On Wednesday morning, I chatted to Adin Thomas on CapeTalk 702 about how the increase in the price of petrol affects small businesses like ours and this really got me thinking. I expect that when asked a question like this, most enjoy the opportunity to get on the soapbox and complain and spread more fear – only because this is what we have been taught from generations of society as a whole and it is this kind of thinking that our media really supports. But I was not prepared to do that because in fact there are some seriously positive spin offs. This is not to say I am not empathetic to the strains of trying to live off less disposable income – trust me as business owners we get hit with a double wammy as our incoming costs increase alongside our customers feeling the squeeze but I really beg that an alternative perspective is considered.

Firstly, do you know that some of the most astounding innovations that we as a society have created have come from challenging circumstances? You will know that it is far easier to come up with a solution when your constraints are harder – anyone being asked at any time of their life to draw anything on a blank canvas will remember how much more difficult this is. In contrast, it is when you are briefed to draw something only using two colours, in ten minutes and that the subject has to have something to do with changing seasons, do you surprise yourself by coming up with something truly unique. Did you know that the television, Sellotape, Monopoly and the iPod are all innovations that have come from times of recession?

So in the words, of Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s chief of staff, “Let’s Not Waste a Good Crisis.” Before starting Faithful to Nature, I worked as an innovation consultant at one of the world’s leading innovation companies, ?What If! Innovation, and the Chairman at the company, upon hearing this, had it visible across the offices to remind the team that a challenge is an opportunity. It really is…

And so back to why this impending fuel challenge is an opportunity for you.

I do not believe that this is not going to be the last of the fuel spikes. And I don’t believe you do either. It’s getting clearer by the headlines that we need to seriously consider our current consumer patterns and our belief systems around “enough.” And a fuel spike like this is a wonderful nudge from the Universe to wake up!

Every time our fuel charges increase, so too does demand for green energy. And every time demand for green energy rises, so too do our chances of living in a world where we and our children can breathe clean air, and bath and drink unpolluted water. So do yourselves a favour because it truly is in your best interest – embrace the changes in so far as you are able to. Be the beacon in your circle and stay positive. Put your creative thinking hat on and look at how you can better innovate in your own life to make the changes you know are necessary. I am going to give you some positive ideas of actions to turn this latest spike around, but before I do, I would like to give you one more thing to think about.

Do you know that the moment our fuel prices start to get too high that OPEC will actually allow more oil onto the market to bring the price back down? And why? Because no matter what a whale of a time the oil traders and oil companies are having with the higher prices, there is a tipping point at which, if the price of oil gets too much, too much opportunity is created for green innovation in the way of sustainable energy solutions… and no one in the fuel industry wants that. So let’s try and not be such easy pawns to move around – let’s do something surprising and choose to embrace the increasing fuel prices in the knowledge that this is putting more pressure on our society as a whole to start demanding more sustainable solutions. I mean, to be a real devil’s advocate, maybe we would be better off if fuel suddenly cost R100 a litre because if you consider the latest oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – a litre of fuel costs way way more.

Some Positive Changes you could make from the Fuel Price Increase:

  • Car Pool – a classic war time tip but if you have not tried it yet, step out of your comfort zone and see who and how you can car pool. Personally I think that not having to actually drive the car every second or third commute to work is a real gift!
  • Plant Your Own Food – We sell authentically organic seeds and you will not only be saving a whole bunch of your disposable income by opting to start or increase your veggie garden, but you will also be ensuring that you are eating much cleaner; tastier and nutritious food. (If you are not sure why this is so, take a peek at 16 really interesting reasons to eat organic food
  • Consider using non-disposable products – these are not only lighter on the Earth but you seriously need to get your head around how much lighter they are on your pocket. For instance:

–   You can save almost R7000 over a 2.5 year period using our non-disposable nappies

–   On average, a woman will spend over R260 per year on non-organic tampons (over R750 per year if they’re organic). To put this in perspective, that’s over R1300 (R3700) in just 5 years or R10000 (R29000) in a lifetime. BUT, our Miacup is reusable – buy it once and forget about it.

–  The Biowash ball can be used for 3 years on the basis of one 4kg laundry load per day. Expressed another way, each Biowashball will work effectively for about 1000 loads of washing. So for 3-4 years you have all the washing powder and fabric softener you need for only R429.

  • Buy or Ride your Bicycle. This is cooler, you can drop your gym contract because of the exercise and you can giggle at the long lines of cars at the petrol stations as you cycle past. Jokes aside, this is not such a big deal. In Holland two years ago a law was passed that Mothers needed to cycle with their kids to school rather than to drive them – yes, a law! You may also be interested to know that a Naked Bike Ride is taking place in Cape Town in March.
  • Start or continue your research into alternative and sustainable energy solutions that you can use around the house. Even choosing rechargeable batteries will make a difference.
  • Do something kind for the man on the street. If you think that the extra 43 cents per litre affects your pocket, consider how it affecting his disposable income when the price of bread increases.
  • Use this as an opportunity to review your outlook. How much fear are you responsible for creating? How much light are you responsible for creating? Complaining about how bad things are from something like this does not change a thing. Innovating, pulling together and finding the silver lining keeps you a head above the rest and pulls your community up with you.

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So in answering to my leading question – is the fuel price increase a crisis? No but our dependency on this expensive and dirty oil is.