The world is no longer disconnected enough for your actions to not impact your country even if you are abroad. Whether you are a local in the UAE or a third-culture expat from Pakistan.
I’m a strong advocate of being a responsible global citizen. I believe our every action (or inaction) has consequences beyond our own lives (and borders) and we should constantly check if we are unintentionally making things worse for another. The ripple effect of both good and bad actions in today’s world is unbelievable.
There are a million things you can do to be a better citizen of this world, but there is one that I can rightfully preach because I practice it (to the best of my ability…almost all the time).
So apart from not smoking and always smiling, we can all… buy responsibly.
What does buying responsibly mean?
Cannot emphasize enough on the importance of buying local (yes even if you are an expat). Buying local products benefits people and causes in ways you never consider. For example:
- Buying local products supports entrepreneurial friends and family and all the possible extensions
- It allows more money to circulate in the economy, which means overall economy improves (which definitely comes back to all of us in good ways)
- You encourage other entrepreneurs to fulfill product gaps that currently only big-box stores are filling.
- It helps create more jobs for people in your community (again comes back to you in good ways)
- If you’re buying locally grown food items, then you can find out how those fruits and vegetables were grown as opposed to the perfect-looking imported foods *cough* Chiquita.
- It reduces your carbon footprint. How? You don’t contribute to the fuel and other resources that are consumed to bring a tomatoes from Holland to the other side of the world.
True that we need to buy a lot of imported products in this part of the world. The climate of the UAE is not conducive to most farm-grown fruits and vegetables, but you’d be surprised at the huge variety of locally grown food items available in the country.
I also go a step further and try to buy everything Pakistani available in the UAE. Vegetables and fruits that don’t grow locally, I buy from the Pakistani supermarkets. I buy every available Pakistani product because that’s my contribution to my economy without actually living there. For those who are curious, the Pakistani supermarkets I buy from are here and here.
Then there’s your coffee, your restaurants, your airlines, your gadgets – almost everything that you own. It’s always better to look around for local options first and then move to options that you don’t mind giving your money to.
Which brings me to point number two.
Yesterday I was at the local Farmer’s Market in Dubai and an old lady was buying vegetables at the stall with us. She picked up almost everything the seller was selling except coriander. The seller asked her why she doesn’t want it and she said it’s because you packaged it in plastic. When he offered to give it without the plastic, she replied confidently, “You will still throw the plastic away and I don’t support that” and walked away.
(wish all of us thought like the goras)
Not like I don’t buy brands that are known to engage in child labor or fund military interventions in my country but if and when I can help it, I happily purchase expensive products that stand for causes like sustainability (woot woot Lush!).
My idea of becoming a responsible human being is to ask a few basic questions when out shopping.
- What are the brands that I’m buying?
- Which country are the products made in?
- Does the brand openly support certain causes I am against?
So when I give them my hard-earned money, I give it with full knowledge that I’m not supporting anything I wouldn’t support on the roads.
My colleagues will tell you how sad I was a few days ago because of all the pollution around me. All the things humans buy that they don’t need or buy too much of something and throw it away. The culture in this part of the world is to buy more, serve more, show more – basically more is more. Nobody stops to think how buying more than what you need is also a form of wastage. Perpetuating what corporations promote – materialismmm!
Today I am not a minimalist but one day I may be. Today I find it hard to not pick up new clothes or bags but the first step is to just be self-aware. There have been countless instances when I didn’t buy yet another set of gym tights because I already have more than I need. It’s just about beginning. And no one is perfect.
So what kind of a citizen are you?
In today’s times, protesting on the roads is not the only way to show we care. Today, money is more powerful and we all have some of it (or a lot of it). Our daily purchases shape the world and it is our responsibility as global citizens to spend our money carefully and on causes that we would like to see grow.