Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Switch: A little experiment

Perhaps it was in economics class that I first heard of the idea of seeing your money – seeing each peso – as a vote. Where you choose to spend your money is a vote to sustain those specific companies, brands and products.  And it stuck with me every since.

Years before the social cause and green marketing boom, I’ve already attempted to make more ethical and environment-friendly choices when I shop, making sure that I vote wisely with my money when I can. And let me tell you, back then, it was very very hard! You would have to search far and wide to find access to eco products, and finding out if the products you are buying were ethically made was close to impossible. And sometimes when you did, you were not sure of their quality.

Then suddenly charity, advocacy and environmental consciousness became hip.  As shopping with a conscience reached its tipping point, marketers and PR practitioners were not far behind in flaunting all sorts of “green”, “eco”, “sustainable”, “ethical” and “advocacy” angles for their products.

On the one hand, I’m happy that the market is now filled with new sustainable and ethically sourced products, or that some of the good old products are now legitimately tied to certain causes.

But then on the other hand, many have taken advantage of this newly grown shopper’s conscience – where advertising campaigns boasting of great advocacy work over sensationalize the miniscule amounts that they actually donate or the minimal work they actually do.

Enter the cynics and the critics flinging all sorts of names and labels – greenwashing, tokenism, poverty porn, and so many many more.

As the segment grows, it starts to get complicated, and sometimes messy. How do you know if a company’s corporate social responsibility program is really making an impact? Or that a particular product is as ethically sourced as they say? Where do you even start looking to find out all these facts?

Add to that the other realities of switching lifestyles – the inconveniences, the sometimes higher cost of goods, the re-adjustment… So what’s a normal consumer to do?

Well, I have no answers. I’m on the same boat as you are.

But I do have an experiment in mind.


The Switch is a series of blog posts about the attempt to shift to more sustainable / ethical living – one purchase at a time. It is an attempt to document my choices; and hopefully together we can learn as I make both good and not-so-good ones. To observe what hooks me in, what makes me buy, and how I can evaluate whether or not I made a good financial vote.

Here’s hoping I make more good ones than bad ones, and that bad ones are turned to good lessons.

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