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The Power of the Purse



Yesterday I was in the library with my son, looking at books about Cesar Chavez. I flipped one open and read about how they used to spray toxic pesticides on the fields while the workers were in the fields. I closed the book and slid it back onto the shelf. As I often do, I decided to shield my son who is in Kindergarten from this particular detail for a few more years. Reading about Cesar Chavez reminded me of a time several eons ago when I sat in front of a class of 32 fourth graders in downtown Los Angeles discussing the grape boycott as part of our California history lesson. "You see," I told them, "when you buy something, it's like you are voting for it. You aren't just buying a product. You are supporting the companies who make the product. And if you don't agree with what they are doing, then you shouldn't give them your money." I told them what a powerful message ordinary people were able to send these companies simply by choosing to not buy something.

This is the power of the purse. And while public policy and government action must play a major role in order to address many of the most dire problems our planet and its inhabitants face, it is also true that individual choices, including our own personal consumption choices, are often the fastest way we can impact our own health as well as send messages to the marketplace. Businesses tend to notice when they stop selling products and stop making money.

The U.S. – China Greener Consumption Forum

The U.S. and China are the world's two "consumer super powers." And on March 22, 2013 at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., women leaders from both countries will gather for The U.S. – China Greener Consumption Forum to meet and address the environmental challenges their countries face due to consumption. The Forum will convene leading consumer advocates, green entrepreneurs, scientists and public policy specialists to explore ways to marshal the "power of the purse" to protect the planet.

As quality of life and income improve in China and other parts of the world, escalating consumer demand is leading to an unprecedented acceleration in the consumption of natural resources, energy, and water. This pattern of consumption worsens already existing problems like pollution, climate change, toxins in the environment, and waste. When we reduce our consumption as well as shift our spending to greener products and services, we're sending a powerful message to manufacturers worldwide that, if they want to continue to get our business, their products must meet our greener, cleaner expectations.

Buying less and using less is always the most fundamental aspect of green consumption. At the Forum, speakers will highlight examples of the "sharing economy" as well as initiatives in China and the U.S. (like "meatless Monday" and ENERGY STAR) that have been very successful in reducing consumption. In addition, the forum focuses on women because of the disproportionate influence women have on consumer purchases. If women in both countries can be mobilized to use their power as consumers and as entrepreneurs, significant progress can be made in reducing our global carbon footprint while creating a greener, cleaner world. Like American women, Chinese women are also concerned about the environmental impact of our decisions. In China, national and local women's federations are a particularly powerful force for social change and community engagement. Many women's groups have been on the forefront of encouraging their cities and towns to reduce their carbon footprint. The Forum will provide ideas and tools they can apply to consumer campaigns, as well.

Forum speakers will be addressing such topics as
  • Why our spending habits have so much power to make a difference
  • Obstacles that prevent people from shifting their spending to greener products and services
  • Strategies to reduce consumption, such as campaigns to reduce plastic use and to improve energy efficiency
Speakers include Lisa P. Jackson, the recently retired Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (luncheon keynote address); Huan Gao, the mayor of Yichun, China; Xiang Guo, the General Director of the Chinese Women Activity Center; Peter Banwell, Director of Product Marketing for Energy Star; Elizabeth O'Connell, Campaigns Director for Green America; the founders of Au Naturale organic cosmetics and Skincando body care products; and Cheryl Newman, VP and Deputy Chief of Mission for Honest Tea.

Due to the popularity of The U.S. – China Greener Consumption Forum, registration is now closed. However, you can participate in the conference virtually by following the Forum's own social media outlets as well as those of Green Sisterhood, which is a media partner for the Forum. You can:
  • Sign up for Forum email updates. 
  • Follow updates on the Forum's Facebook page as well as the Green Sisterhood Facebook page to receive updates before, during, and after the conference. 
  • Follow the Twitter conversation at hashtag #uschinagreenforum and hashtag #GSGF13 (which the Green Sisterhood will be using for tweets about the Forum).

Spread the word: click here to tweet about the forum.


What steps have you taken to become a more conscious consumer?

6 comments:

  1. Love the reminder that we are voting with our money! Definitely true, and expecting great things from this forum.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jenny. I'm especially interested to hear what the Chinese speakers talk about.

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  2. I agree. We have to take responsibility for our consumption patterns. If we vote for more sustainable products with our purse, business will follow. Great reminder.

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    Replies
    1. Honestly, it's hard to be a conscious consumer ALL the time. Simply b/c of lack of transparency and length of supply chains, in many cases. But it's something we should all aspire to, and something I hope the marketplace continues to make easier for all of us.

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  3. I really look to buy products that are made in Canada first, US 2nd and the UK 3rd. It can be really really hard at times though but I believe that voting with my dollar can make a difference.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete

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