Tuesday, January 2, 2007


I know that the November elections are long gone, but really I don't think that is where the power lies. Lobbyists have far more power than we do as voters (because the lobbyists have money). So if we want to see changes the votes that we cast at the polls is of little significance compared to the vote that we cast at the cash register.

So I'm not a fan of the system and I express that at the polls, but it really doesn't do much good. I'm not big on the idea of sitting around and doing nothing, and I feel that we have a far more powerful vote to cast that doesn't pass through the bureaucracy of our government. Almost every time we provide money for a good or service, we are supporting a powerful lobbying group in Washington. Even if the product we are buying and the store we are patronizing are not associated with lobbying groups, they listen to the consumer based on what we buy.

Really, at heart I'm a capitalist. I believe that businesses will fail, survive or excel based on the products they provide the consumer. With that said, it is important for the consumer to take a stand against those products that they feel shouldn't exist. I want to point out a few examples and how they impact us in various ways.

First of all is wrapping paper. I know it's tradition, it's festive, it's the way we use to surprise people. What I hate is that it is not recyclable and completely wasteful. Demanding wrapping paper be made of a material that can be recycled would be a step in the right direction. Even better would be to use old newspapers instead. Then we use the product and reuse it to hide a gift and it still has the potential to be recycled. Why would companies continue to produce wrapping paper that is used for a short period of time and then does nothing more than contribute to landfills? Because you buy them! You vote to fill the landfills every time you wrap a gift in that stuff. It's a powerful vote. We no longer have wrapping paper in our home and we use alternative means of wrapping gifts. I asked family not to use traditional wrapping paper on the gifts for our family, but every gift that we received from outside of our home was wrapped in non-recyclable gift paper. I find that frustrating.

Second we'll hit on milk. Although I don't think milk is good for human consumption, I don't think it's the worst food available either. I offer this example to demonstrate a point, not to persuade you to stop drinking milk. Every time you purchase milk or dairy products you are contributing the the National Dairy Council which has a powerful lobbying group in Washington. What do they lobby? Among other things, they make sure that milk is given to all WIC participants and is a "handout" (although I'm sure the grocer and dairy still get their money from the product being given away) to those in need. Milk is also influential in schools and this is one of my biggest complaints about the dairy industry. Schools are a place for education, not marketing. There have been big arguments recently about advertising in the halls of schools which is really all about making money for business and NOT about benefiting our children and the future generation. Milk doesn't advertise in halls (well, maybe they do, I don't know that for sure), but I do know that the dairy industry provides curriculum for health teachers to ease the burden of having to come up with a lesson plan. Long before advertising in hallways became an issue, milk was advertising in the classroom, spreading the propaganda and encouraging milk consumption. It's really a great marketing idea, but I don't send my kids to school to be marketed to, I send them to learn how to think for themselves. In addition to health reasons, I don't buy milk because I am unwilling to support their unethical marketing practices. Every time that you buy milk you are voting for marketing in schools.

McDonald's recently spent lots of money on a survey of their customers to find what they wanted. The survey concluded that customers wanted more healthy choices in salads, yogurt, etc. McDonald's responded by introducing product lines that reflected the desires of the customer. It turns out that people don't buy the healthy choices at McDonald's, so the line was discontinued or at least down-graded (I don't really know, I haven't been to McDonald's in at least 5 years). Kudos to McDonald's for trying, but what you pay money for speaks far louder than your vote on a survey.

My final rant will be about WalMart. Recently, I have found many good things that WalMart is doing. They have decided to reduce the packaging on products that they are carrying. They carry organic (although not locally grown) produce, and they employ elderly and handicapped persons that would likely not be able to find employment elsewhere. Those are wonderful things that I would like to support, but I won't through WalMart. The reason is that this Mega-store is too powerful. They demand low prices from their manufacturers. If the manufacturer is unable to meet that price Walmart goes elsewhere. I'm a capitalist, that should be OK with me, but not when it forces manufacturers (and even Chinese manufacturers) to pay their employees less and essentially abuse the human resources of a company in order to get Walmart to buy their products. Walmart even does this to their own "associates" who do not make a livable wage. It's unfortunate, I choose to vote against Walmart every time I spend money, yet I still have to pay taxes that support Walmart employees who are unable to meet their financial responsibilities because they are not being appropriately compensated by the big business.

As I think of who will read this blog (if anyone makes it this far, it ended up a little longer than originally anticipated) I think of how global this is. For example, Vertigo is a Canadian (I think) living in Japan, yet he has a powerful vote in the US. Every time he goes to the store he chooses to buy US made goods, or others. If he votes for the companies he gives his money to, regardless of what country that may be in. So who do you think the Russians vote for? the Chinese? Who do you vote for?


Chad said...

Well said. I especially like your wrapping paper point. I usually wrap the gifts I give in newspaper, but this year I had some free wrapping paper so I used it instead. My own mother asked me if I had really wrapped the gifts myself and said that usually my gifts look so awful. She seemed more impressed with the wrapping than the gift inside.

So how do we change minds of people like my mother? She doesn’t understand why I choose to pay more for items I could just buy at Wal-Mart, or why I refuse to eat fast food, and pay more for organic food, and wrap gifts in newspaper. The rest of my family feels the same way. How do we get through to people like that? I have made rants like yours for years and have succeeded only in causing arguments and ostracizing my wife and me. It’s the million-dollar question; how to help someone realize their habits are hurting themselves and others, and how to get them to change. In other words, how do we convince someone that we’re right and they’re wrong?



sans auto said...

chad, How do we get through to those people?-- I don't have any idea. I recently read a book called The Tipping Point which was about how various types of epidemics start. I think you have to live your life, and tell people what you do and why. They generally think I'm crazy and not making a difference because I'm only one person... Paul Revere was only one person and he gathered enough people in one night to defend against the British military.

Emily said...

You hit on some major stuff that I have been ranting about in my personal life but not on the web. Lol.

#1. Guess what...lobbyists aren't the only one's running our gov't. I recently watched a movie that explained how politicts really work in Washington, and its sickening. Right now, its think tanks and the military complex that run everything. Our idiotic congress even passed over the right to declare war to president Bush which completely upset the checks and balances system. Oy!

#2. This is the first Christmas I bought my own wrapping paper. I got a $2.00 roll at Home Depot, and everyone was really impressed with its quality and beauty. I was suprised because it was cheap. I didn't tell them I bought it at Home Depot. It never occured to me that I can't recycle it, but happy for me, my relatives WILL recycle it year after year because it is SUCH NICE PAPER. So the key to wrapping paper recycling is to be related to the right people.

#3. Walmart---I hate them with a passion, and yet just yesterday, I learned that they are pushing enviromental green products in their store. If your product isn't green, and your company isn't green, they won't sell it. Since companies are the REALLY BAD culprits when it comes to wasteful energy expenditures, this is REALLY good news for the enviroment since Walmart is so huge. They are also flooding their stores with florescent light bulbs for customers to buy. Does that mean i will shop there? No. I still don't like em' but I am glad they are setting an example for other companies to follow.