Voting With Your Dollars
I am a big believer that in our society there are changes that we make in our everyday lives that make a huge difference in the world. It seems like a these things are ones that we can slack on…in fact in this particular case that I want to write about today, we have been socialized to think that it doesn’t make a difference. Socialized is too calm of a word actually. We have been brain washed into thinking that our choices don’t matter. That is as consumers.
As much as we might wish that we didn’t live in a consumer driven world, the truth is that we do. Fighting against it sounds like the noble fight but living off the grid in this way isn’t always the most effective on a large scale. Companies seem like the enemy but instead I invite you to view companies as a reflection. Companies want to profit and they do this by giving their customers what they think they want or need. Even companies like Amazon, Walmart, Nike or Target put products on the market based on what we as consumers want/ purchase. If it is not profitable or we do not support companies based on what their stances are (Yes I am talking about food places that support anti gay agendas), they will not do it (For the most part).
This applies on everything from organics to who they lobby. It applies to product lines that only support one body type. What you buy and who you buy from matters. I for instance will no longer buy from Nike and have made it very clear that I do this based on their body image and the Oregon products controversy surrounding how they treat their athletes. I will not go to chick-a-fly because of their stance and how much money they give to hate groups. What I do do is still shop at major retailers, being sure to focus on things that I want them to supply more of- vegetarian food, healthy food, low sugar foods, make ups, skin care and self care products…you get the idea.
I read the labels. I research. Each time I buy something, I make sure that they know that THIS is the kind of product that I want to see more of and if we all do that, resellers know that this is the kind of product we want. I do try and shop with small and local business as much as I can (Which I will link and write in another post coming up) but that is not always possible and certainly aren’t for everyone of every socio-economic class. But voting with the money you do have is an option for a larger chunk of people.
Reframe the power dynamic
Somehow, at some point the balance of power shifted, or at least we were lead to believe that it did. As more and more of the country lives more paycheck to paycheck, we become more concerned with getting whatever we need for as cheap as we can get it. Whatever the company offers becomes what we think we should buy because…well its what we can afford so we should just take it and be grateful. This is not the way it actually works and shouldn’t be how it works. Companies are not the ones who dictate what we consume.
We are the ones who dictate what the companies make and in the end, how they make it. Demand more from companies and realize that we are not an employee. You are the boss and your board vote is who you buy from and what you buy from them. Every time you buy plastics or highly processed products you are telling them that’s what you want and they will continue to make it; not because they want to or particularly care at all what they put out and how because the numbers tell them that is what consumer will buy. Likewise, when we support companies with positive agendas or what they believe in and don’t buy from companies that we don’t agree with the stance on, we support a power dynamic and lobby that aligns with our views.
Buy less of a higher quality
Remember when you used to make fun of your dad because he had the same pair of Kackis from college? Okay, maybe this was an example specific to my family. But either way, it’s because dad’s kackis lasted. I can’t imagine having a pair of jeans last for a year, much less ten. Fast fashion is something that really has only become a thing in my lifetime. It was a reaction to a culture where people weren’t as concerned with the product but how cheap they got it. It was about buying a lot of something and replacing it quickly. This applies to many things including everything from electronics to pots and pans but I like using fast fashion as an example.
Stores like H&M, Forever 21, even Victoria’s Secret and the like have a reputation; so much so that H&M now has a program where you get percentages off if you bring in and “Donate” clothing. That reputation, of course, is wearing it once or twice and then it can be discarded. It’s cheap and easy to find. We assume and that we are spending less money but really we are buying more and more of them because they are designed to fail. This is now so common that it has a term: planned obsolescence. Instead of buying more, I have started to buy higher quality products and less of them so that they last longer. This costs more to start with but in the long run, I know I am supporting companies that have sustainable practices, are well resourced, ethical and value their employees. Those are what my dollars vote for and why spending more is sometimes better in the long run.
Research before you buy
Time is love. We know this saying from songs and love poems but really this applies to everything that you claim to be important in your life. Living should not be on autopilot and if you care about things you do need to invest time into research and being an educated consumer. I learned very early not to take things at face value. With a family of conspiracy theorists backing me up (And if you don’t think you have at least one in your family you probably just don’t know) I learned not to take companies or missions at face value. Real research is needed when it comes to food, clothing and plastic consumption. Learn how things are made, where they are made, with what and by who. If you can’t find these things outwardly and find confirmation of these things, chances are you might want to move onto something different.
Normally people that are doing things responsibly want to make it obvious. A quick note on this and labeling though: Make sure labels like a fair trade, organic, cruelty-free ect. Are valid. Most of these labels are unregulated and companies can draw a bunny on something and slap it on, calling it cruelty-free without meeting any standards.
Support Small Business When You Can
Some of us can’t afford to shop small all of the time but you should try when you can. I’m going to tell you why. Yes, the obvious one that you have heard is that you are supporting your community and keeping your dollars local but it’s so much more than that.
Small businesses tend to be more educated on the products that they sell. Many of them are actually local and they can tell you all of the exact details, they are fresher so things like fragrances and food tend to have less preservatives and chemicals in them. They tend to be of higher quality. Many times when it comes to things like farmer’s markets and what not it is the actual makers that are doing the selling and they are more than happy, they are excited to tell you about their work and how it was made. Shopping small allows you to close the loop in between maker and consumer which is really what we want ultimately when we do all of our research.