This is a guest post by Alan Uke, author of BUYING AMERICA BACK.
It is easy to fall into the traps of American consumer culture when it comes to our kids. We want our children to feel they live in abundance and that they are important to us, and one way to show them is by filling their world with toys. Corporations are fully aware of the strong emotions present when parents purchase for their children. The massive quantities of toys that flood stores and our homes prove it. What we choose matters, in more ways than one.
We pass on values to our children by what we surround them with. Poorly made, cheap plastic toys communicate that belongings are dispensable and easily replaced. A well-made, thoughtfully crafted toy communicates that objects are significant, and meant to be cared for and treated with respect.
Plus, the things we buy have a real impact on what our children’s future will be like. Many companies that manufacture toys for America have offshored their operations to faraway places. This has caused us to lose millions of American jobs. It is little wonder our economy has been in a state of crisis. Think of it: we purchase a toy that was made in China (a country that sells us far more than they buy from us) for our child. Our intention is that the toy will bring joy, perhaps even contribute to learning. In fact, that purchase is contributing to an increasingly bleak future with less and less opportunities for our child.
If we want to bring jobs back to American soil and secure a bright future for the generation being raised, we must direct more of our spending to American-made goods, or goods from countries that we have balanced relationships with. As parents and consumers, we have tremendous power to effect change. If each of us shifted just $5 a day of our spending to U.S. made products, we would start to return unemployment to normal levels.
In order to do this, we need accurate information regarding where products actually come from and the current country of origin labels just aren’t cutting it. As they are, these labels only tell us where the last major transformation of a product happened, not where all of its components really come from. The labels are misleading, or incredibly hard to find. And if you are making an online purchase, as so many of us busy moms do, we rarely ever get to see country of origin information before we make our purchase.
As a deeply concerned citizen, I started a consumer movement demanding new Country of Origin Labels (COOL) that disclose all the countries where the product’s costs originated, our trade ratio with each of those countries, and where the company responsible for the product is headquartered. It is only then that we can decide if a purchase is healthy for our family and community, much like we use Nutritional Information labels. Our purchasing choices have real consequences—on a small scale they confirm our values to our children and the quality of the goods we have in our lives. On a large scale, they determine where employment and innovation happens.
My book, Buying America Back, was recently published by Select Books. I wrote the book for my children and their generation—to offer hope and an attainable solution for fixing our mess we are in. My book shares practical ways we can change our spending habits to improve our own lives, and rebuild a broken economy. It is a quick and inspiring read that really will change the way you shop.
Alan Uke is a San Diego entrepreneur, community leader and founder of Underwater Kinetics. He is author of the new book BUYING AMERICA BACK: A Real Deal Blueprint for Restoring American Prosperity (SelectBooks; April 9, 2012). To learn more information about the book, how to join this movement or sign the petition telling Congress the need for a new Countries of Origin Labeling Act, please visit http://buyingamericaback.org/