If you feel like your power as a citizen is insignificant because you choose your representatives every two years and the president every four, remember that going to the polls is just one way to vote. As the folks at the Better World Shopper remind us, “Every dollar you spend is a vote for the world you want to live in.”
One way to vote every day or at least every week: become a socially and environmentally responsible consumer. To find out which companies are ranked higher because they are aim for sustainability, protect animals, support family farms and local businesses, and/or follow the best human rights and social justice practices, order The Better World Shopping Guide, by Ellis Jones. It’s just $10 and small enough to carry around until you have memorized the best and worst companies in the categories you buy most often–from pet food and chocolate to cosmetics and coffee. Or use the website betterworldshopper.com, starting with the Best 20 Companies. Chances are you already buy products from some of these, like Tom’s of Maine, Method, Organic Valley, Clif Bar, Patagonia, Kettle Foods, Ben & Jerry’s. This will make you feel good, which will sustain you as you realize how hard it is to avoid supporting the worst companies: Proctor & Gamble, Nestle, Kraft, Archer Daniels Midland, GM, GE, and Tyson Foods, all among the worst.
The rankings of best and worst, from A to F (yes, it’s a kind of report card on businesses), are based on a myriad of reliable sources of information on corporate behavior, such as a company’s environmental record, contribution to climate change, donations made, fair trade sources, and ethical business practices. If you spend $18,000 a year on consumer goods and services (the American average), think of it as 18,000 votes for a better world.