Charles Eisenstein, Yale University graduate and author of “Sacred Economics,” believes our society must form a “gift economy” in order to combat massive social inequality and the destruction of our environment.
His work is based upon how former civilizations worked, wherein the richest person in the society was the person who did the most for society, without government meddling, when individuals instinctively supported each other without intrusive laws.
This person could only gain so much by giving away the same amount.
Because whatever was produced was a gift for someone else, individuals were always ensured of receiving one back. Eisenstein wrote that this type of thinking must apply to business leaders in the community.
“Someday, hopefully soon, we must change the business environment to end the opposition between profit and ecological well-being,” Eisenstein wrote in the British newspaper, the Guardian.
“…Herein lies a very different sort of ‘business case’ for sustainability. It comes from questions like, ‘Who are you, really?’ ‘What do you care about?’ and, ‘What do you serve?’ From a deep consideration of such questions, courage is born.
“The other business case, the one based on profit, is just a tactical device, a way to give the bean counters – and our own internal bean counter – permission to say yes to what we all really want.”
In this sense, Maria Fundora, owner of Casa Nuova in Alpharetta, is ahead of the game.
Fundora manages a 13-acre “garden,” which is more like a farm, along with her husband, children and employees from the restaurant, to provide all the fresh veggies, herbs and fruit served in the restaurant.
“It’s probably a wash,” said Fundora, describing the expenses of the business practices of maintaining and running a farm to support a restaurant.
But she doesn’t do it for the bottom line. She does it to keep her customers happier and healthier — ultimately, sustaining and expanding her base of clients.
Fundora even gives away her extra produce to customers after they enjoy their meal.
“That changes everything; that you are not just making a living or making money, but you’re caring about your environment, you’re caring about your customer, you’re caring about improving your food quality even though it may cost more money,” said Fundora. “Because at the end of the day, people will appreciate what you are doing and your business will improve.”
The value of Fundora’s garden isn’t quantifiable; it’s just good for the community. It brings people together. It means land that was once grass and trees is now productive and useful. And it tastes amazing.
Steps like these will create waves in our free market, should we all choose to take them. I challenge business owners in the area to consider what you can do for your employees or community. Could you plant tomatoes and greens out back so your employees can make salads for lunch?
Could you buy chickens so your employees could have eggs each morning?
Could you save all the rainwater from your building to limit water waste?
Could you let your employees work from home once a week to cut down on carbon emissions and let the workforce recover and spend time with family?
There are unlimited options and almost none will help the bottom line. They will, however, make the people around you happier and healthier. How much is that worth?
James Carr is working on a book about the local, sustainable movement called “The Jig Is Up.” For more information, visit thejigisup89.com.