Sarah Reinhard is a Catholic wife, mom, writer, editor, marketing professional, and coffee drinker. You’re just as likely to find her hiding out back with a book as you are to discover her playing in the yard with a few farm animals (or wait — are those her kids?) She is the author of many books, the most recent of which she co-edited with Lisa Hendey: The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion: A Book of Daily Reflections. She blogs at SnoringScholar.com and writes online regularly at CatholicMom.com and Integrated Catholic Life. Reinhard holds a master’s degree in marketing and communications and has worked for many years in corporate and nonprofit organizations. She lives in central Ohio with her husband and children.
A few days ago, I received an invitation to check out BuyPartisan, an app that lets you figure out the political affiliation of the companies behind the products you’re buying. In a sentence: you scan the barcode with your phone, and the app tells you the company’s political spending, thus allowing you to determine if it’s in line with your own.
It sure does make for a new level of transparency, doesn’t it?
I have a rather reluctant approach to boycotting. I know my dollars matter, and I know what my children see me spending money on also matters, and yet I can’t help but think that my one voice is lost if I’m not also communicating what I’m doing.
But this isn’t boycotting. This is informed purchasing.
I became aware of the impact of fair trade a few years ago, and it’s something that I find haunting. We have so much here in the United States. Part of being a good steward of the much I’ve been given is being aware of how my purchases impact others.
It can be an exhaustive task, to be sure. It can feel helpless.
The same is true for some of the other important aspects of life, like voting. Does my one vote count?
And so does my one purchase.
So far as I can tell, no one has yet made an app that will reveal the pro-life (or not) stance of companies, but there are apps that focus on fair trade. I’m not an iPhone user (but if you are, go check out that article), so I wasn’t able to evaluate any of those apps.
When I searched on the Google Play Store, looking for an Android answer to that article, I found Fair Trade Finder, an app I installed and tried out. (Yes, I found one for Android. I was disappointed, to say the least.)
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to load on my phone (from the reviews on the Play store, this is a common problem). The idea, though, seems solid, even if I can’t actually get the app to work. The idea, according to the Fair Trade USA website, is that you can find the vendors in your area who are selling fair trade certified items. The app’s supposed to let you search by category and you’re also able to add those items you find and share them with others.
I just wish the app worked.
It’s less about fair trade and more about a rating system, which you can learn about on their website. To be honest, it wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.
You know what I’d like? I’d like a Catholic answer to this. There are quite a few Catholic fair trade websites and plenty of ways to buy online. But apps? Not so much. (At least, not for Android…)
Does it matter how the companies I support with my purchases use their money and what they support? Yes, it does. Does it matter how I spend my money to buy things for my family? Yes, it does. Is there an easier way to figure out where my social consciousness lies? Well, there should be. I had hoped to find it in an app. Guess I’ll keep waiting for a while more.