Last week I posted the 2 Euro t-shirt video below on Facebook:
(If you haven’t watched the video yet, take a moment to see it; this blog post will make way more sense if you do.)
It’s fascinating to see the shoppers choose the “donate” option over the “buy” option once they meet “Manisha” making 13¢ an hour and working 16 hours a day. (I wasn’t the only person who wondered exactly what they were donating to, since the vending machine doesn’t say, although I assume it went to Fashion Revolution.)
The video ends with “People care when they know.”
But do we really?
Maybe seeing this direct connection between Manisha and their 2 Euro t-shirts caused shoppers to pause. But don’t most of us know that sweatshops exist? Aren’t we aware that most of our clothes are made in overseas factories because it’s cheaper to manufacture them there? And if they’re sold to American firms for a ridiculously low wholesale price, the people who make them must be getting paid ridiculously low wages, right?
I know that. I’m guessing you know that.
But I can’t say I often think about it when I see that great shirt at an awesome price. And if I do, I may feel a twinge of guilt as I pull out my credit card and swipe it. But it doesn’t stop me. I rationalize it. What difference can my $10 purchase make?
In the movie Two Weeks Notice (yeah, it really has no apostrophe—sigh), the Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant characters are in a helicopter over New York City talking about the Chrysler building. She says,
“It is pretty amazing what dreams and lots of money can do, isn’t it?”
And when it comes to retail sales, there’s lots of money in it: $4.53 trillion in 2013. That’s a lot of cash. Especially when you learn that U.S. foreign aid for poverty assistance was only $23.4 billion (2011). As Americans we spend 194 times more money each year on shopping than the U.S. government gives to alleviate poverty! So that spending counts. My $10 combined with your $10 and yours and yours, can make a big difference in the world.
The Two Weeks Notice helicopter discussion goes on:
“And you know you’re part of that, George.”
“Yes, I am.”
“All you have to do is use your power for good instead of evil.”
“If only I would.”
We all can use our economic power for good instead of evil. Learn where your clothing, your food, your electronics come from. Ask questions about the pay for the producers. Investigate the processes used in manufacturing to see if people are harmed by chemicals or poor working conditions. Read the reports on Green America‘s website. Follow the Green Grandma to find out how we’re harmed by chemicals in products and genetically modified food. Start shopping Fair Trade through retailers like Imagine Goods and Ten Thousand Villages.
We all can use our economic power for good instead of evil.
If only we would.