Superpower of the purse

Oscar Abello

Perhaps you’ve been in this situation before, maybe even recently, where you’re sitting around a table or a classroom or maybe some distant impoverished town. There, the mosquitoes and conversation are keen to remind you how fortunate you’ve been and how terrible the world really is for most of its inhabitants. You might be tired of talking about it or, dare I say, merely hearing but not really listening to that conversation. You might think there’s nothing you can do, nothing we here at Villanova can do that will ever really change things and make a real difference.

To be blunt, that’s what the powers-that-be want you to think, and if you’re willing to accept that, the mosquitoes won’t treat you differently. However, you can do much more than swat back. I dare say that by your presence at Villanova, you are already contributing to the campaign against the blood-sucking monsters.

For example, if you like coffee or tea and drink as much caffeine as I do, you should already know that all the coffee sold in dining halls and most of the coffee and tea elsewhere on campus are fair-trade certified. That addiction to caffeine doesn’t just lift your spirits temporarily; it also permanently helps farming communities around the world, especially in Latin America.

Those Villanova clothes you might wear sometimes? Well, did you know that Villanova is affiliated with the Fair Labor Association and the Workers’ Rights Consortium? These are organizations that have been developing and continue to develop new ways to monitor the manner in which our collegiate-licensed apparel is manufactured. Our athletic office has stated that one university on its own can not accomplish the desired improvements in labor conditions, but by working with these organizations and numerous other universities, Villanova gains strength in the numbers.

There is strength in numbers, but, of course, you have to count one at a time. Just recently, the WRC proposed the Designated Suppliers Program. It is designed to continually identify specific factories in poor nations that will pay workers a living wage and adhere to internationally recognized labor standards. A growing number of participating universities, including Georgetown University and the University of Connecticut, request that licensed brands utilize those specific factories in addition to any others that they use, in order to manufacture their licensed apparel. Villanova can be a part of that program, thus adding to our collective strength in numbers.

The point is, you don’t need to fly or have X-ray vision in order to save the world. You have the superhero power of your wallet. You can use your power as a consumer to change the way the world works. We’ve taken great steps together as a community, and there’s much more we can do.

Next time you buy a light bulb, make it an energy-saving fluorescent. They even last longer than regular light bulbs, in addition to saving energy and money.

Or cut just a few moments from your shower time and save water and the energy it takes to bring that warm water to you.

I don’t need to list them all here, but the globalized nature of our capitalist world means that nearly every action we take is linked to an almost infinite list of other people and things. We’re each given power as consumers to affect every human being and every thing on that list – in a good way or in a bad way. Your choice.


Oscar Abello is a junior economics major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]