Ethical consumers are perceived as odd, boring, unattractive, and not stylish

women shopping for clothes

Francisco Osorio — People feel threatened when they see others making ethical consumer choices.

An amusing new study delves into the social consequences of one person witnessing another person doing the ‘ethical thing’ — and why it makes them uncomfortable.

Do you consider yourself to be an ethical consumer? If so, then be careful about the way in which you promote those ethics to friends and families. An intriguing new study has found that ethical consumerism actually irritates many people and backfires by pushing them away from making ethical choices.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at Fisher School of Business and McCombs School of Business, asked subjects about what information they look for when buying a new pair of jeans. The subjects were told they could only get details on two of the following categories: price, style, denim wash, and child labor practices.

Those who did not select child labor as one of their conditions were then asked to rate their opinion of those who did. Their conclusion: “They rated the do-gooders low on positive traits (such as attractive and stylish) and high on negative traits (such as odd and boring).”

What does this say about present-day shoppers?

In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, one of the lead researchers, Professor Rebecca Walker Reczek, points out that these results are not surprising. Earlier research has already shown that most consumers do not consider a company’s ethical practices when selecting a product. This study digs deeper, however, by questioning the social consequences of one person witnessing another person doing the ethical thing.

When a person sees someone else doing something morally correct, there are two possible outcomes. Either that person becomes inspired to act similarly, or they feel the need to denigrate the other person for being so proper. Psychologists call this “social comparison theory,” where humans have an innate need to compare themselves to each other.

The Guardian explains: “The underlying problem goes way beyond shopping. Faced with any ethical outrage, there are two ways to make your negative feelings go away. One is to address the outrage; the other is to try not to think about it – as with the people who chose not to learn about child labour. You can deal with the horrors of factory farming by becoming vegetarian – or by not hanging out with vegetarians who bang on about factory farms.”

People do not feel threatened by exceptional acts of ethical behavior because they feel exempt from such impossibly high standards, i.e. Mother Teresa helping the poorest of the poor in India and Nelson Mandela doing jail time for leading South Africa out of apartheid. Stories of ethical leaders such as these do result in ‘moral elevation’ – when you see those actions and want to emulate them.

Do shoppers really not care?

They do care, Reczek says, but they don’t want to have to dig for information. If labor practices are placed in clear view in a store, then shoppers will usually try to make the ethical choice. When information requires more in-depth research and questioning, however, shoppers prefer to remain ignorant.

Interestingly, a second study by the same researchers found that when people have the opportunity to make a free donation to a charity by clicking on a website before being asked to rate the other person making an ethical shopping decision, they were ultimately less critical and negative:

“The people who got to do [the free donation] didn’t put down the other person because they’d had a chance to shore up their ethical identity and didn’t experience the same sense of threat.”

It’s all rather depressing, but keep in mind that people feel the need to denigrate ethical shoppers precisely because they know these things matter. Just make sure you don’t tell others that their choices are wrong and evil because that’s the fastest way to ensure they’ll block it out and, as Oliver Burkeman poetically puts it, “conveniently convince themselves you’re a freak.”

Tags: Ethical | Shopping


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Thank you everyone for your incredible comments. I’m in tears reading them all. So grateful. Please, PLEASE if you haven’t already, SHARE this video. We CAN make a difference! Jxx

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You may have heard about some of the issues that coal seam gas mining is causing in the Condamine River and surrounding areas where I grew up in Australia. You may not have heard about the devastating emotional and human toll it’s taking on some of our farmers. We’re honored to have worked with Helen Bender – George Bender on the video for our collaboration with Rob Hirst, The Truth Walks Slowly (In The Countryside) and hope after watching you feel as shocked and outraged as we do.


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How We Turned Success Into Defeat and Endless War In Afghanistan


Western media pretends the war is over, even as people join the Taliban or ISIS or leave.

Another year, another spring offensive. The massive truck bomb that detonated in Tuesday’s morning rush hour followed by gunfire, killing 28 and wounding hundreds more, was sadly nothing new for the Afghan capital. More than 15 years after Western leaders declared victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan, the insurgents now control more territory than at any time since.

Are we in danger of losing the place where all this started – the land we swore would never again be left as ungoverned space in which terrorism could flourish? It’s common to trace the beginnings of ISIS back to the war in Iraq but its founders cut their teeth in Afghanistan—as did one of the main jihadi recruiters in the now infamous Brussels suburb of Molenbeek which spawned the Paris attacks.

If Afghanistan is lost that’s very sad for not only did we lose many lives and spend billions of dollars there but it once seemed a great success. Happy endings are few and far between in my job as a war correspondent yet back on Christmas Eve 2001, I remember sitting on the roof of Kabul’s Mustafa Hotel looking out over the hills and thinking this was one. Music, long banned by the Taliban, was blaring up from the street. The first snow was falling and children playing.

Just 60 days after the first US bombing raid following 9/11, the Taliban regime was gone, far quicker than Pentagon estimates. They had been driven out by a combination of B52 bombers and Afghan fighters, as well as buying off commanders with CIA dollars in a latter-day version of the Great Game. Lt Colonel Rob Fry, commandant of the Royal Marines at the time, told me; “We thought we’d found the philosopher’s stone of intervention.”

So what went wrong?  How did we turn success in Afghanistan into defeat?

In the end 140,000 NATO troops with the most sophisticated weapons on earth failed to overcome a bunch of supposedly ragtag guerrillas led by a one-eyed mullah whose own followers described as “dumb in the mouth” and who later turned out to be dead.

If we understood why, we might understand why it is we can’t end wars any more.

In my view the problem was political more than military. As Gen Macarthur said “it is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.” After the initial stage, we never really knew what we were trying to do—and we didn’t understand what we were going into.

People have questioned why we hadn’t learnt from history. Britain had after all fought three Afghan wars of which it lost two. And there was a more recent experience. If you go to Herat, a warlord called General Wahab has built a rotunda on a hill containing the extraordinary Jihad Museum.

It houses captured Soviet weapons, tanks, Mig fighter jets and a garish gallery of warlord portraits. Under the dome is a gruesome sound and light display of how the Russians were defeated, complete with bullet sounds and bloodcurdling screams.

“We also have an actual live Russian,” boasted Gen Wahab. It turned out the guide is a Russian who was taken prisoner and stayed on.

“When he dies will be buried here and then we will have a dead Russian”, he added.

No one can visit that museum and think invading Afghanistan is a good idea. Yet the point, says Gen Wahab, is not triumphalism. “The point is to show the new generation they should not go back to fighting.”

Afghanistan has a very young population—70 per cent of the people there are under 30. Most don’t want to go back to fighting. But they need opportunities. Without them, they join Taliban or ISIS or use those mobile phones to look abroad and decide to leave.

Yet, the second biggest group of people fleeing their homeland are Afghans. Last week on the Greek island of Lesbos, waiting for the Pope to come and play Good Samaritan in a detention camp, I met newly arrived Afghan families who had made the 3,000 mile journey. They included a widow and her two sons who had sold their house to raise the $20,000 cost.

The only good thing they had to say about the NATO presence was it had brought in mobile phones that enabled them to join Whatsapp to plan their migration.

They had left despite the likelihood that Europe will send them back. “If your apartment is burning you are going to jump out even if in doing so you might lose your life,” said the elder son.

Not only are the Taliban on the up in places where they never were, but ISIS has also been carving a foothold in eastern Afghanistan.

Lamb is the author of Farewell Kabul; From Afghanistan to a More Dangerous World, forthcoming from HarperCollins on May 3.


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Prince gave black kids permission to be weirdos


To many people, blackness looks like one thing. For Prince Nelson Rogers, who died Thursday at 57, blackness could take any form.

Prince rocked eyeliner. He wore sequins and rings and skin-tight spandex in the wildest colors imaginable. He strutted like a peacock on the stage and in music videos. He oozed sexuality from posters on the bedroom walls of teenagers across the country.

He was also openly kooky and didn’t care that you made fun of him. When he dropped his name for a symbol in 1993 and went by The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, he became fodder for jokes in late night monologues.

But, as he said in 2004 after he went back to Prince, “When I became a symbol, all the writers were cracking funnies, but I was the one laughing. I knew I’d be here today, feeling each new album is my first.”

The 5-foot-2 Prince reportedly could play basketball like no other, and despite his hit song, “1999,” counting down to the end of the world, didn’t “believe in time.”

He spoke in riddles, at times, and found comfort in eating spaghetti and orange juice. He was quiet, but not necessarily shy.

He said things like this, which both made no sense and perfect sense at the same time:

“There are no accidents. And if there are, it’s up to us to look at them as something else. And that bravery is what creates new flowers.”

In his unavoidably dance-inducing hit, “I Would Die 4 U,” he sang, “I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I am something that you’ll never understand.”

Just as the late David Bowie influenced gender-questioning and queer kids during the height of his career, so did Prince, especially for brown kids who relished being different.

He was an example — perhaps even the goal — of sensual, confident androgyny, and blackness.


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The unfortunate irony of Earth Day cleanups

by Melissa Breyer


CC BY 2.0 nicholasrobb1989

Though paved with the best intentions, annual litter cleanups add 12 million plastic trash bags to landfills every year; this nonprofit suggests a solution.

The non-profit Wounded Nature – Working Veterans has been working for years on cleaning up “wildlife critical” coastal areas. (The organization employs veterans reentering the civilian workforce, hence the name.) Rather than a big to-do with lots of hoopla for Earth Day, they skip an annual litter cleanup on April 22 in favor of cleanups year-round.

And they have a favor to ask: If you’re going to do a big cleanup for Earth Day, can you please not use plastic bags?

Every year, the group says, more than 12 million Americans participate in an annual litter cleanup campaign … which results in 12 million plastic trash bags being added to the landfill debris. This is heartbreaking; volunteers are armed with the best intentions, but the last thing we need is more plastic bags heading to the landfill.

“If you have participated in a cleanup, you know the routine – upon signing in most organizations will give you a t-shirt, plastic trash bag and a pair of gloves.”

The nonprofit Keep America Beautiful provides more than 4 million plastic trash bags alone to their cleanup volunteers each year. Meanwhile, most ocean and environmental nonprofit hosts their own annual cleanups; while these are ostensibly great for cleaning up trash (and also conveniently great for public relations), it’s undeniable that they add a lot of plastic bags to the problem.

So what to do. Is it just a necessary evil that must be endured in the name of clearing litter?

Wounded Nature has tackled the problem by using, wait for it, burlap bags! They’ve been using them for a while and have taken them to some of the most harsh environments imaginable says Wounded Nature CEO Rudy Socha. The bags are used by volunteers to collect litter and then they are dumped into a dumpster. When the event is done, the bags are either collected by the group and used again for the next cleanup, or the volunteers can take them home and put them to use there.

Burlap bags© Wounded Nature – Working Veterans
“As a non-profit, several factors come into play regarding bag choice and the biggest issue is cost. Secondary is durability – do we need a contractor grade bag or can we get away with cheap bags for cigarette butts and beverage cans?” asks Socha. “The most a large plastic contractor trash bag will cost is .40 per bag while a very large burlap bag like the ones Wounded Nature uses cost $3.00 each in bulk. The difference for Wounded Nature is we do not provide all of our volunteers with branded T-shirts or gloves. We throw all of our costs into making the planet a better place for the next generation.”

The burlap bags start breaking down within three months after being exposed to water; meanwhile, some contractor bags can endure for more than a century in the environment.

While it’s frustrating to think of more harm, by way of more plastic in the environment, being done inadvertently in the name of a good cause, it’s at least heartening to see groups like Wounded Nature being decisive and thinking things through. “For us, there is no need to further study the problem, we are focused on remedial action and getting tons of trash and debris removed from our coastal areas,” says Socha. “We do make a real difference. Our work results in increased fish and shellfish populations and reduces debris deaths for dolphins, manatees, sea turtles and endangered coastal wildlife.”

The road to a cleaner planet, paved in good intentions and burlap bags? Sounds like the way to go.

Tags: Earth Day | Eco-Friendly Bags | Plastic Bags


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Trulia study finds Americans say they care about the environment but aren’t willing to pay for it

Lloyd Alter (@lloydalter)

green survey

The extremely dated “It ain’t easy being green” title of this Trulia survey actually misinterprets the data; judging by the questions they asked, it is perfectly easy being green; it just ain’t cheap.

The big real estate site Trulia has done a big poll and discovered that 79 percent of Americans consider themselves to be environmentally conscious. That sounds like a good thing, but when you get right down to it they talk the talk, but few actually walk the walk (well, actually 49 percent do bike or walk), or even drive the drive (only 19 percent). In fact, “Only 26% of Americans say that they actually consider the environment in their daily actions beyond recycling and turning off the lights.”

It’s depressing actually, to find that buying energy efficient appliances is the single biggest environmental choice people make, with 70 percent actually acting on the belief, while 65% are actually making energy efficient home upgrades, with less than half that number realizing that living in a smaller house would make a much bigger difference.

Curiously, what seem like easier, cheaper and higher impact actions like living in a smaller home (16%) and buying renewable electricity from a utility provider (10%) are not nearly as high on the list of ways to be environmentally responsible. Americans seem to agree: Buying energy efficient appliances for the home is among the best ways to be environmentally responsible, more so than living in smaller homes.

Given the polarization of American politics, I was surprised at how close Democrats and Republicans are on these issues, how closely they agree about caring but not doing.

A majority of Democrats and Republicans talk the environmental talk, with 85% of Democrats agreeing that they consider themselves environmentally conscious and Republicans not far behind at 74%.

In the end, the Trulia study concludes that it is all about money.

Yet money is a barrier to being environmentally responsible. While some Americans believe that installing solar panels (28%) and driving a hybrid or electric car (18%) are among the best ways for someone to be environmentally responsible, few actually do so themselves (12% and 12%, respectively). Trulia believes that this is likely a result of the larger initial investments required. Similarly, people are less willing to pay price premiums for energy efficient appliances as the baseline price gets more expensive even if it’s considered the best way to be environmentally responsible. For a $50 appliance or electronic, 76% of environmentally conscious Americans are willing to pay a premium for energy efficiency, followed by 58% of Americans who aren’t environmentally conscious.* But when the baseline prices starts at $2,000, those numbers drop to 53% and 36%, respectively.

That’s what we get for spending all these years trying to convince people that going green will save them money; they can do the math and these days, with energy prices so low, people are not willing to pay the premium. In the end, paying more for green electricity, living in a smaller home, or paying for a more efficient car aren’t going to happen.It’s not harder being green, but it does cost more and entails a bit of inconvenience, and that’s something that the majority of Americans are apparently not interested in.

green questions© Trulia


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The Most Punchable Celebrity Faces


There’s nothing like a little bit of irrationally violent rage to get your blood flowing. Don’t worry—that spasm of hatred you feel for Celebrity X is a natural cultural phenomenon. If you don’t occasionally feel a white-hot tidal wave of enraged adrenaline when you see the smarmy face of someone undeserving of celebrity, you’re probably dead inside. Embrace that life-giving anger, and embrace this collection of celebrities with the most gloriously punchable faces.


James Franco
James Franco’s future is so bright, he has to squint. Constantly. Unfortunately, the exhausting act of perma-squinting has left him completely drained, leaving no energy left to act, write passable fiction, create worthwhile art, or make sense during interviews. Franco, who has apparently just woken up all of the time, may benefit from a left cross, if only to wake him up for a few minutes to properly assess the joke that is his life.

Guy Fieri
Fun fact: human cheeseburger Guy Fieri has never been photographed without a sausage. Look it up. Channeling the spirit of a ’90s pop-punk band reject, Fieri is the very special kind of monster who bleaches his Dragonball Z hair, and only the very center of his garlic teriyaki chipotle beard. Born without the ability to feel shame or pain, punching Guy Fieri is a harmless exercise that only makes the world a nicer place, and works off some of those extra calories from his restaurant’s signature Mac ‘n’ Cream Cheese French Fry Salad.


Kanye West
Kanye West hates you for no reason. Taking himself too seriously and blaming his artistic shortcomings on persecution, Kanye is frequently forced to apologize for the stupid things that his stupid mouth says. Petitions have circulated to remove Kanye from performances because he’s just too hard to deal with, but where the petitions have failed, a punch to Kayne’s slack-jawed face might just remind him that he’s a human after all.
Piers Morgan
One of media’s many professional jerks, Piers Morgan has collided with more celebrities than most serious news people due to his pursuit of sensationalism and ratings over professional discourse. Now that his show has been cancelled by CNN, no one will have to listen to the Brit blabber about American issues. At least Jeremy Clarkson, fellow host and known face-puncher, got in a few good blows on Morgan for his creepy reportage of Clarkson’s personal life.


Donald Trump
Leaving a trail of broken marriages and failed businesses behind him, Donald Trump is America’s worst citizen. He denounces foreign manufacturing while using overseas factories to make his cheap branded merchandise, and spews intolerance under the guise of “telling it like it is.” Trump’s politics don’t even matter. It’s that spittle-lipped bulldog underbite that needs to be snapped back into place with a sucker punch. Why not? It’s the same thing he did to most of his investors.

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