As Halloween unofficially kicks off the holiday buying season, Big Green Purse is encouraging consumers to ask "Can I get it in 'green'?" no matter what they're looking for when they shop.
The idea is to pressure the nation's 1.6 million U.S. retailers more forcefully than ever before to offer the greenest products and services available. Looking for a sweater? Ask if the store has it in "green" - i.e., made from certified organic or recycled fiber by Fair Trade workers. Buying toys? Inquire about "green" dolls, action figures, stuffed animals, and games made in the U.S. from certified sustainable materials finished with non-toxic glues and paints. Thinking about electronics? Request the "greenest" options, which you can find on the ratings pages at Greenpeace.
In all likelihood, most stores, especially those occupying the very un-green real estate characteristic of shopping and strip malls, won't have a ready supply of certified green goods on hand. But that's why consumer demand is so important.
Given that consumer spending accounts for 70% of GDP, consumer behavior has an oversized influence on the entire economy. What you buy tells manufacturers what to make more of -- and how.
The Christmas shopping season alone can account for as much as 40% of a retail stores annual revenue and as much as three-quarters of its annual profit. Consistently demanding the greenest possible goods from now until the end of December -- and buying them when you find them -- is the most immediate route available to change corporate behavior.
The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers will spend $470.4 billion during the 2008 holiday shopping season, more than $1,000 per household.
Shifting even 20% of that money would amount to an end-of-year infusion of more than $94 billion to eco-manufacturers, providing needed financial capital to entrepreneurs the federal government routinely ignores. Though the government seems more than willing to spend $700 billion to bail out the outdated banking industry, it offers little or no money to help innovative manufacturers transition to certified environmentally-friendly practices, an action that arguably could have a far more positive impact on our economy and national security than rescuing failed banks.
It goes without saying that the greenest way to celebrate the holidays is to reduce buying as much as possible. The reality is that people are going to shop - at least for holiday food and drink, and for most, much more. Shoppers who shift their spending to green products help infuse environmentally-friendly producers and retailers with the capital they need to continue to ramp up their eco-offerings while eliminating practices that pollute the air and water and accelerate climate change. They also create a resounding drumbeat that lasts far beyond the Christmas sales.
Plus, asking "Can I get it in 'green'?" creates an opportunity to educate a substantial number of people who, for a few minutes at least, are a captive audience: the 25 million Americans - 1 out of every 5 working U.S. citizens - employed in the retail industry.
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