College is an incredibly enriching experience: you make new friends, step out of your comfort zone, and officially begin the process of “adulting.” Part of growing up and maturing in college is figuring out what your views are and what you can do to support them. And yes, voting is important; it allows us to take direct action toward furthering our own political agendas. But voting doesn’t happen every day.
A more consistent method that allows you to support your personal ideologies is to vote with your dollar. Dollar voting has proven to change producer behavior when we, as consumers, express what we want through our purchases. Investing in the things you believe in (literally) is exactly what you should do to put your money where your mouth is.
As consumers, we must acquire good habits and always be conscious of how our purchases can impact others. An eye-opening way to get the ball rolling is to fill out this survey on Slavery Footprint. Chances are, you’ll be surprised at how much you’re unconsciously helping to uphold systems of injustice through your purchases, giving you an opportunity to reflect.
Besides Slavery Footprint, there are also some general guidelines that can help you stay on track when it comes to consumerism. Thrift or vintage shopping, for example, allows you to invest in (often) smaller businesses, reuse resources, and not break your wallet. Throughout New Orleans, there are wonderful thrifting options for you to choose from. Similarly, buying products from small businesses or those owned by minority community members can help reflect your community values and generate a more local, inclusive economy. Getting into the habit of thinking twice about where you shop is truly a solid way to ensure you’re doing your best to support the issues you care about with your dollar.
Once you’re in the habit of watching what you buy, the next step is to find companies that you can rely on to both satisfy your needs and reflect the values you hope to embody. We all have certain brands that we feel attached to, and this feeling is only intensified when the company’s ethics mirror your ideals. While finding companies like this may seem daunting, do some quick research during your free time. Look for companies that treat their employees fairly and with respect, have management with morals you agree with, push initiatives with inclusivity in mind, and partake in fair trading policies. These findings will help you decide where to spend your money and vote with your dollar. At the end of the day, it feels a lot better to know you’re supporting an organization that’s doing good in the world.
Once you’ve found companies that you enjoy and support, it’s time to follow the paper trails of your chosen companies and see where they really lead. Essentially, you need to make sure you’re covering your bases and that the companies you support aren’t betraying your trust in other areas. While some companies could seemingly be doing incredible work at first sight, they may have shortcomings that you cannot find until you look up close. For example, Uber, which headlined the peer-to-peer cab service industry and was praised for its user-friendliness and convenience, lost much of its customer base due to one PR nightmare after another.
I encourage you to look into the companies that you support and find out if they advocate for certain politicians or political ideals, have mistreated their workers, or have had any incidents that worry you. If you want to become an informed consumer, doing a bit of research to look into what mistakes the companies you’re supporting have made and what they’ve actually done to atone for those mistakes is important.
Staying up-to-date with where your money’s going is as much of a civic duty as voting or sitting on a jury. It’s up to us to shape our economy in the image of our values. So never forget, every time you take your wallet out, it’s an opportunity to vote.
COVER PHOTO: Dusk Magazine