“Am I selling out if I don’t buy the $14 deodorant?” This is a question I was asked last week by a good friend. The obvious answer to this question is “Who needs $14 deodorant? That’s absurd!” However, the inquiry about expensive deodorant came from a deeper place.
There are only a couple brands of deodorant that are both antiperspirants and deodorants and are not tested on animals. Both are on the pricey side. By paying $14 for one of these products, my friend was putting her money where her mouth is. Rather than simply talking about the importance of using animal-friendly products, my friend was shopping for change. She was making a statement about her beliefs through the product she was purchasing.
This is something I have been struggling with lately. In addition to directly donating money to causes I believe in, I am a huge believer in shopping for change. I buy organic, avoid animal tested products, shop at mom and pop stores, buy local, and purchase recycled products whenever possible. I encourage others to do so also.
Unlike doing the right thing by buying a hybrid car that will save you money on gas, or an energy efficient washer and dryer that will save you money on electricity, there is no return on investment by purchasing $14 deodorant that is animal friendly. It will not save you money in the long run, but it will help the world be a slightly better place. The hope is that if enough of us shop for change, the cumulative effect may influence companies with poor practices. By spending your money on products you believe in, you are also supporting the values of earth-friendly companies. Your purchase helps to keep them in business.
The problem is that putting your money where your mouth is can get expensive. Often, the reason a lot of companies do things like test on animals, outsource to other countries, or take advantage of their employees is that it is cheap and easy. By saving money and time, products produced by unfriendly companies usually are less expensive. In order to stand up for what you believe in, you have to be willing to spend more. Shopping like this was all fine and good when I had enough money to uphold my values. However, believing in shopping for change can get expensive.
When you are living within a tight budget, do you have to give up some of your beliefs?
This may be a question many of us are currently asking ourselves. From the number of coupons and purchase incentives my friends and I have been receiving, it looks like the conscientious companies may be hurting for business. Among us, we’ve received purchase incentives to Kiehl’s and Origins, as well as coupons for Freshall brands that support earth- and animal-friendly practices, but are more expensive than many other cosmetic brands. Until recently, I have gladly shelled out for my Origins skin products. Now, my coupons are sitting around unused.
Since I started going broke, the question of supporting my values through shopping is something I have come back to many times. The everyday choices that I used to feel good about have started to require a lot more thought. I find myself at the grocery store debating if I really needed to buy the organic apples, or at the drugstore picking out the shampoo that is least expensive, instead of the one that comes in the partially recycled bottle and is made with natural, earth-friendly ingredients. I don’t know if using sage and lavender to help wash my hair really makes a difference in how my hair looks, but using natural ingredients makes more sense to me than rubbing chemicals on my head that I can’t pronounce.
In addition to questioning the necessity of my regular purchases, the pleas I regularly receive from nonprofits are piling up. After struggling with decisions at the drugstore, I come home to a mailbox full of letters asking me for donations. For previous holidays, I would often donate money instead of giving gifts. Rather than giving my family members a gift they don’t need, I would find programs that would give gifts to people who did need things, then donate funds to help them. It felt more important than buying decorative candles for my mother.
Once you give money to a nonprofit, you end up on all their mailing lists. I get letter after letter asking me for donations. These are donations I would love to give, but can no longer afford. It’s not a question of giving a tangible gift versus a donation anymore, it’s now a question of feeding myself versus feeding someone else in need. I am now in need. This, however, does not stop me from feeling guilty whenever I rip up one of the appeal letters and put it in my recycle bin.
My lack of donations, in conjunction with my lessened shopping for change, has left me in a state of liberal guilt. So what is someone to do in this situation?
I have decided to do as many positive things as I can that don’t cost me anything and make compromises on some of my purchases:
- There are some brands of hair and body products that are not tested on animals, but still are full of chemicals. I suppose that the ingredients used were once tested on animals and deemed safe, so some companies do not see a point in continuing to retest. These products can be found at the drugstore and are around the same price as the cheap, “let’s put these in cute bunnies’ eyes” products. If you read the back labels on bottles, some will state that they are not animal-tested.
- I bring my own bags when I go shopping. This comes in particularly handy at the grocery store. Some grocery stores will even give you back five cents for each bag you bring.
- I have become more vigilant about my recycling. I am always good about it at home, but not so great at work. I now rinse out all the yogurt cups and soda cans from the food I eat at work, then bring them home to recycle.
- Instead of giving money to nonprofits, I can volunteer my time. While I have not yet done this, it’s on the list.
- For household cleaners, I make compromises. I can no longer afford many of the 100% environmentally safe cleaners, so I now buy the vaguely earth-friendly products put out by the big brands, the products that are suddenly magically labeled as “green.” My theory is that if sales of these vaguely green products are high, these companies may sink more money into these lines and make them even greener.
- I shop for grocery store sales. Sometimes you’ll catch organic produce on sale for the same price as conventional.
These solutions are the best I can do right now. Someday, I will make decent, liveable money again. Until then, I’ll sacrifice some of my beliefs and make compromises. I am hoping that for my karma, the “it’s the thought that counts” theory will hold true. I don’t think that my friend has decided yet on her $14 deodorant purchase, but I was with her the other day when she bought $7, earth-friendly, botanical lip balm. Maybe that is her compromise and we all have to find our own.