Green Living is all about making informed decisions. I love the fact that people with good intentions can make a difference when they have the right information. That’s empowerment, and it allows us to “vote” with our dollars on a regular basis, not just on Election Day.
Our purchases have a tremendous effect on our lives and our society. With our dollars, we decide which products, services and other activities have a viable market in which to thrive. Responsible decisions can only happen in the presence of accurate information, however. One good example is the explosion of green buildings and energy retrofits. Once people understand the benefits, it becomes an easy choice. Awareness increases demand, and builders respond with better quality, more efficient homes.
However, it is not just our homes that make a difference, but also what we bring into them. The products we buy on a daily basis are equally important although it is often difficult or impossible to find the details necessary to make informed choices. In some cases important information is intentionally hidden. One example that comes to mind is the absence of labeling of genetically modified organisms in our food, despite an overwhelming percentage of people who would prefer it.
It is clear that neither governmental nor self-regulation is adequate in terms of protecting buyers’ rights to make informed purchases. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an app for that? Well, thanks to 26-year-old freelance programmer Ivan Pardo, there is. It is called Buycott, a smartphone app for iOS and Android devices. It is free, and it is wonderful.
Buycott is a creative and powerful tool that brings important information directly into the hands of those who need it most: we the people. Like many effective agents for change, the premise is simple. It revolves around a growing database of everyday products that contains information about manufacturers, affiliated companies and their practices, ingredients or other important criteria. Combine a smartphone’s ability to scan barcodes with rapid search and reporting and you have the essence of Buycott. You can read more about it at www.buycott.com.
After creating a free account, users can join various “campaigns” based on issues that are important to them. Sticking with the previous GMO example, one may choose to join the “Say No to GMO” campaign. There are hundreds of thousands of people who have joined campaigns focused on this topic alone.
Some campaigns are positive in nature and focus on highlighting companies that do the right things. You can join as many campaigns as you like or even create your own. Topics are varied and there is something for everyone.
Perhaps you don’t give a hoot about GMOs but care deeply about animal rights or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. Other topics include veterans, health, civil rights, education and economic justice.
Once Buycott knows what you care about, a quick scan of a product’s barcode can reveal an amazing amount of information about the item you’re thinking of buying. Within 20 minutes of installing Buycott I learned more about what’s in our home than I ever thought possible. I learned about each manufacturer and its parent companies, plus the reasons why I would want to support it or not.
I was amazed at how many products around the house were included in the database. Many of them passed my selected criteria, but a few were revealed to be from companies I would prefer to avoid. From now on I will not be purchasing their products.
Obviously the database is not complete, nor could it ever be, but users can add products quickly, improving its effectiveness for everyone.
I recommend Buycott because it is effective while remaining neutral. It does not tell you what to buy or avoid. It simply provides information, the thing good people need to make a difference.
Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. For more information and links to additional resources relating to this column, or to reach Rypka, visit www.greendream.biz.