Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Vote for a Better World

Who cares about human rights? Sure, we can preach the importance of protecting people and making the world a better place. Every body wants to make a difference. But at the end of a day spent “talking” about how much we want to do, what are we actually doing? Henry Ford said it best, “You cannot build a reputation on what you are going to do.”
We often assume that since we are doing okay, the rest of the world must be too.
I want to help. I want to contribute to solutions for a better world. But from my current seat in another desk, in another classroom, in another school, in the United States, I’m not doing a whole lot. What can I do anyway? I have to finish school. I have to pay the bills.
Service looks different depending on what part of the globe you stand. Service in India may be literally feeding a starving child. Service in Bolivia may mean educating others about basic first aid. But what about service in the United States? What can I really do at this point in my life?
If we are not actively contributing to world peace in some distant land, we can still take huge strides with how we spend our money. “Every dollar you spend is a vote for the world you want to live in” reads the subtitle of the book The Better World Shopping Guide written by Ellis Jones.
How we spend our dollars has a profound impact in ways most of us never realize. Take for example, your late-night hunger attack. You are hungry. You are seeking food. If you knew which fast food restaurants were seeking to make the world a better place, would you choose to frequent them over the others? According to the Better World Shopping Guide, one of the best restaurants you could choose to eat at is Chipotle. The beans are 30% organic, the meat is natural-raised, and they actively source from family farms. Chipotle gets an A. Possibly the worst place you could choose to eat at is Kentucky Fried Chicken. KFC has been linked to rainforest destruction overseas, been involved with plastic toy sweatshops, target of a major consumer boycott, and found guilty of false nutritional claims. With this information, I’d rather eat cardboard at Chipotle than support KFC’s sweatshops and rainforest destruction. Every dollar is a vote.
Author Ellis Jones researched the best and worst corporations giving them a letter grade based on five main factors: human rights, the environment, animal protection, community involvement, and social justice. By purchasing basic items every day you may be voting for sweat shops, third-world community exploitation, child labor, toxic waste dumping, race discrimination, and political corruption. With this same dollar you can vote instead for renewable energy, sustainable farming, animal habitat preservation, volunteer efforts, and ethical business dealings around the world.
Let’s look at another example. Energy bars are a common student staple. If you’re going to buy one anyway, why not buy from a company that has been voted the #5 best company on earth? Buy yourself a Clif bar. Clif has won the Buisness Ethics Award and is the EPA Green Power Leader award winner. Close behind in the A and B range are companies such as: Luna, Nature’s Path, Larabar, Nature Valley and Quaker. If you would rather use your money to contribute to global warming and low health standards overseas, pick up a Balance bar, compliments of the #2 worst company on earth: Kraft.
This is not a guilt trip. This is responsible consumerism. We could all do better. If I do not support the exploitation of workers in third-world countries, why would I vote for it with my money?
You can pick up a copy of Ellis Jones’ The Better World Shopping Guide at most bookstores, but why not purchase it from Indigo Bridge bookstore (on P street in the Haymarket) or another local bookstore. Supporting a local bookstore will in turn support Lincoln schools, parks, and charitable organizations.
Money is power. Use it wisely.

(The Clocktower, November 2009)