Over the years I have read Adbusters, participated in TV turn off week, and generally avoided brands. I prefer to shop locally. I prefer to find great independent clothing designers, such as those that can be found on Stars and Infinite Darkness, who are more often in line with my beliefs that the larger companies. My look is more unique because of this. Spending my money this way makes me happy because I feel like I am supporting a more diverse marketplace. I am the last person that you would expect to see wearing all the ‘latest’ fashion trends. Granted there are some things that currently can’t be purchased unbranded or lesser known because of functionality and quality, just like not every community can currently produce for all of its needs.
While helping out at the StartingBloc 2009 Institute for Social Innovation, the fellows and volunteers received a number of items. The one that caught my attention the most was from Terracycle; it was their Reusable Target Bag. Very cool concept- it is made out of multiple layers of old Target plastic bags that were pressed with heat. Should it rip in the future it can go back into their system and be fixed. Love the concept, but I would be less likely to use it because of the very visible and prominent branding. I did take the bag because I give away reusable bags that I collect over time to people who need them. I figured I would give it away.
Before I could give it away, one day it was the only bag in the car and I had to use it or take new plastic bags from the store. I felt self-conscious walking into the grocery store with a bright red and white bag on my arm, literally covered in targets. Walking up to the register the cashier made a comment about it being deer season, and we started talking. From there I was able to talk about Terracycle and the great things that they are doing with upcycled materials, the importance of buying local, why it is a good thing to reuse bags and rethink waste, et cetera. With what was initially something I dreaded, I found that I was able to initiate a conversation on a topic that I am passionate about and get more awareness out to someone because of the branding. My discomfort with the brand was greatly lessened by the more comfortable ease into an important conversation.
So while I will still support Adbusters, buy local, and stay as unbranded as possible, I appreciate the opportunity that that experience gave me. I have Terracycle to thank for that.
From this experience I take the lesson that if you are trying to get a message out, it helps to meet people part way and allow them to ask instead of preaching at them. This instance indicates to me that conversation is enabled when you are living lightly in a friendly manner. What do I mean by friendly? I mean acting in a way that allows for an opening for the questions to be asked. And what does that mean? Well, I think we need to really think about how we present ourselves and our opinions. If the way I present myself is off-putting, it makes those ideas more off-putting. Consider what this means for the expansion of going green, being sustainable and saving the environment.