The value of money is in its purchasing power. A pile of money sitting there does nothing, but when it is traded for goods and services, that provides some kind of value to us, that is the power of money.
There is value in money. It is a signaling tool. We buy expensive things because it can signal something to ourselves or to others. We will buy those expensive yoga pants, even if they’re inexpensive to make, because we feel more comfortable, flexible, and attractive when we wear them. We are placing the value in the way it makes us feel, not the actual item. I have too many “cute” things in my closet that I never wear because although they’re cute, they don’t make me feel cute when I wear them. Some people will buy expensive shoes or jewelry because it signals to others that they have money, therefore they value the social status that comes with the shoes, maybe not the shoes themselves.
It is true though, that there can also be value in items, and that we can be an avid collector or have a hobby in which the actual item(s) has some kind of sentimental or emotional value to us. Even then, my point still stands that it is the sentimental or emotional value that is so important. Money is traded for value, it itself is not valuable. We often don’t think as far as the value the money we spend provides for us, let alone how our purchasing power affects others and the environment.
How does the way you spend your money say about what you value?
Money is a powerful tool, and I think we could use it too lightly. We see money as a means to an end, a product, a meal etc, but it can be used for positive change. This is what voting with your dollar is all about, using your money to make a statement about what you value by supporting companies and products by purchasing them. You are placing value on this company, you are investing in it. So, when you purchase that article of clothing , you are communicating to the company that you directly and indirectly support their material sourcing, manufacturing, employee conditions, prices, and end of life disposal.
Your money supports the life of the product from start to finish, here are 2 examples, the negative impact of supporting single-use plastic and the positive impact of choosing ethical and fairtrade clothing companies.
How purchasing single-use plastics can support the extremely negative affects of pollution
The negative effects don’t begin in the vending machine. Plastic are made from fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal. The processes to extract these are releasing toxins into our air and waterways and are accompanied by poor and toxic working conditions. The factories where they produce plastics, also release a plethora of nasty things into the world. They then enter our lives and begin to release microplastics, little plastic bits and particles, into our homes, environment, and bodies. They will then be incinerated, which releases large amounts of toxins into the surrounding areas. Plastics are found in water supplies and many species of fish have tested positive for microplastics, many of which humans consume. They are found in agricultural soil which increases the risk that the toxins in the plastics could enter the fruits and veggies we eat through the ground. Plastics are found in our own bodies. Then finally, all the toxins that are released into the air through this entire process are breathed in, affecting our health further, as well as reaching the ozone layer and creating acid rain.
How supporting ethical and sustainable fashion companies can have a positive impact
You walk into the store, see an amazing jean jacket you’ve been dying to have. You then read the label to find that it is ethical and fairtrade, you buy it, happily. At the register the cashier tells you the company allows you to send clothing to them at the end of it’s life so they can reuse and upcycle the materials.
Let’s track the lifespan of this jacket. Its materials are sustainably harvested by well treated and well paid workers and uses minimal water. The materials are sent to a factory where workers have clean working environments and are paid fairly. The materials are woven together by hand or machine, and then packaged and shipped to its location with the intent and actions of keeping carbon emissions down. It is then advertised and you buy it. When you’re done, you either swap it with a friend, donate it to be reused, or ship it back to the company so they can reuse materials. The company is looking into fabrics that can biodegrade and want to find a way to offset and reduce the carbon emissions from their factory.
The power of the consumer is very real, and can have social, economic, political, and environmental impacts
- Individual actions add up.
- Sustainable options are typically more expensive, but the more those who can afford it buy it, the less expensive and more affordable it can become.
Cost and convenience are huge factors and are hard to ignore in this consumption driven society. Try to offset those challenges by donating to organizations making environmental, social, and political change. You can also donate to offset your carbon footprint at carbon fund.org or other reputable carbon offset resources.
Important terms to understand and consider
Voting with your dollar: Supporting companies and their practices by purchasing from them
Conscious consumerism: Thinking about the impact and systemic effects of purchasing products and supporting companies
Organic: Grown without harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers (that can leach into our water, pollute our air, and degrade the soil).
Ethical: Businesses build their own set of ethical guidelines that could include sustainable sourcing of raw materials, refusing to use child labor, providing workers with safe and healthy conditions, etc.
Fairtrade: An institutional agreement between companies and laborers in developing countries to pay them fair wages, provide safe working conditions, and advocates for greater environmental and social standards.
Natural Products: Natural doesn’t always mean better, but natural products can be healthier for you and the planet because they do not contain synthetic ingredients that leach into the body or soil.
Palm Oil Free: Palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree and is used as a natural preservative. Palm oil is one of the most sustainable oils, but the way it is being harvested currently, is unsustainable. Palm oil production and consumption drives deforestation and impacts wildlife. Palm oil is found in so many of our products including pizza dough, ice cream, laundry detergent, soaps, and makeup. This is a tricky one, but some companies do use palm oil that is sustainably and safely harvested.
Reducing Meat Consumption: Increased livestock production has led to a dramatic increase in methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide that is released into the air. In addition, many animals are raised and treated inhumanely.
Buying second hand: By buying products already in circulation you support the life of the item, the thrift store, and the circular economy of goods. Some thrift stores are run by religious organizations and nonprofits, so you can choose who to support!
Look for Certified B Corporations: Meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental practices, public transparency, and legal accountability. These companies are balancing profits and purpose! (See, it’s possible)
Avoid Greenwashing: Greenwashing is disinformation, typically marketing, making consumers believe that a product or company is environmentally responsible, when in actuality it is not.