We're connecting with Conscious Consumers from across New Zealand to ask 6 questions and find out who they and learn more about how they think we can all change the world for the better. Register your values and payment cards and help us grow the Conscious Consumers movement here!
1. Who are you, where are you from and what do you do?
I'm Christina Bellis. I originally hail from Canadian lands, have been in Aotearoa over 10 years working towards positive change in the social, environmental, and enterprise worlds. I'm currently the CEO of Thankyou Payroll, a social enterprise with offices in Dunedin and Wellington, offering free payroll intermediary services to charities and SMEs around the country, and giving a proportion of revenue back to the community via Thankyou Charitable Trust.
2. What does conscious consumerism mean to you?
To me, conscious consumerism means having a consideration for the things one acquires, and making sure they match ones values as much as possible - or at least that they don't directly oppose them. We can't always know the exact conditions of where or how something is made, but with information so accessible these days, it's not hard to find out a baseline amount.
Conscious consumerism is drawing conclusions from knowledge that directly influence ones purchasing power. For example, palm oil is associated with the destruction of rainforests which in turn is threatening the survival of orangutans. Conclusion? Avoid products with palm oil. However, palm oil isn't always labeled as an ingredient, which is where conscious consumerism becomes difficult.
3. What are the most important social and environmental problems you think businesses can help to solve?
Businesses interact with most parts of society and can therefore have positive impacts on a number of things. I think the most important thing is to set your business up with social and environmental responsibilities threaded through it. For example, having supportive and holistic health policies, like mental health and family violence leave for employees, offer better outcomes for people, and also open the space to talk about it, which is really important.
In respect for the environment, having low impact procurement policies, and looking at how to mitigate or reduce emissions, and offset where you can't. It's not the biggest emitter, but a pet peeve of mine is seeing the lights illuminated on every floor of CBD office buildings when there's no one in them.
4. What do you think consumers can do to have a bigger influence in our world?
I think consumers need to consume less - which can sometimes be pretty hard with engrained lifestyle habits and marketing thrown at us telling us to buy! buy! buy! Purchasing things second hand is great, and if you can't find it, have patience until you do. It's like, if you can't find cookies that don't have palm oil in the ingredients, then don't buy any cookies! Don't settle for the lesser of the evils, just go without. Or better yet, make your own cookies!
5. The last time you made a ‘conscious’ purchase decision - what did you buy and where did you buy it from?
I think I make conscious purchasing decisions all the time, but a big one recently was for home renovations. Half our house has laminate flooring and the other half was carpet. I recently ripped up the carpet and discovered original Matai flooring which was exciting. I also found a large area where a number of floorboards had been replaced with chip board. The easiest thing to do would be to put new flooring on top - and laminate was the cheapest. But I knew there was an environmental cost that wasn't being included in that cheap price. The next step up was a bamboo flooring - double the price, but much more sustainable. So I bought boxes of that, dragged them all home, looked at the floor and decided to go the hardest route instead which was to rip up the chip board and replace the floor boards. So I returned the bamboo flooring, and headed to the No. 8 Building Recyclers in Lyall Bay where they've got a ton of Matai floorboards taken out of old houses (among millions of other household joinery and plumbing bits, etc). It was a conscious and the best decision, not only as it restored the charm of the old house, but because it was reusing an existing product that came from within the region (at least in its last house!) and didn't come with any packaging. I also recognise that many things that uphold certain environmental ethics tend to be more expensive and in order to 'put my money where my mouth is' I need to make some sacrifices. Buying the recycled floor boards meant our next 'holiday' was a working staycation to rip up chip board and figure out how to lay flooring!
6. What consumer-oriented technological change are you most excited about seeing in the future?
Hugh (TYP's founder) has mentioned dog translators which would be pretty cool considering most of us have dogs at Thankyou Payroll!! But that breakthrough aside, I'm pretty excited about the consumer-oriented changes we're making to Thankyou Payroll's latest software. Things like an employee kiosk which gives more freedom to employers, and more accessibility for employees will be great. And native mobile so the platform has a greater functionality and performance on our mobile devices. These tech changes are making our dev's pretty excited to be building, and I'm pretty excited to soon offer them to our clients!
Thankyou Payroll is a New Zealand based software business that is growing fast. They are currently open to new shareholders via PledgeMe equity crowdfunding. If you're interested to learn more - check it out!