Go green like Gunderson

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of InQuire Media

In today’s society, being aware of our impact on the environment is ‘on trend’. Celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Joaquin Phoenix and Miley Cyrus are active in promoting the importance of a vegan lifestyle. Other figures, like Leonardo DiCaprio and Emma Watson, have used their platforms to speak out about climate change and sustainability.

These issues are prevalent, causing everyday people to question their own efforts in preserving the world around them. Many people have taken to purchasing reusable water bottles over single-use ones and refusing plastic straws at coffee shops. Even at a commercial level, businesses have looked into have a greater impact by reducing their carbon footprint and use of plastic packaging.

Rachel Gunderson has taken this one step further.

In a recent BBC article, the owner of the Honey Pot café shared her own belief about placing the environment over profit. She explained how the café used locally sourced and organic produce, composted raw food waste and used biodegradable, recyclable packaging. Even going as far as doing away with Biro pens. These are just a few ways the café functions as environmentally conscious.

So, should other businesses follow her lead?

Her protection of the environment is admirable, and more establishments should be making strides towards becoming eco-friendlier. Small changes can have a big impact. Examples of this are that since the introduction of the 5p charge, the sale of single-use plastic bags fell by 86% by summer 2018. Additionally, the ban on plastic straws in chains such as McDonalds, Caffe Nero and Wetherspoons is an attempt to reduce the estimated 8.5 billion plastic straws used in the UK every year.

But these are large, deep-pocketed corporate chains whose effects span internationally. What about other small, local businesses? How easy is it for them to follow in Rachel’s footsteps?

Arguably, not very. Yes, it’s easier now than ever before to access alternate packaging materials and organically sourced produce, but it comes at a cost.

In today’s competitive economic climate, it is not practical for every business to operate in the same way The Honey Pot does. She’s riding the trend. Her business stands out, it’s an attraction in Penzance. People visit there to break away from the usual coffee shop chains, and don’t mind paying the added cost because it’s something different. In fact, it’s arguable Rachel is only able to run her business this way because of the other businesses don’t. She is able to prioritise the environment over profit because others don’t.

We still live in a highly consumerist society, regardless of how many celebrities advocate against climate change. We still prioritise short-term saving over long term investment. Why buy an expensive travel mug when you can pick up a quick coffee on the way to work, and bin it as soon as you’re done? We prefer convenience. You may wander into Honey Pot as a holiday treat, or for a leisurely brunch. You may even specifically seek it out because it’s environmental conscious, but it’s not something you incorporate into your everyday life. It’s neither cost nor time effective.

Whilst we still have this mindset, it’s understandable that most local businesses still operate the way they do and can’t easily switch to prioritising an environmentally friendly ethos. The high street is dying, most people are lazy, and businesses need to survive.

It’s important that cafes like The Honey Pot operate the way they do. They set an example. It’s important to be inspired by Rachel Gunderson’s commitment to protecting the environment and look for similar changes you can make in your own life. We need to be inspired by people like Rachel, and all her efforts, adopting her values into our everyday to become the stewards of nature, protecting it from destruction and knowing how it can best help us in return.

Protecting the environment isn’t going to be a revolution. Businesses can’t suddenly ditch their profit goals and stop caring about making money. But you can do your bit.

Refuse a plastic straw, remember to recycle, walk to work more, try plastic-free shopping. Invest, long-term, in the future of your society; don’t expect change to happen overnight and don’t expect businesses to make the change for you. Otherwise, it might be too late.