Nearly 100 young people from Malta, Poland, Austria and Germany gathered at the Summit for Ethical Consumption from the 19th until the 21st of June in Bonn. Under the motto “Together for a world in balance” they discussed their ideas, experiences and demands in the field of ethical consumption. “How can we change the world in a positive way?” – This great goal united all the people who are involved in initiatives and projects all over Europe.
After an informal meet and greet on Friday night, the program was launched on Saturday with a first exchange of the individual knowledge and ideas in the large field of ethical consumption. Soon, many similarities among the diverse group of activists were revealed in a "consumption bingo". Following up on the conversations of the previous evening, numerous discussions started, ideas were exchanged and projects and initiatives presented.
Open dialogue forum
“Let’s be critical, let’s keep our eyes open and don’t stop asking questions!”
During the open dialogue forum, Sergio Chávez, an expert in labor rights from El Salvador and Arnold Cassola, former Secretary General of the European Greens from Malta, discussed with the dedicated attendees about how they as young people can influence politics and society with respect to issues of ethical consumption. Here, perspectives of producing “Global South” and consuming “Global North” came together and triggered an exciting dialogue.
While the consumers are always interested to know which labels they can trust, Sergio Chávez drew attention to the label industry in general, which has grown and became independent as a result of the great interest of people in the “Global North”. Now there are many black sheep in the labeling industry, as it became a global business. Particularly labels that are associated with companies should be treated with caution. The much-quoted phrase "It’s more appearance than substance” proves true. Therefore, Chávez advised: “let's be critical, attentive and do not stop to ask questions!” When asked "What can I do?", the Salvadorian replies, "The work and commitments on ethical consumption, reduction and recycling are very important. But European public opinion and society should also contact the multinational companies producing under exploitative conditions in Central America or in other parts of the world."
Numerous workshops – for example setting up political demands
In the afternoon, numerous workshops covering the topic of ethical consumption were offered. Which skills do we need for a fruitful and successful public action? What do I need for planning and carrying out a campaign so that it will succeed? In the workshop of Urban Gardening (peaceful) "seed bombs" for "Guerrilla Gardening" were prepared to make grey cities more colourful and green. During a Video workshop, participants produced their own videos on "clothing consumption". In the workshop "Political demands", the participants developed own political demands with playful and creative methods. Unfortunately, it is not enough to do good things; also the political and economic conditions need to be changed so that it is not tilting at windmills.
Cassola shared some of his knowledge from years of practivcal experience. This great support allowed the young participants to express not only their own political demands for stricter laws and controls in the area of worker's rights and environmental protection, but they were also given first-hand advices to which bodies on the European political stage they should approach.
Best Practice Award Show
In the evening, the "Best Practice Awards" were celebrated. A total of 88 projects from all over Europe were submitted to the Best Practice Competitions on Ethical Consumption by April 2015: schools, youth groups, kindergartens, students, universities - a wide variety of projects participated. An international jury of 12 people decided on the best projects and selected the winners in three categories: "Best Public Action", "Alternative Consumption Projects" and "Eco-Fair Structural Change Consumption". The 19 winner projects were invited to the congress, honored and medalled. The description of all 88 participating projects can be found on the Best Practice Platform. The 19 winners projects are also introduced in a brochure - be inspired!
Silent disco and, last but not least, a public action
After all participants were able to strengthen themselves at the vegetarian barbecue, the “Silent Disco" started: whilst listening to the music through headphones and dancing together the people could freak out after a long day of congress. There was also the opportunity to exchange books and clothes and of course again common ideas and contacts.
On Sunday the prepared final action took place in front of the University of Bonn. The people drew lovely messages with choke on the ground, demanding better working conditions in the production of our consumer goods, mindfulness and consideration.
The exciting and varied programme of the summit offered young people opportunities for participation, emphasizing that they themselves are the ones who make the world a better place with their projects, initiatives, their ideas and their commitments. It was encouraging to see the great diversity of approaches and people. Positive energy and commitment were the central features of the summit no space for disillusionment or even discouragement!