Occupy Wall Street protests are fading into the past (for better or worse) as tent cities have been shut down and the nations short attention span has moved on to something else. Whether or not OWS accomplished any of its goals in impacting the way that big business is run and governed in the US, it cannot be taken lightly that this was a tremendous opportunity for the “regular citizens” to proclaim their outrage at the freedoms and benefits a small portion of the population receives. But OWS’s lack of leadership seemed to be its downfall and the teachable moment never really happened while the media focused on police pepper-spraying protesters , fringe group troublemakers and the dollar cost of our freedom of speech.
This was an opportunity not only for us to voice our disillusionment, but to make small changes that, when undertaken by people en mass, make big differences in our lives, in our communities and in our economy.
We will not change the world without first changing how we are in connection to it.
Here is my list of 10 things we can each do that seem small, but do make a difference:
- MOVE YOUR MONEY TO A CREDIT UNION November 5, 2011 was National Bank Transfer Day…a deadline by which consumers were encouraged to leave for-profit banks and move their money to credit unions. In September credit union membership grew by 227,000; October by 214,00 and in the first week of November alone, by 40,000 new members. Now if all of these people ONLY moved $100 each….which I am sure is far below average….well, that means that is over $48MILLION dollars moved from profit banks to local non-profits. It may have not made a huge dent, but it made a dent. And it created awareness. But more importantly, it brought your money back to the community – to smaller banks who invest in their communities. It is easy to do, and don’t forget to move loans, mortgages and credit cards too.
- SHOP LOCALLY AND THINK SMALL Stay out of chain stores as much as possible and shop local, small businesses. In most cases you will not pay more, and really – even if it costs you a few dollars more, aren’t you glad you dealt with the OWNER??? Most small businesses feature local products so you are making a double impact on the lives of the people in your community. Find your farmers market. Use a non-chain store mechanic. Eat at the local burger joint if you have to have fast food.
- GET OUT Go outside and play. Go for a walk. Take a hike. Ski. Get yourself into the outdoors. You don’t know what is worth saving until you have an experience with it. Pick up garbage. Join a trail cleanup crew. Take your dog to the dog park. When you go for a walk, you meet neighbors, discover interesting new coffee shops, trails and flora and fauna all while you get exercise. People who spend time outdoors are the ones who work to protect it.
- TURN OFF YOUR TV Television tricks us into believing that the lives of spoiled kids from Jersey are important and that we must spend $200 on high heels to be beautiful. Mainstream media is for-profit, meaning that what they put out there for news/entertainment must be profitable. That means they are trying to get you to believe and to buy. You may think you are immune, but you are not….commercials are designed to subliminally affect us, violence dulls us and images of “beauty” demean us. Nearly all children’s media is full-fledged brainwashing of our newest consumers with splashy graphics, coordinating clothing lines and stuffed toys. Purse alternate media sources, listen to NPR, put down the remote and experience your community in person.
- START A GARDEN It doesn’t have to be big, nor do you need skill, tools or experience. A pot, dirt and a plant/seeds is all you need. This is especially important if you have kids. Growing things outdoors puts us in tune with the weather, pests and the necessity of care and attention – all of which we forget when out world is so pre-packaged/protected. It is only by having a garden that the reality of global weather pattern changes sink in – I now plant the bulk of my garden almost 2 months later than I did 20 years ago. And it is still too cold for some plants. I would never have noticed otherwise except to complain about “bad summers”.
- STOP NEEDLESS SPENDING Stop the consumer debt. Pay off your credit cards. Don’t buy the “thing” just because it is a dollar off on sale unless you really need the “thing”. Stop habitual spending, stop emotional spending. Pay attention to where your money goes – track it. Whether you have a lot of it or a little you will be surprised at where it goes. Cancel catalog subscriptions so that merchants are not telling you what you need and reminding you every month with sales flyers on already overpriced items. You will be more satisfied with what you have if someone is not always reminding you what you don’t have.
- VOICE YOUR OPINION You have a voice – use it. If a company is treating you unfairly, tell them. Take your business elsewhere. Write a letter to the newspaper or to a ratings website or local news agency consumer group. Don’t blow it off for the next guy to get ripped off or offered bad service. You are not at their mercy. Vote – or don’t vote, but be politically active not neglectful or lazy.
- VOLUNTEER You and your talents are needed. It does not always require a big time commitment – I am a 3 year volunteer for a program that needs me only an hour or two a month – and even that is over the phone! Volunteering gets you out into the community providing valuable perspective on your own life. As the economy has suffered, many non-profit organizations have had serious declines in funding and need volunteers more than ever. Pick your passion and put it to work. People need you.
- REDUCE, REUSE,RECYCLE Ride the bus and get to know your neighbors and come home with crazy stories like I do! Consolidate chores needing driving, carpool when you can, and take mass transit as often as possible. Better for the environment and less dollars in the oil company’s pockets. Don’t waste resources – make sure to recycle, buy in bulk, carry your own grocery bags. Shrink the size of your garbage can and grow the size of your recycle. Carry your own water bottle, coffee cup or silverware for takeout food.
- BELIEVE IN WHAT IS POSSIBLE NOT WHAT IS IMPOSSIBLE We become negative when we are overwhelmed and there is much to overwhelm us politically, environmentally and financially. But manifestation works by focusing on what you don’t want to happen as well as what you do want to happen. Spend your energy on creating the future you want, step by step. It is a marathon, not a sprint and your efforts may look small and insignificant, but I assure you that everything you do with intention is anything but insignificant.
(This post was largely inspired by the book “Small Wonder” by Barbara Kingsolver…..a terrific collections of essays I suggest you find at your local independent bookstore or through The Elliot Bay Book Company which ships!!)