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Shop Till You Drop?

Two different takes on the role of conscious consumerism. with BOBBY SHRIVER and REVEREND BILLY Product (RED)-an initiative backed by U2's Bono in partnership with dozens of global brands-has generated more than $50 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, all by turning..

Two different takes on the role of conscious consumerism.

with BOBBY SHRIVER and REVEREND BILLY

Product (RED)-an initiative backed by U2's Bono in partnership with dozens of global brands-has generated more than $50 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, all by turning everyday consumers into activists through the purchases they make. (RED)'s founder Bobby Shriver talks about its goals:GOOD: What's the premise of (red)?BOBBY SHRIVER: Our ultimate goal is to get greater public awareness of the scale of the AIDS pandemic and the solvability of the problems of extreme poverty--not American poverty, but the grinding, less than a dollar a day, no medicine, no family, no housing, no nothing type of poverty.G: How are you going to do that?BS: A lot of people view doing good as a hair-shirt concept-it has to be hard and you have to suffer.But you don't have to do that. Everything you're wearing, I'm selling a (red) version of. If you just changed what you wore, you would generate hundreds of dollars a year. People don't know that two pills a day saves your life if you have AIDS; people don't know that the blue jeans they have on can save someone's life. You're making a choice every day and you can rule the fucking world if you pay attention.G: What are your next steps?BS: Our focus is on big multinational brands, because that's where the money is. Some people say, "You're only motivated by money?" And I say, "The boss of my company is only motivated by money." And they say, "Well, I didn't know Bono is only motivated by money." Bono isn't the owner of the company. The lady who needs the two pills is the owner of the company. We work for her. She needs the cash. We have to get it for her.The Church of Stop Shopping draws attention to American's "shopping addiction" by protesting the destruction of local economies by chain stores. Reverend Billy, the church's leader, talks about how consumerism defines our culture:GOOD: Tell us about what you do with the Church of Stop Shopping.REVEREND BILLY: We have been challenging the idea that consumerism should be the guiding culture, that all things must somehow be brought into our lives by way of the market, that all things must have a price tag. There is nothing now that is not considered an underexploited market.G: How has the financial crisis affected your message?RB: We're intrigued, but we know that it's an occasion for a great deal of pain. There are already shantytowns, people are losing their homes. It's not a good thing, but it probably was a necessary thing. We're hoping that the United States will bounce back. We have to get back to helping each other out in ways that we haven't in many years in this country. We've been practicing consumerism, where you help other people because you can make money helping other people, but that's different.G: What's your take on the expanding movement of consumerism for philanthropy and social good?RB: One of [the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir's] hit songs is called "Can I Shop Enough for Africa?" We can't shop our way out of these problems. Shopping itself is the problem. It's a way of looking at the world that's not generous, won't work, and ultimately will be defeating. You have to do it on purpose. You can't just buy a T-shirt. That doesn't work.


NOW WHAT Can consumers save the planet through smarter purchases, or is our fixation on consumption an indictment of our culture? Let us know what you think in the comments below.