Anyone who has ever dragged their tired bones out of bed on any given day understands the barrage of choices we are faced with. Which outfit shall I wear? What to eat for breakfast? Raincoat or no raincoat? (Definitely should have brought the raincoat…) Which station to listen to in the car or just enjoy the silence? A multitude of decisions big and small, conscious and subconscious are made that build our days. We live in a world that fights for our attention to hopefully persuade a decision in someone’s favor:
As I stood paralyzed one day in the produce aisle, weighing the cost and decision of Organic or not while counting the dwindling pennies for groceries I was reminded of a quote by Nelson Mandela: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” This may seem a bit dramatic as I weighed a Gala apple in my hand, but it started me thinking about the daily decisions I make and just what that means for others.
It is easy to dismiss where things come from when all we have to do is exchange money for something in a shiny package - something we value enough to take the time and effort to acquire. But where did it come from? How many hands touched it before mine? There can be a deep disconnect between the products we enjoy and just how they got here. I want to take the time in this article to challenge you to think about the choices we all make – not to persuade you to my proclivity in daily decisions, and hopefully not to overwhelm you. My goal is to awaken the truth that there is no magic wand behind what we daily consume, instead there are real people.
As I walked out of the grocery store with my non-organic apple I categorized the different areas I have to make a purchasing decision most often:
And the most important question: why does it even matter?! After facing that question in the grocery store, my answer came after I researched and found too much evidence that convenient, mass-produced, “whatever it takes for more profit” approaches are oppressive. Oppressive to those who work inhumane hours for a depressing lack of money to live off of. Oppressive to the environment that is being flooded with toxins, waste and pollutants. Oppressive to the people who consume and continually find meaning in instant gratification of material stuff. I will leave you to discover your own answer to the “why bother?” question. But, here is my take-away after diving in and researching what decisions I make and will continue to do so. I realized there were three decisions I wanted to make: commit to the cost, prefer products with stories and color me green! What exactly do I mean by those?
Commitment to Cost
Most things Organic (food, clothing, etc) will have a higher price tag on it. Most products sustainably-made, locally sourced and hand-crafted tend to be pricier. This is not always the case, but when I decided to commit to taking the effort to purchase with people in mind I knew the pocket-book would be pinched. The saying: “You get what you pay for” usually comes to mind as I take out my wallet to make a purchase. And I’m not only talking about monetary cost. Realizing that my favorite clothing store utilizes sweatshops in third world countries means I am choosing to no longer shop there. Though that sweater would look great…it is not worth the oppression of others.
Products with Stories
I love finding companies and products that come with a story. For example, one of my favorite necklaces came from an organization called Bead for Life which empowers members in Uganda to craft the beads and receive entrepreneurial training. The money from the jewelry goes back to fund more training programs. I am also a big fan of Toms shoes and applaud their one-for-one initiative giving shoes to children around the world. Another of my favorites includes Yobel Market which displays “hand-picked gifts [which] bears the story of an individual on a journey out of poverty and exploitation.” The selection might not be the same as standing in a large department store, but finding these treasures is something I’ve come to love.
Color Me Green!
This one is a no-brainer for me. As someone who started a recycling project in the kitchen at 8 years old for a Girl Scout project and later having an opinion letter published in our city’s newspaper at age 12 demanding that something be done about the pollution and trash over-taking our city – this is always something I’ve been passionate about. My husband will roll his eyes when I come home – arms overflowing with recycled paper towels, toilet paper, notebooks, and even paper clips. I literally have a shirt that says “Mean Green Recycling Machine” that is made out of recycled 20 oz plastic bottles. I get excited about natural, eco-friendly and recycled products because I believe that it is paving a better way. It is teaching the generations to come that responsibly using what we already have instead of demanding more is better for this planet and I happen to be quite fond of this place and the people in it.
My desire to write this article during our global awareness month of October is because there are so many great causes to be a part. Yet, it is easy to distinguish that you are fighting for social justice when at a fundraiser or hearing the stories of previous child soldiers and know you have to help, or when you volunteer your time with an organization making a difference in the lives of the oppressed. But, you also have the power to make small, but GRAND impacts with each daily decision. I am definitely not perfect at this and with everything, it is a journey. As I learn more, I am faced with more decisions, but as The Better World Shopper says, “you have the power to vote with your wallet!” What will your vote be?
I want to mention that any product or company I have included in this article did not contact me or ask me to use their name. Each company/product I mention is because I have researched them, bought from them and believe in what they do. With that in mind, I’ve listed websites for the products/companies I’ve mentioned in case you want to browse! Please feel free to launch your own investigation and share the amazing companies and products making a difference that you love at TheAuthenticityProject@gmail.com.
Jennifer Anderson is the Content Director for The Authenticity Project, you can contact Jennifer at TheAuthenticityProject@gmail.com