Category Archives: Activism

What makes you spend your dollar?

Everyone has a friend who has to have the latest gadget or bag before everyone else. You may even be the person who loves to boast about how much of a bargain your latest pair of shoes or cup of coffee was. Everyone is motivated to shop for different reasons.

But the backlash against the latest or the cheapest is growing.  The latest is Cashmobs where a mob of consumers purchase full-price goods to support a business in need. It’s in direct response to Groupon where often the consumer deal comes at the expense of the small business.

Carrotmob is all about making consumption about more than just buying stuff. So this week we’re asking our mobsters, what would motivate you to change your shopping habits?

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Hot trends 2012 : Eco lazy

Savvy environmentalists have never had it easier. From washing less to shopping local (or not shopping at all), there are more opportunities than ever for consumers to display their green credentials while barely lifting a finger.

Check out some manifestations of the eco-lazy phenomenon:

The great unwashed

Melbourne Uni researcher Tulia Jack ran an experiment with a group of everyday people last year to prove we don’t need to wash our clothes as often as we do. The control group of 30 commited to not washing their jeans for three months.  Results have just been released showing half wanted to continue wearing and not washing the jeans, while nobody suffered any negative social impacts.

A recently produced calculator tells you whether you’re environmentally under or overweight when it comes to your clothing. It not only factors in purchases but also how often you wash and iron them.

 Slacktastic

Why go to the effort of scouring packed shopping malls for a new outfit when you can hang out at home? Buy nothing new October manages to make doing nothing an exercise in consciousness.

Shoptivism

Small Business Saturday was held in the US last August to boost the local economy and create jobs. Nearly 3 million people liked the Facebook page and 10,000 people committed to shopping small in 2012.

In a global economy where the exploitation of third-world labor is becoming the norm rather than the exception, the stories behind the shop are becoming more important than ever. Businesses like The Social Studio in Collingwood are gathering customers by training young refugees in fashion design and using eco-friendly materials.

Squatting Supermarkets in Italy created an art installation/activism where iphone apps displayed the eco-credentials of each product as well as sounds, images and voices creating a relationship with the producers. There are also plenty of apps you can download to make sure your purchases have a positive impact.

And of course there’s Carrotmob, influencing positive change by going to the shops and buying stuff as a group.

So forget about the compost bin, the solar panels and the donations to charity as we show you how to be eco-friendly the eco-lazy way this year.

Revolution or evolution of capitalism? The power of consumption

The revolution of capitalism was one of the most shared stories on the BBC last week.

Philosopher John Gray’s basic argument is Karl Marx was wrong about communism but right that capitalism was unstable and would eventually destroy the bourgeois/middle class way of life. It surprised me an opinion piece about a clearly failed political concept still got so much interest.

Is capitalism the new communism?

But Marx saw communism as an evolution of capitalism – so it would horrify a lot of people to think he might be happy with what he sees today. “Capitalism has led to a revolution but not the one that Marx expected. The fiery German thinker hated the bourgeois life and looked to communism to destroy it. And just as he predicted, the bourgeois world has been destroyed,” says Gray.

If you wanted to take that analogy and run with it you could argue the case for Carrotmob and the social enterprise movement in general being the proletariat rising up against the bourgeoisie. We’re using consumer power instead of ineffective uprisings to force bourgeoisie change.

Or maybe we’re existentialists?

Cherry Bar announced yesterday they will be the first Australian venue to go carbon neutral. And they were honest enough to admit they’re hoping punters and bands will rock up in support.

Carrotmob participants  Streat, who  create jobs and skills for people who need them, say on their blog ‘As consumers our greatest power is the way we spend our money.’

In The Economist they’re arguing that existential threats are needed to save us from the rollercoaster ride that is capitalism. And which existential threat did they think fit the bill? Climate change -they even highlight the need for a carbon tax in order to do it. But while we’re waiting for that we can practice a bit of Carrotmob existentialism by demonstrating personal responsibility for what we purchase and who we purchase from.

And you thought you were just a consumer.

 

What revolution in Egypt and Carrotmob have in common

On the weekend thousands of ordinary Egyptians protesting in Tahrir Square finally forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Before that it was protestors in Tunisia forcing out their president. Now Twitter is abuzz with talk of protests in Bahrain, Yemen and Iran to be held tomorrow. Given protesting is illegal in Iran, the power of seeing others take action is clearly a strong motivating force.

If you read that sort of thing there’s been a lot of debate about how much of a role social media played in the protests.

Wael Ghonim started the biggest Facebook group during the protests “We are all Khaled Said” after the businessman and activist who was killed by police officers.  The Google executive was subsequently arrested by the Egyptian police and then released 11 days later after a lot of international attention.

In an interview with the US 60 Minutes last night Wael Ghonim was clear “If there was no social networks, this would never have been sparked. Without Facebook, without Twitter, without YouTube, this would never have happened.”

For Carrotmob, we can say a similar thing. Without access to the internet, we would never have found out about the people in San Fransisco who first had the idea of a Carrotmob. Without Facebook, Twitter and blogs we wouldn’t be able to communicate with other people who think it’s a good idea too. Is it a bit cheeky to compare uprising in the Middle East with an environmental flashmob? Maybe a little.

But back here in Australia, regardless of what you think of our political landscape, we do function in a democracy. So it’s becoming rarer and rarer for people to care about something enough to gather together about it in significant numbers.

When I try to think about a common cause amongst the people I know, the one thing I come back to is the environment. It’s the one thing that impacts on every single human being. Most of us all do little things every day to try to do our bit. Turn switches off at the powerpoint, use recycling bins, ride a bike to work. But people and business are struggling to know what to do next.

By showing up at the next Carrotmob we’re showing in a really public way that the environment is an important issue to us. It’s the power of the mob and as we’ve seen in the Middle East people gathering together for a common cause is a powerful thing.

So Carrotmob is a call to arms in a small way. You can choose to dress as a zombie and flashmob in the streets. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon. But you can also choose to meet up with a bunch of other people and say the environment is important. It will be fun too. But unlike the zombie flashmob, it’s making a statement. And who knows where that might lead.