Friday, January 26, 2007

Affluenza: Rampant consumerism erodes us - Yahoo! News

There's a new book out by British psychologist Oliver James called Affluenza. That's the same name of a PBS movie produced by John DeGraf in 1994. Based on what I read in this short article Affluenza: Rampant consumerism erodes us - Yahoo! News, it looks like things haven't gotten much better since then:

"Bigger houses, more cars, larger televisions, younger faces
-- these goals are frenetically pursued by middle-class
workaholics afflicted by 'Affluenza.'

'Studies in lots of different nations show that if you
place high value on those things, you are more likely to suffer
depression, anxiety, addictions and personality disorders,' he

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Gift it Up! 2006 comes to You Tube

Gift it Up! 2006 raised over $8,000 for 14 Boston area non-profits. Please check out our You Tube video to see our successful event for yourself!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Where does your food come from?

In Costa Rica, I took tours of coffee, banana, and pineapple farms.

While I've read a lot about these industries in the past, I've never seen them up close or met many people who work there. On this trip, my eyes were open to where my food comes from.

Coffee, bananas, and pineapples are back-breaking crops. Coffee berries don't ripen all at once, so each berry has to be picked by hand when it's ready. Since bananas and pineapples are so easily bruised, each fruit has to be carefully grown, picked, and packaged by hand. This labor-intensive work means lots of jobs, but jobs where the worker is bent over, in the sun, for twelve hours each day.

Thanks to organizations such as the Rainforest Alliance, working conditions have improved a lot since the 80's, with higher wages, protective gear from harmful chemicals, and independent inspections of the farms and factories. But in a place where $15/day is a good wage, it's hard to justify supporting these industries by consuming exotic fruits way up North.

But these harsh conditions aren't going to go away just because I stop eating bananas, and I'm not sure I want these jobs to be taken away from Costa Ricans, either. I can understand the argument that although these are awful jobs, they are jobs that allow people to subsist in a poor country.

Right now, I'll continue to do what I know how to do.

First, buy locally at all times. Wonderful fruits and vegetables are grown right here in New England, even throughout the winter, and these farmers deserve my support as well. Plus, locally grown foods mean less transportation costs, which means less impact on our environment as a whole.

Secondly, when I do buy coffee, bananas, or pineapples, I look for fairly traded, organic products. Fair Trade means higher wages and better working conditions for the workers. Organic means less chemicals used, which means that much less exposure to the workers every day. Also, organic earns a higher price, often translating to a higher price for the farmers. (Here's a great piece by Oxfam America on organic rice farmers in Cambodia.)

You can also learn more:
Rainforest Alliance's Sustainable Agriculture program
TransFair: Fair Trade Certified

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Being a Conscious Consumer Abroad

It's the time of the year where many of us are going abroad for vacation, and I'm no exception.

I'm heading off to Costa Rica for 10 days on a class trip. We'll be looking at how the country has managed to make conservation into a profitable industry through ecotourism, sustainable agriculture and forestry, and partnerships with for-profit companies from North America and Europe. Doing so makes Costa Ricans -- from politicians to farmers -- realize how important it is to conserve the unique and diverse natural resources the country holds, hopefully allowing these resources to be around for hundreds of years to come. (If only we could do this here!)

As a tourist from the U.S., I'm very aware of my role in a country that's struggling with immense poverty. I'll uphold my pledge of responsible tourism with the awareness that my individual behavior reflects on my school and my country.

Being a Conscious Consumer doesn't stop at the border!