The Project:

2013: Personal Divestment

The Goal: to learn about where my money goes and actively disinvest it from corporations and businesses that harm people and the planet. Instead, choosing to support businesses whose practices and products support building a more just and sustainable world.

Examining my spending: I will be looking at every aspect of my relationship to money and how the choices I make effect the world. Hoping both to cut down on my own consumption and to re-shape my own habits so that I no longer shop frequently at big chain stores and buy products produced by large corporations, instead I hope to educate myself to choose fair and just products from local / independent or socially responsible stores.

Values: Justice & Sustainability

The Better World Shopper grades companies based on the following criterion: Human Rights, The Environment, Animal Protection, Community Involvement and Social Justice.

I am going to further clarify this list by saying that I will try to support: fair labor (ethical production, cooperatives, fair trade, etc.), local & handmade products and stores, and products and services that are made with sustainability and ecofriendlieness in mind at every level.

Two key aspects: Where & What

What – what is the product or service I am buying? Whether it’s a plane ticket, a t-shirt, credit card or cup of coffee I want to know who makes it. Many small companies that seem eco friendly and socially progressive are actually owned by large corporations, most of what we buy boils down to 6 or 8 mega companies like Proctor and Gamble and Kellog and Coca-Cola. (Did you know that Perrier, San Pellegrino and Poland Springs mineral water are all owned by Nestle?)

Where – I also want to look at where I buy things, focusing on shifting my spending over to cooperatives, local small businesses and online hosted businesses that are independent and ethical. Ideally I will be buying ethically produced things and services from local small businesses and ethically minded stores. In the case that I am unable to find a product I use / need that is made by an ethical company I can still make the choice to buy at a local store rather than that at a big box store.

I hope to shop as much as possible at small businesses, creating a kind of ‘main street’ for myself in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world, re-programing myself to ignore all those signs for mega chains and hunting out the awesome little mom and pop stores, as well as ethical online businesses that sell products I can’t get locally.
Example – one of my favorite stores is Sustainable NYC – in Alphabet City in Manhattan, the shop carries a wide array of practical house and gift items that are local, organic, fair trade & recycled – a small local business that sells ethically products – amazing!

Questions to ask myself:
- Can I do without this product or service?
- Can I make or do this myself?
- Can I buy this locally from someone else who has made it or done it?
- Can I buy an ethical version of this at an ethical store?
- Can I buy it used?
- Can I buy this on ETSY or from another small business online?
- If it’s a product or service from a large company – can I at least buy it locally / at an independent store?

The reason that unethical companies are so powerful is that we buy their products and services, without consumers Walmart would not exist (neither would its slave labor, environmental degradation or union busting), and without proper consumer support ethical businesses cannot flourish, each of us on our own is only a drop in the pond, but together we are capable of re-defining the economy! Join me in the Movement for a New Economy!

neweconomies:

The Psychology Of Materialism, And Why It’s Making You Unhappy

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/15/psychology-materialism_n_4425982.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 12/15/2013 10:00 am EST

More money, more problems? It might just be true. Americans today, compared to 55 years ago, own twice as many cars and eat out twice as much per person, but we don’t seem to be any happier because of it. Rather than rising levels of well-being, we’ve seen mounting credit card debt and increasing numbers of self-storage facilities to house the things we compulsively buy.

The holidays in particular have become a time when consumer culture comes out in full force. Black Friday, the annual post-Thanksgiving discount shopping spree, results each year in multiple deaths and injuries of consumers trampled by crowds in stores and shopping malls.

In a poignant, viral Huffington Post blog last month, "If You Shop On Thanksgiving, You’re Part Of The Problem," writer Matt Walsh cast a harsh light on what the holiday shopping frenzy really says about our culture:

That’s our entire economic system: buy things. Everybody buy. It doesn’t matter what you buy. Just buy. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have money. Just buy. Our entire civilization now rests on the assumption that, no matter what else happens, we will all continue to buy lots and lots of things. Buy, buy, buy, buy, buy. And then buy a little more. Don’t create, or produce, or discover — just buy. Never save, never invest, never cut back — just buy. Buy what you don’t need with money you don’t have… Buy like you breathe, only more frequently.

To some extent, most of us participate in consumer culture and value material possessions, and that’s perfectly fine. But in excess, materialism can take a toll on your well-being, relationships and quality of life. Here are six things you should know about the psychology of consumption — and strategies to find freedom from materialism.

Consumer culture may be harming individual well-being.

READ ON: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/15/psychology-materialism_n_4425982.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

How to live lightly on the planet —- make your home a zero waste home! Or, at least take some of these great tips and cut down your consumption and waste. Check out this great blog -  and learn more from this article in Yes! Magazine:
ZERO WASTE HOME:
http://zerowastehome.blogspot.com/
10 Tips for a Zero-Waste Household 
http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/10-tips-for-a-zero-waste-household?utm_source=fb&utm_medium=socmed&utm_campaign=130809_Planet

How to live lightly on the planet —- make your home a zero waste home! Or, at least take some of these great tips and cut down your consumption and waste. Check out this great blog -  and learn more from this article in Yes! Magazine:

ZERO WASTE HOME:

http://zerowastehome.blogspot.com/

10 Tips for a Zero-Waste Household

http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/10-tips-for-a-zero-waste-household?utm_source=fb&utm_medium=socmed&utm_campaign=130809_Planet

Great article about Amalgamated Bank! 
Bank owned by a union, for unions, sets it sights on Washington
Keith Mestrich likes to say he’s the most unconventional banker in town. And he might just be right.
As senior vice president of Amalgamated Bank, an institution founded and owned by a labor union, Mestrich’s mission is more worker solidarity than bottom-line profits.
Amalgamated, which was founded in New York in 1923, has begun beefing up its Washington presence. As the labor movement shifts from local trade unions to more national operations, so too has the bank’s focus.
“Over time, national organizations have taken on a greater importance,” Mestrich said. “Many of them have ended up here in Washington because they’re increasingly trying to influence Congress and national policy.”
…
A major turning point came late last year, when the Democratic National Committee announced that it was moving its funds out of Bank of America and into Amalgamated, which is largely owned by Workers United. … 
Read the full article here: http://wapo.st/14WSOTS

Great article about Amalgamated Bank!

Bank owned by a union, for unions, sets it sights on Washington

Keith Mestrich likes to say he’s the most unconventional banker in town. And he might just be right.

As senior vice president of Amalgamated Bank, an institution founded and owned by a labor union, Mestrich’s mission is more worker solidarity than bottom-line profits.

Amalgamated, which was founded in New York in 1923, has begun beefing up its Washington presence. As the labor movement shifts from local trade unions to more national operations, so too has the bank’s focus.

“Over time, national organizations have taken on a greater importance,” Mestrich said. “Many of them have ended up here in Washington because they’re increasingly trying to influence Congress and national policy.”

A major turning point came late last year, when the Democratic National Committee announced that it was moving its funds out of Bank of America and into Amalgamated, which is largely owned by Workers United. …

Read the full article here: http://wapo.st/14WSOTS

Realizing the Hidden Cost of Your Clothes

In the most recent garment factory disaster at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh last month: over a thousand people were killed, many injured, and thousands more family members were affected. The tragedy at Savar is just the latest in a string of problems including fires, illness, and more at similar factories across Asia in recent years [as well as pieces about manufacturers exposed for extreme pollution and use of dangerous chemicals in production]. These stories don’t always make the front page of the Times, but they are just as clear of a message that is unfolding about the garment manufacturing system and our consumption habits that keep the system going, and it is all part of the hidden cost of our clothes.

In the wake of the Rana Plaza building collapse, retailers have been trying to separate themselves from the responsibility of these situations: pulling out from some manufacturing companies exposed for questionable practices and establishing ‘victim funds’ in the aftermath. While we commend many retailers who have donated funds to help victims and their families, real change needs to be made to the whole of the fashion machine, and it starts with you!

Read more

Safe, Ethical and Transparent Fashion: If We Can Do It, Why Can’t You?
… We are issuing this industry wide challenge, and at the same time offering our support, to every fashion brand: “If we can do it, why can’t you?”  We are asking everyone— manufacturers, retailers, and consumers—to share our commitment to fashion that honors people and planet, and to take and share a simple pledge:  “No one should have to suffer and die to produce the clothes we wear.” …
Now is the time for a groundswell of consumer support. In all, we spend over a trillion dollars a year on clothes. Our spending on clothes truly has the power to change the world for good. We are asking you as consumers to take the PLEDGE: “I will find out where the garment I am about to purchase came from and who made it. I will not wear anything that people are suffering and dying to produce.”  It’s that simple. When you take steps to learn about your clothes, and spend in a way that demonstrates your values you are changing the fashion industry.
and check out this short interview with Indigenous founders about how the choices in our closets are connected to real people.http://soundbitenewsservice.com/fmtrss.php?id=302-1

Safe, Ethical and Transparent Fashion: If We Can Do It, Why Can’t You?

… We are issuing this industry wide challenge, and at the same time offering our support, to every fashion brand: “If we can do it, why can’t you?”  We are asking everyone— manufacturers, retailers, and consumers—to share our commitment to fashion that honors people and planet, and to take and share a simple pledge:  “No one should have to suffer and die to produce the clothes we wear.” …

Now is the time for a groundswell of consumer support. In all, we spend over a trillion dollars a year on clothes. Our spending on clothes truly has the power to change the world for good. We are asking you as consumers to take the PLEDGE: “I will find out where the garment I am about to purchase came from and who made it. I will not wear anything that people are suffering and dying to produce.”  It’s that simple. When you take steps to learn about your clothes, and spend in a way that demonstrates your values you are changing the fashion industry.

and check out this short interview with Indigenous founders about how the choices in our closets are connected to real people.
http://soundbitenewsservice.com/fmtrss.php?id=302-1

Fabrics and Labels to Look For

When you shop for new clothes, a number of factors can affect the social and environmental impacts of your purchases. For example, about 14.2 million workers worldwide are trapped in forced and exploitative working conditions, including those in clothing manufacture, according to a June 2012 report from the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Also, toxic pesticides can harm farm workers and the Earth; clothing dyes may contain heavy metals (look for low-impact dyes); and many companies apply toxic finishes to promote fire-, wrinkle-, and stain resistance. Clothing made from petroleum-based polyester has a high carbon footprint, and clothing made from rayon requires a toxic chemical soup to turn wood pulp into fabric.

To find the greenest clothing when you shop, look for these fabrics and labels:

Read more