In democratic nations around the world, election days symbolize a fundamental right to choose. And so, on a day as important as Election Day 2020 in the United States, we recognize the collective power of the people, through their right to a choice. We can use our choices to create a fairer and more just world, not only for humans, but for all living organisms.
I Choose, Therefore I Am
Greek philosopher, Aristotle, spoke and wrote about the importance of choice as early as 350 BC. Crediting our intelligence and applications of reason as the main distinctions between human beings and other life forms, Aristotle argued that these traits were at the core of our existence as a species. The process of thought and reason was not seen as abstract, but fully tied to the realities of an individual’s life: their choices and their actions.
Decisions by Design
Today, much of our world is influenced by a subtle reference to the decisions we make. Choice architecture is the careful design of the environments in which people make choices. Examples of this include door signs indicating “push” or “pull,” or arranging enticing foods at eye level in a market. The founder of the term, Richard Thaler, described choice architecture in his 2008 book, Nudge. He describes the subtle, yet powerful, effects of choice architecture as a means of “nudging” people towards more beneficial lifestyle habits without restricting their freedom of choice. In a world where we can, at times, be limited by our various biases and mistakes, Thaler showcases how simple changes using choice architecture can help people make choices that are positive for themselves, their communities, society and the planet.
Framing effects, the context and phrasing of a problem, can also largely influence our attitudes, and ultimately, the decisions that we make. A blatant example of this is whether something is phrased from a glass-half-empty or glass-half-full position; often, this can lead us to be more or less confident of our choices. It’s important to take this into consideration, keeping an open mind, considering a variety of perspectives and being both purposeful and deliberate in the choices we make.
Choosing Sustainable Food Options
Although elections are important biennial events, we exercise our rights everyday by voting with our dollar. Our purchasing decisions, especially around the food we eat, could not be more important for the outcomes of our world. Recognizing the importance of our food choices, embracing healthy choice architecture and making purposeful, deliberate decisions can help reduce environmental impacts and feed our beautiful planet. A few considerations are listed below.
- Selecting sustainably grown, local options provide safer, more flavorful produce, lower greenhouse gas emissions, support the local economy and contribute to healthy ecosystems.
- Choosing to decrease meat and dairy consumption reduce food waste and lower stresses and strains on the environment.
- Going for sustainably grown, ocean-friendly seafood choices keep our fish populations strong and promote a healthy, productive ocean.
Voice Your Choice
Regardless of who was marked on your ballot for this Election Day, it is important that we all remember the power of our choices, as individuals and as a society. Just as we choose a candidate on the ballot, we can also choose to vote with our dollar and remain optimistic about our country and our planet. Below are some other areas where conscious choices can collectively serve to improve and restore our spirits and our world.
- Participate in elections and choose to elect leaders who care about the future of our planet.
- Choose a positive attitude, no matter how difficult it may seem. In the words of the Dalai Lama, “In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.”
- Choose to be caring towards yourself, as well as towards others and the planet.
- Be mindful of your social and environmental impacts when making purchasing decisions, especially regarding food. Visit our Take Action page for more ideas around this.