The average American’s shopping cart holds stories perpetuating a rather profound misery — sweatshop labor, factory farmed animals, genetically modified monocultures that leach into nearby water — yet we are removed from these realities as we shop.
Most people shop for what is cheap, both consciously because they need to, and unconsciously because it is how they were taught to shop.
The former are challenged by the money system, never having enough to make ends meet, let alone accumulate savings, or have the ability to feel well and take care of loved ones. They may feel a pent up relief of getting money at the beginning of the month, and then the ache at the end of the month, holding out for the start of the next cycle. A single mom may be doing her best shopping at Wal-mart, although I am always impressed when those parents do what they can, when they can, and teach their kids about the deeper stories. Maybe they plant seeds in a few pots at home, or cut out chemicals wherever possible — cut out junk. Maybe they find food stamp matching programs that help them buy vegetables at the farmers market, and make those human connections. They are one story closer to the source of their food — and a much sweeter story.
The latter are people who shop this way out of habit. I understand that not everyone is equally interested in knowing the deeper stories, but these stories are not just stories. They have direct and indirect implications to the health and happiness of our world, to which we are more intimately connected than we may realize. One chocolate bar may be less expensive than another, and we think, getting the less expensive bar will allow me more pleasure for less. And yet, if we could see the suffering child harvesting cacao in all weather for violent adults on the label, our choice might change. When we derive our sense of pleasure from the sweeter stories behind a chocolate bar — of people treated fairly and landscapes respected and flourishing — we feed systems worth believing in. The saying, “vote with your dollar” applies here.
A world with money as its first priority is painful at all points in the spectrum — whether you are the laboring child, or exhausted by the cycle of full-time work and still being behind on your bills. This kind of economy literally sucks. The dollar, left un-checked by conscience, sucks the life out of this world.
The economies I believe in happen when people buy into them and support them, literally and philosophically. Dollars are powerful, and feed systems of oppression or support the creation of systems of life — systems that could even outgrow the need for the dollar.
Slowly but surely, I am becoming more educated about the stories behind the products that I sell in the store.
One example of a company I have been impressed by when it comes to ethics is Tierra Farm, who supplies most of our bulk fruit and nuts. They feel good about what they are doing for the planet, and particularly treat the people who work for them, at all levels, well.
Check them out, here: