Mindful Shopping?

This is the time of year when lots of us end up doing a lot more shopping than we usually do.  And we often do a lot of it at the last minute and in a bit of a time-induced pressure haze.  I can remember being in Macy’s in New York City in December and they always play the fastest part of the Nutcracker Suite over the PA system.  It’s perfect for all the dashing and grabbing, rushing and pushing that can happen there!  But maybe this would be a good year to adopt some mindful shopping practices.  In fact, it’s never been easier!

I spent this past weekend down at Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA, where the weekend’s speakers were founding meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein, Daniel Goleman and his wife Tara Bennet-Goleman.  In addition to some lovely time for meditation practice and wonderful, precise, instructions for meditating from Joseph, we had a chance to talk about the application of mindfulness for fields like education, business, ecology, and the creative process.  Daniel Goleman,  who’s probably best known for his book, Emotional Intelligence (1995) has a new book called Ecological Intelligence (2009).  For more information on this work, check out his blog link below.

Goleman gave us quite a bit of “bad news” about humankind’s environmental impact on our planet.  That’s not a surprise, for the situation is certainly dire.  But his overall  message was more optimistic.  He is finding in his research that systems are being developed to help drive us towards more and more responsible manufacturing processes.  In that vein, he talked about some organizations that are responding to consumer’s interest in knowing the real impact of the products we buy.  The idea is that we want to be mindful shoppers, but we don’t have the information we need to make really good decisions.

One of the new organizations Goleman discussed is call Good Guide and it can be found at their website http://www.goodguide.com.   You can do your own investigation about the neutrality and intentions of Good Guide, but on its face, it looks pretty solid to me.  Their intention is to provide us, as consumers, with a quick way to assess the products we buy.  We can type in a product and find its environmental rating on a scale from 1-10.  And we can quickly and easily compare it to other products in the same category.  You can even just search for the highest rated products of a certain type, like dish soap or diaper creams!

You can look at it in terms of the impact of the ingredients of the product on your health (and presumably that of the folks involved in manufacturing it) and you can look at the environmental and social impacts of the company that produces the product.  And then you can choose.  One of the goals of the work is to especially reveal what’s behind “green” labels.  I found that it was absolutely the case that my husband’s 99 cent Shampoo, that I’ve ragged him about for years, has a higher rating than the $7.00 supposedly “cruelty free” product that I buy at my local co-op.  Who knew?  Well, now we all can.

So, as you head to the stores this month, take a few minutes to check out your purchases.  And spread the word to others you know.  This could also be a great project for your classrooms.  We have a special responsibility as educators to help our students be smarter shoppers.  And we can maybe all save some money in the process.  I’ll be saving “$6.01” on my shampoo each month !    The more we can put these tools in the hands of consumers, the more impact we can have on the behavior of companies, the lives of our fellow humans and the health of our planet.

For more information on Daniel Goleman’s research, visit his website and blog at:
http://www.danielgoleman.info/blog/2009/08/26/when-ecological-awareness-hurts/

For more information on programs at Insight Meditation Society, visit their website at:
http://www.dharma.org/

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Author: sdreyerleon

Susan Dreyer Leon is the director of the Experienced Educators Program at Antioch University New England. For information about our programs, including our wonderful Educating for Sustainability M.Ed. program, please visit http://www.antiochne.edu/ed/exed/default.cfm?nav=1. Susan is also involved with the new Mindfulness for Educators Certificate program, which is a three way collaboration between the Center for Mindful Inquiry, Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and the Antioch Center for School Renewal. For more information , visit the CMI website at http://www.mindfulinquiry.org/

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