When you buy something, you are supporting the practices of the company who made it. So, if you aren't careful, you might be supporting sweatshops and slave labor (by purchasing from Wal-Mart, Target, Adidas, Gap and Nike, to name a few), chemical dumping in the ocean (the most common perpetrators are agro-industrial conglomerates) or the unsustainable use of natural resources. These practices are not only detrimental to the environment and the billions of people alive today '- they also affect every single student on this campus and everyone they've ever met. If human rights are violated, and the water we drink no longer sustains us but poisons us, then everyone's quality of life diminishes. This is why it is imperative that you make conscious purchases. Think about what you buy, learn about the company and their policies and find better alternatives. In a consumer-driven nation like the United States, money is power. So, use yours with care.
If corporations can be legally defined as 'people,' it is time for them to learn that they must conform to the standards of society. After all, you wouldn't let your friend keep slaves in his basement to make your shoes, or throw his petroleum byproduct onto the beach where you surf.
Here are three ways to use your money more wisely:
1. Try to buy local: T-shirts shipped from Indonesia might be cheap for you, but they come at a very high human cost, meaning that people's lives are degraded by the production of the goods that you buy. Instead, look for local retailers and producers. For example, American Apparel manufactures here is L.A., and they even have a line of organic clothing.
2. Beware of advertising: Advertising works by emphasizing that you are not good enough. Be smarter than that. Men, I promise you that the new line of Axe shower product will not make girls more likely to sleep with you. However, it will burn large amounts of fossil fuels to make the bottles, package them and ship them to the pharmacy near you. Instead, stop by your local farmer's market. There is likely to be someone selling handmade soaps. Not only will you be supporting your local community and buying something that didn't travel hundreds of miles, but bar soap avoids the use of plastic, labels and inks.
3. Reduce and reuse: We all know that recycling is good, but it's actually the third-best option in the ecological trilogy. Reduce by buying less stuff. You might just find that simplicity makes you feel more self-sufficient, and ignoring the constant barrage of advertisements makes you feel more fulfilled. Try to reuse what you already have. A lot of companies offer bulk refills for products you use that contain a lot less plastic, and they are usually cheaper than buying a replacement. Not only will these be good steps toward helping the environment, they will also save you money.
So if you can take anything away from this, think about the things you buy. Ask yourself how it was made, how far it has traveled and what is in it. Unsurprisingly, what is good for the environment is usually good for you. Talk about a win-win situation.
[ECO Students (Environmentally Conscious and Organized Students) is the environmental club on campus. We have the general goal of educating the students on the best ways to be environmentally friendly and furthering campus sustainability efforts, but this year we have some specific things that we are planning to do that you will be able to see! ECO Students is going to try tohave a regular presence in the Loyolan with articles contributed from all of our members. We have a committee devoted to getting more water spigots around campus to fill the reusable water bottles you got from us last year. And we are teaming up with a couple of non-profit programs to work with the community around LMU, as well as here on campus. Keep an eye out for our up and coming T-shirts that will be printed on organic fabric; that's right, we practice what we preach. Our meetings are Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. in Club Commons; feel free to stop by!]
This is the opinion of Sophia Pavlos, a junior philosophy major from College Park, Md. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.