices. It provides a diversity of housing options (rental vs. owner-occupied) to enhance a social mix. Social aspects of environmental sustainability can have deficits, as it sometimes lacks elements like social diversity or affordable housing. Businesses can contribute to positive, elements of neighbourhood social infrastructures by supporting integration with waterfronts (where applicable) or a significant proportion of green spaces such as parks, forest reserves, courtyards, and playgrounds. Cultural and social amenities can become accessible to all and can create a climate where all socio-economic classes of eco-citizens can join together.

Eco-citizens seek particular personal outcomes through sustainable living. They require environments that focus on much less consumption, allow for saving one’s income, point to a better quality of life, result in improved health, strengthen community bonds, seek a more just world, offer deeper connections to nature, and minimize climate change impacts, among others. To confirm and deepen interconnections with eco-citizens, green businesses can demonstrate philosophical  awareness of ethical environmentalism.  Here are a few ways.

Support Sustainable Land Use

The land use mix begins with high-density urban blocks. Areas of open space are safe, accessible, and enjoyable. Sustainable Urbanism is an emerging and growing design reform movement that combines the creation and enhancement of walkable and diverse places with the need to build high-performance infrastructure and buildings.

Choose a physical site for your green business in a centrally-located, multiple use zone so that you, too, can become part of the community flow. Speak out about development so that, with better coordination, communities can plan more comprehensively for housing, commercial and retail uses, and for the provision of education and other public services, all in the context of accessible transportation.

Adhere to Green Building Practices and Design

The eco-neighborhood excels in green building practices, sustainable urban design, and efficient social infrastructure. Locals have a say in the development. It is achieved through a Big Picture approach to planning. New homes are energy efficient. There is access to affordable housing.

To gain voice in your community, join into the stylish sustainability movement as you design your interior and exterior spaces. Be an advocate for green architecture in your community. Create a working environment that’s healthier due to green certification.

An Empowered Eco-Citizenry

Sustainable living requires eco-citizens to be able to make informed choices, even small ones, about the quality of their living spaces and the contributions — both personally rewarding and sometimes sacrificing— that contribute to the overall health of a living space. Being environmentally conscious is to reflect social choices, or what Lin and Chen  call “a contradictory dilemma between individual and group interests.” Empowerment is absolutely essential for eco-citizens to make decisions that affect themselves and their communities in satisfactory and sustainable ways. All constituents must feel as if they have a voice in the process and services that contribute to a sustainable environment.

 Be open and honest about sustainability issues in your community continually look for ways that you can empower your customers through creating healthy workspaces and local living environments.

Tools and Strategies for Sustainability

Yes, it takes a collection of skills, tools, and technologies to help eco-citizens gain local access to and control over life’s essential resources. Citizens who adhere to a radical sustainability — a philosophy that emphasizes the interconnection between ecological and social justice struggles — rise up to new levels about what it means to live in a sustainable environment.

So be conscious of the go-to people in your community and share your knowledge in a reciprocity with your customers. Join in with others who seek out methods for creating systemic solutions to problems.

Socialization Opportunities are Important

Opportunities to build community connections are imperative in eco-citizens’ quests for ideal and vibrant community lives. Social sustainability instills a sense of equity and fairness to all its citizens and businesses. Such goals require overt actions and systems to support individuals, families, and groups.

Green businesses can do their part by providing community events, lectures, how-to workshops, and internships to local youth.

Offer Nearby Employment Opportunities

Integrated employment opportunities minimize the eco-citizen’s work commute. Residents make the best use of time and energy when they commute to work by public transport, on foot, or by bicycle. Employment that is local makes these possible.

As your green business startup grows and your labor needs expands, hire local people. They’ll have a greater tendency to be reliable due to community awareness, local references, an accessible network of people on which to draw, and an innate cultural fit.

Public Transportation for Eco-Citizens

Public transport is a safe, viable alternative to cars. Eco-citizens cherish opportunities to walk and cycle. Show your support by encouraging the use of bicycles and bike lanes in the community where you do business. Promote car sharing schemes for areas poorly served by public transport. You could even be an employer who subsidises employees who use the bus rapid transit system.

Adhere to Renewable Resource Usage

Wherever possible, eco-citizens use renewable resources instead of non-renewable ones. Help your area to grow at a sustainable rate by using resources in a sustainable way. On its simplest level, this can mean salvaged and recycled materials. Or it can be more complex and systemic.  

You can participate by rejecting plastics, modeling composting, driving an electric vehicle, heating with pellets, or having solar panels on the roof. The important element is to demonstrate that you, too, want to make a big environmental impact by creating a smaller environmental footprint.

Food Sustenance as Integral to Sustainability

Encourage individuals and families to make healthy choices about food and exercise, so having access to high quality food is imperative. Organic farm produce is now easily found within urban farmers markets. Often, farmers rotate city to city throughout the week, so that urban consumers have consistent, dependable access to farm-raised goods. Often, there are local growers within a short distance of your home. You can even grow a portion of your own vegetables in a garden on your business grounds.  As previously reported on EcoLocalizer, if you have only a very small plot of land or even just a balcony, vertical gardens make growing your own veggies and herbs possible.

Talk with your customers about your own experiences with buying local or organic. For example, I visit a local free-range poultry farm about 20 minutes outside our capital city. Of course, in such a real setting, I have to be ready to see the abattoir spinning round with the beheaded chickens on hooks. I can also stop at the nearby cage-free egg farm and know that what I’m serving my family and guests is local and fresh.

Lifestyle and Consumption Patterns

Harvard economist Juliet Schor has written that it’s difficult to make an ethical argument that people in the world’s richest country need “more.” The disparity of the world’s resource use is so vast and strong evidence exists that we are already consuming beyond the capacity of the earth to provide. Instead of a process of upward redistribution that implies luxury spending and conspicuous consumption, today’s eco-citizens prefer experiences. Sure, eco-citizens, especially the millennials, are immersed with the same declining levels of direct face-to-face interaction with real people as are others who are less sustainability focused. But in a world where life experiences are broadcasted across social media, the fear of missing out drives many individuals to show up, share, and engage.

Travel, a sharing economy, and physical exercise are very appealing to today’s eco-citizens, regardless of age. Eco-entrepreneurs can tap into these experiential desires by supporting concerts, social events, art festivals, and sports happenings in the local area. You can design interactive experiences on your physical business site.  

Engagement with the Natural Environment

Americans work an average of 47.5 hours per week at their paying jobs. Forty percent of American workers report that their jobs are very or extremely stressful. Jobs force a time crunch on eco-citizens, who crave contact with the natural world. Instead of consuming resources, most eco-citizens want to have a direct role in producing or protecting our food, water, air, and other natural resources. Eco-citizens connect their resource consumption—from pumping gas to eating carrots—to what must be done somewhere on the land to make it possible. They care and are knowledgeable about the environment; they understand the role it plays in everyday life. Eco-citizens must constantly reconnect with the natural world to feel satisfied and rejuvenated.

Eco-entrepreneurs can provide green spaces that bring the natural world to urban and suburban landscapes. One way to start is by disembedding the cultural and historical legacy of the green lawn as an ecological symbol; instead, substitute local indigenous plants and trees around the business site. Make your green business physically green wherever you can with plants and other living organisms.

Connecting Sustainable Living to an Environmental Ethics Philosophy

Sustainable living encompasses a broad range of aims, including the use of renewable resources, energy efficiency, use of public transport, and zero-energy services. The concept of the ecologically-driven neighborhood still commands great debate, as policymakers, urban planners, financiers, and everyday citizens try to reconcile their particular visions about what an ideal implementation can look like.

But your green business can do more than minimize environmental damages or provide environmental benefits beyond the requirements of the law. You can dedicate yourself to minimal or net-positive impacts on the environment by joining in an environmental ethics philosophy where consequences of production, distribution, use, and disposal reach to a broad eco-citizenry.  

Photo credit: tonyhall via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

 





About the Author

writes from her home in Chepachet, RI, where she advocates with her lake association for chemical-free solutions to eradicate invasive species. She’s an organic gardener, nature lover, and semi-vegetarian (no red meat since 1980) who draws upon digital media literacy and learning to spread the word about sustainability issues. Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Google+