How to Become a Hero c.j. hayden
   How to Become a Hero
   You Are the Champion the World Is Waiting For

   C.J. Hayden, MCC

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Heroism in shopping 

The little choices we make on a daily basis can have a huge impact on our society and environment. Take shopping, for example. Every day, we vote with our wallets to support one company and not another. Often, we make our shopping choices based on price, convenience, and habit, paying little attention to the long-term consequences of our decisions. Without knowing it, we may be giving our money to companies whose practices we strongly oppose.

If you'd like to put more of your money where your values are, pay a visit to Responsible Shopper, Co-Op America's site for socially-conscious shopping. One of the many valuable features you'll find there is the ability to search for a company you currently do business with and find out about their track record with human rights, social justice, and environmental sustainability. Let's say you've been buying outdoor gear from Eddie Bauer. When you view their profile, you'll discover that numerous sources have accused the company of using sweatshop labor in Indonesia and the Phillippines, and denying to workers pay they have already earned. Their competitor Patagonia, on the other hand, shows no record of violations like these, and according to their listing in the National Green Pages, donates 1% of their sales to grassroots environmental organizations.

You may also discover that some of the well-meaning decisions you have already made to alter your shopping habits are perhaps not as wise as you thought. For example, I have for some time refused to shop at Wal-Mart, due (among other reasons) to their use of sweatshop labor in other countries and poor treatment of workers in the U.S. As a result, from time to time I have made purchases from Target. But according to the Co-Op America Quarterly, "Target has been tied to sweatshops in China and Guatemala" and "Target isn't any better than Wal-Mart in terms of worker rights." Starting wages for Target employees are no higher than Wal-Mart's, and Target's benefit packages are often harder to qualify for and less comprehensive than Wal-Mart's dismal benefits. Yikes!

So where should I purchase the housewares I have sometimes bought at Target? In Responsible Shopper's Green Shift section, they suggest several ideas, including "shop locally," and "buy second-hand." I could probably buy almost any household item I might shop for at Target from my local chain Cole Hardware, who not only commits to matching any other store's advertised low price, but also gives me a 5% rebate on my annual purchases to spend at their store. And I have many sources nearby for second-hand shopping, including a Goodwill store, numerous garage sales, and the many offers on Craigslist.

Check out Responsible Shopper for yourself and see if there's even one small change you could make to start having your shopping dollars make a positive difference in the world.


You don't need to be a billionaire to be a benefactor 

The recent news that Warren Buffet plans to give 85% of his $44 billion fortune to charity got me thinking. Buffet is the world's second richest man, and his planned donation is the largest philanthropic gift in history. While his act of generosity is certainly inspirational, Buffet is not exactly an ordinary citizen. When his charitable gift is complete, he'll still have over $6 billion in assets left.

I often hear from people the sentiment that they would give more to charity if only they earned more. But does this actually occur? Statistics show that charitable giving by the richest Americans is falling while donations from the rest of us are on the rise. From 1995 to 2003, donations from those earning more than $1 million per year fell by 12%. Over the same time period, donations from those earning less than $1 million per year rose by 25%. The result? Americans who earn less than $1 million per year now give to charity almost the exact same share of their income (3.5%) as those earning more (3.6%).

It appears that earning more isn't a prerequisite for giving more after all. So if you've been delaying your giving while you focus on earning, perhaps it's time to make a change. As with many other steps a would-be hero could take to make the world a better place, there may be no reason to wait any longer before taking action.


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