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Rose and Emily's 10 week project

rokojo's picture

As Emily and I were discussing our plans for this project, our main struggle was with our apparent lack of empathy. We both know in theory that when we buy a product at a low price, another person is losing out. We know that many items we own are made in sweatshops, bad for the environment, or tested on animals. It isn’t something that enters into our consciousness on a daily basis, and if it does, it doesn’t change our buying decision. When we get an item for a low price, we feel a rush of excitement. Where the item comes from or who makes it doesn’t even enter into the picture. We know that our consumption habits at this point are extremely selfish. Despite this, we still have an extremely hard time empathizing with these workers who are systematically oppressed and exploited. We turn a blind eye to the injustices that are committed on behalf of the company in favor of buying the things we need and want. We know this way of consuming is selfish, but it feels unavoidable, like a fact of life. However, if we were to perhaps really examine our consumption habits, we could begin to feel the need to make a change.

It’s a fact of human nature that people are creatures of routine and habit. We don’t feel the need to change our routine if we are used to it. For example, many people use a barrage of products in the morning. Nobody generally questions what products they use in their daily rituals until they take a step back and examine them. Opening either of our cabinets, one could find

·      Facial cleansers

·      Moisturizers

·      Shampoo/conditioner

·      Toothpaste

·      Cleansing pads

·      Toothpaste/brush

·      Various hair gels/sprays

—and that isn’t even counting cosmetics.  We use these products daily, yet never question their origin. It’s difficult to imagine our daily routine as anything other than a deeply ingrained part of our lives. However, many of the products we use daily could be potentially problematic in one way or another. For example, many exfoliating body washes and facial scrubs contain microbeads that kill off entire fish populations. Could other products we use carry such issues? If we became aware of these issues, would it be enough to tear us away from the comfort and effectiveness of a personal routine?

For this period of 10 weeks, our goal is to gain a sense of empathy for those whose labor we benefit from on a daily basis. To do this, we will keep a record of every item we purchase. We will also examine one product each week that we use in our daily routine. We will take brief notes on why we bought the product and where we bought it from. We will use either the good guides app or website to check the rating of the item in terms of health, society, and economy. We will also take time to research the who, where, and how of the product. What kind of people were involved in its creation? What conditions do they work under? What is their story?

The most important step to this process is we will then justify our purchase. This forces people to critically weigh pros and cons of using a product. Is it good for the environment? Is it necessary for proper, healthy skin care? What are the conditions of those who produce it? Why did we buy it? How does the knowledge of how the product came to be affect our feelings towards our purchase? Were there better alternatives? Why didn’t we choose those? By examining our habits of consumption, on a daily and extended basis, we can hopefully begin to examine others complexely. We can observe how our daily routine is connected to those whose labor makes it possible.