Summary of “Boycotts, buying sprees, and the rise of conscious consumerism”

Sustainability-tinged consumer activism is a new flavor of an old tactic, one that falls under the umbrella of what we now call conscious consumerism.
Consumer activism can take the shape of two diametrically opposed actions – buying en masse and boycotting en masse – that are after the same goal ” either grassroots collective organization of consumption or its withdrawal,” explains Lawrence Glickman, an American historian at Cornell University and author of Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism.
Consumer activism, boycotts included, puts power in the hands of the people – “Or at least they think it is,” adds Glickman.
Conscious consumerism is today’s catchall to cover consumer dollars invested in a host of progressive values: worker rights, animal rights, low-carbon footprint, recycled and/or renewable materials, organic, local, etc.
“Small steps taken by thoughtful consumers – to recycle, to eat locally, to buy a blouse made of organic cotton instead of polyester – will not change the world.” Instead, she argues, conscious consumerism is an expensive distraction from the real work at hand.
With more opportunities to be a conscious consumer – thanks to more and more “Leading brands that compete to see who is greener,” as Joel Makower, author of 1990’s The Green Consumer, writes for GreenBiz – so too do opportunities for economic existential angst mount.
Okay, okay, but does consumer activism do anything? In a word: sometimes! In more words, whether or not consumer activism and conscious consumerism “Work” depends, really, on the definition of success.
Yes, phosphate-free dish detergent can curb water pollution, she says; but Kennedy’s research shows that conscious consumers often maintain very large carbon footprints themselves.

The orginal article.