I will buy you a garden where your flowers can bloom
I will buy you a new car, perfect shiny and new
I will buy you that big house way up in the west hills
I will buy you a new life
Yes I will
Everclear, I will Buy You a New Life
As mentioned previously, I have been participating in a Philosophy Blog War(ed: no longer available), and this week we have had a number of interesting and thoughtful entries. One of those entries got me thinking about one of the most powerful tools we each have when it comes to affecting change: Consumer Integrity.
Sounds a bit like an oxymoron, but bear with me. Every day, in this modern consumerist world, we go out and buy the things we need, want, would like to have. However we each feel about consumerism, as things stand we cannot completely avoid it. At the very least, there are always things that we need: food, shelter, clothing. Companies provide those items based not on some ideal, but based on what they can sell, for how much money and under what specific circumstances are available and economic for them to do so.
When we spend our hard earned money, we are telling individuals and companies that we want what they have to offer. The question is, do we really mean it? When you walk into a big box store, you are sending the message that you want low wages, out-sourced labor and production, cheap plastic crap and disposable everything. Is that really what you want? Of course not. Really, you want low prices, convenience and variety. What you get is both.
For myself, I am an advocate of organic food production, local suppliers, ‘humane’ treatment of people, animals and the natural ecology as a whole. Over the last several years I have decided to put my money where my mouth is. When I shop, I select organic over non-organic, local products over imports, and whole foods over processed crap. This has dramatically changed the way I perceive the food we eat. As the process has expanded, I have now gotten to the point that, of my entire grocery budget, something less than ten percent is used for dry goods while all of the rest is spent on fresh meats, produce and dairy.
Recently, I have been trying to contact a local organic farm producing all of those things. If I can finally make contact, perhaps I can finally kiss the grocery store good bye, once and for all.
I’m not suggesting that the choices I have made are necessarily the correct choices, or choices that I expect others to make. But I DO think that we can, together, change the way that business is done if we take the time to pay attention to what we are buying. If you disapprove of animal testing, avoid products that use animal testing. If you prefer healthful foods, take the time to understand how your food is produced, processed and delivered: then you can decide for yourself which suppliers you want to support. If you are appalled at the treatment of farm animals in modern, industrial factory farming, then don’t buy factory farmed meats.
Every product that you purchase has a story attached. If you care about that story, take the time to find out about it – and the react.(For those interested in understanding the food industry, I highly recommend Michale Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma)
Of course, this is just one example of asking people to be better. Not the farmers and producers – if people are buying organic, then they will produce organic or go out of business – but the consumers themselves. I’m asking you, as individuals, to be intentional. But perhaps the first step to changing the systems around us is for some individuals to stand up and take on that extra burden. The more that do, the more likely we reach a tipping point – a tipping point where unethical, unhealthful and eventually uneconomic business practice become unavailable.
(Originally Published September 6, 2006)