My daughter's college experience has dramatically affected our family's buying decisions. In the past, items procured from a trip to the mall or a walk down our city's small commercial district met her specifications.
But now, the purchase order has changed. Each buying decision must conform to a loose set of standards written to meet the merits of fair and sustainable trade. She now prefers food grown within a reasonable driving distance of our home. (Try to meet this spec during a cold Chicago winter.)
If items are from Third World countries, they must be tagged with the trademark from the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International. She claims she's assessing her durable good purchases on the cradle-to-cradle movement, the updated version of cradle-to-grave.
My daughter isn't the only sibling who has jumped on the green-purchasing bandwagon. My oldest son and his wife have been responsible buyers of products for years. They recently traded in their old fuel-efficient car for a new hybrid. The difference here is that they paid with their own money.
These new constraints drive my wife crazy. She is already searching the Web for items that will meet these new criteria. Catalogs from around the world touting thousands of acceptable items dot our coffee table. I think my wife is following these new specifications grudgingly, secretly longing for the good old shopping spree days.
But I'm proud of my kids. Maybe they remember the tree seedlings we planted in their early scouting years. Or their household tasks of carrying out the recycling bins on trash day. Or hopefully, instead of longing for the past, they can see the need to affect the future.
Spending decisions such as these represent a much more careful approach many others are adopting. Unlike the 1960s when people expressed these thoughts as an attempt to criticize or upturn society, today, socially responsible purchasing is changing society.
In some ways, the concrete industry has been practicing this for several years. Employees create homegrown solutions to tough technical problems at plants. And for the most part, producers make the bulk of their purchases from local distributors and suppliers.
And we all know about the idea of cradle-to-cradle. There are many plants still operating that were originally purchased by the fathers or even grandfathers of the generation now in charge. And I would hazard a bet that somewhere, a grandfather, father, and son have shared the driver's seat of a few mixers or delivery trucks.
However, I do have one problem with this emphasis on green purchasing: Where does loyalty fit in? While my kids are quick to turn away from traditional sources, an industry like ours can't afford such a change.