(RED)washing

Home_Left_REDAfrica.sflb_I care about the environment. I also drive a truck that only gets 19 miles per gallon (on the highway). It all makes me feel conflicted. So, I greenwash my life. I only drive to work two days a week. And, when I am home, I ride my mountain bike around the streets of Richmond. Well, except when the temperature dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. On those occasions, I drive. There are few things more uncomfortable than cold air tightly channeled through a bike helmet impacting a head that lacks natural insulation. I use a reel lawnmower. I do not use power tools. I use hand clippers, a rake and a broom. I compost. I landscape with native shrubs and trees. Indeed, I have a native wildflower garden that runs the length of my backyard. I use a drip irrigation system. I do not use Round Up or any other chemicals in my yard. I use the plastic bags in which my sprouted bread from Trader Joe’s is packaged to pick up dog poop. Indeed, the National Wildlife Federation certified my backyard as a Wildlife Habitat!  Who cares if we had to pay $45 for the plague? And, instead of using paper cups, I always bring my insulated mug to buy my coffee from Starbucks. Well, almost always. There are times when I forget. But, if I ever do, I make sure to take off the cardboard sleeve before trashing it. I carry it all the way home to recycle it. So, taking all of this green-inspired activity together, I think it fair to say that my truck gets at least 30 miles per gallon, at least.

I care about poor as well. But, I also want to buy things that I don’t really need. For example, I have a flip phone that is over ten years old. It even has an antenna. It still takes and receives calls. But, I have been urged to get an i-phone. I don’t know. I am not sure I want to be connected all the time. It all seems so complicated. And, I only pay 40-something dollars a month for my current cell phone plan. A smart phone plan would send my monthly bill above $140 per month. That extra $100 per month could go towards so many other things. It could fund micro-loans to the poorest of the poor. But, the i-phone is so tempting. It all makes me feel conflicted.

Do I really need to feel this way?

Maybe not, there is RED. The homepage reads “When you buy (RED) from the world’s most iconic brands, they donate up to 50% of the proceeds to fight AIDS.” Indeed, their tagline says “Buy Red Save Lives.” Wait, are they telling me that I can buy all of these things and still be a poverty fighting hero? Hell, yeah! And, Apple is one of their “iconic brands”! Thanks Red! Because of you, it looks like I can have it all! Just like I am used to.

Of course, (RED)washing our consumption is bull shit. We will not and cannot consume our way towards the end of AIDS, the eradication of poverty, or the elimination of social injustices. And, allowing those of us with the power, privilege and purchasing power to buy the “world’s most iconic brands” to believe that we can is just plain wrong. It is worse than wrong. But, my Mom reads this blog and I promised that would no longer use the four-letter word I want to use to explain how wrong it is.

So, if I do go out and buy an i-phone, I will just have to live with the shitty feeling that comes along with knowing that I could have funded four micro-loans from La Ceiba Microfinance each and every month that I continue to own it. And, that is how it should be.

Shawn Humphrey, the Blue Collar Professor (@blucollarprof)

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