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Vote With Your Dollars
Every year between Christmas and New Year’s holidays, North American retail businesses stage some of their biggest sales. In this week alone, U.S. on-line spending averages $1.22 billion, and almost 20% of all holiday spending happens between Christmas and New Year’s. Knowing that we are all bombarded with extra shopping flyers in our newspapers, louder ads on radio and television, and a generally heightened frenzy of consumerism, we’d like to take this opportunity to remind ourselves that we “vote with our dollars” every day. What a great New Year’s resolution to try and keep our money from supporting environmental destruction and human rights abuses.
PAN staff have collected a few basic tips for not supporting the pesticide and genetically-engineered seed industry. We urge people to purchase only organic cotton products, if possible. Organic/Fair Trade coffees, teas, and other imported foods may cost slightly more, but in terms of true human costs and costs to the environment, the price we pay to support producers of these healthy products is a bargain. For products produced closer to home, buying from local, organic food growers is an investment in your community and the people growing healthy food. In general, one of the easiest ways to stop giving your money to corporations that are destroying communities and small farms around the world is to ask yourself if your money will sustain local bookstores, hardware stores or farms, for example, and if so, are these people helping to protect the environment and their neighbors through their businesses?
Making sure that corporations who violate human rights and destroy the environment do not get our money can become a part-time job in and of itself. But if we are to walk our talk, this is an action strategy that will really make a difference, hard as it may be to do consistently. For example, finding clothing that is sweatshop free or coffee that is sustainably grown and that supports economic and social justice, and other items that were made without harm to the environment or to the people who made them, can seem overwhelming.
Fortunately, there are organizations helping to promote sustainable businesses to conscious consumers. One of the largest networks is Co-op America, that maintains a directory of socially responsible businesses and an email newsletter. Co-op America also co-produces the Green Festivals in Washington, DC and in San Francisco each year with Global Exchange. Another site that features sustainably-made products, services and tips for “green shopping” is Eco-mall, including how to take into account how a product is packaged before we make our decision to buy. Green Matters includes a directory of green businesses in the U.S and Canada, listing companies by product category, such as items used for organic gardening and non-toxic pest management.
Another way to find out whether you want to do business with a company is to check them out with several web sites that keep an eye on corporate behavior related to the environment or social justice issues. PAN provides profiles of the global big six agrichemical corporations. For information on the wider world of irresponsible businesses, Corpwatch has done tremendous work, for example, detailing how Coca Cola devastated an area of Kerala, India, both environmentally and economically, by contaminating water sources and then shutting down abruptly, causing large layoffs. Some corporations are so atrocious that they’ve attracted entire web sites dedicated just to chronicling their bad behavior, as with pesticide-producing giant Dow Chemical. Another site is the Corporate Accountability Project run by the Action Center, a grassroots environmental activist non-profit. The Action Center declares that the one hundred of largest economies in the world, fifty are corporations. And if you don’t like your representatives in government, you can find out what corporations and industries paid for their campaigns at OpenSecrets.org, a service of the Center for Responsive Politics, and then stop giving these companies YOUR money!
We at PAN send you best wishes for a more sustainable and just New Year, and we applaud you for helping build a better world with the way you spend your money.
PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don’t always get coverage by the mainstream media. It’s produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.
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