From the true price of gasoline to coal's disastrous impact on the economy, we environmentalists are well aware of the concept of economic externalities. Still, it doesn't hurt to get a reminder from time-to-time. And just in case you are admiring all those fancy new clothes you got for Christmas, here's a little video about the hidden costs not always included in your price tag.
As the video explains, the environmental impact of cotton production can be astounding. From depleting reservoirs and aquifers to serious problems with pesticide runoff, these "hidden costs" have very real, long term impacts on cotton growing communities and their ability to survive. But even beyond the small but growing organic cotton market, some brands are pioneering more sustainable forms of cotton purchasing through the Better Cotton Initiative.
Similarly, sweatshops are creating social upheaval, stress, depression and exploitation in many parts of the world. But some mainstream brands are taking steps to ensure true accountability and transparency about workers' rights and suppliers' employment practices, while others are simply passing the buck. Check out the Fair Labor Association for one attempt at creating more equitable production models.
But what does all that mean for the consumer? How do we differentiate between the businesses stepping up and doing what's right, and those who are not? That's where, says the video, organizations like GoodGuide come in. As Jaymi already reported in her post on the GoodGuide iPhone app, they do the homework for you. Provide ratings on environmental and social performance. And give you easy ways to access that information.
And each time we use guides like this to make our purchasing decisions, we push others to change their ways too.