Saturday, December 11, 2010

Get Real: What Kind of World Are You Buying?

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

When I picked this up at the library, I didn't realize it was geared toward teenagers. But it's worth a read for adults too. Get Real consists of tips for shopping with your conscience. The back of the book says "Can you really change the world with your wallet?"

Author Mara Rockliff includes chapters on the excessive consumption of the developed world; the power of advertising; the dark side of cheap clothing, especially cotton; what's really in fast food (and meat); the toxic components of cell phones and other high-tech toys; what's happening with genetically modified and pesticide-laden foods; the importance and power of buying local; the evils of mass-produced and -farmed chocolate; opportunities for recycling and reuse; and how to look out for green washed products. The book is full of web sites, article citations, and other information about how to take action.

I was aware of some of the information, but I learned many new things. Here's one small example: apparently TerraCycle will "upcycle" used Clif bar wrappers into backpacks. I eat Clif bars regularly, and I have always thrown away the wrappers.

I can see how some people might view Rockliff as hitting the reader over the head with some of this information. She is passionate about pushing teens (and everyone) to use their money wisely to live out their beliefs and save the planet (and our health).

The other day I went to one of my favorite kaiten-sushi restaurants near my office with some coworkers. We were surprised when the bill came, because they were offering a special of $1.50 per plate of sushi. Although we were delighted at the unexpectedly lower price, I found myself wondering where they get their fish and how they can offer it so cheaply. I find myself pondering this question a lot more lately.

The book has pages and pages of resources at the back, but here are a few I took special note of:

Movies or TV specials:
The Merchants of Cool (about advertising to the youth culture)--a PBS Frontline special
China Blue (about young people working in Chinese sweat shops)
Wal-Mart: TheHigh Cost of Low PriceMcLibel: The Story of Two People Who Wouldn't Say McSorry
King Corn
Black Gold (about the real price of coffee)

Made You Look: How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know
So Yesterday (about fads)
Feed (a cyberpunk novel about a future that might not be far away)
The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm (about a future Africa, where mutant kids mine toxic dumps for plastic)
What the World Eats (25 families around the world and what they eat)

Web sites: (cell phone recycling) (this organization gives you free trade chocolate to pass out in lieu of trick or treating) (sign up to be a cocoa farmer's kid's pen pal) (United Students for Fair Trade) (for a free credit card or money pouch that asks you several questions about consumption)

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