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FTW Friday: Ethical shopping with Apptivism

Hillary Di Menna

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Earlier this month Disney stores pulled sexist Avengers girls’ T-shirts with slogans like “I need a hero” and “I only kiss heroes” off the shelves. The boys’ shirts reading, “Be a hero” remained. These old clichés were quickly called out on the internet. The message to boys that they need to be tough, the notion that girls need saving, and the idea that only heterosexual females want to kiss a hero. These messages did not go over well. And rightfully so.

Over 1,000 tweets about the shirt were sent with the hash tag NotBuyingIt, made by feminist and media watchdog organization Miss Representation, named after Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s popular documentary. Nearly 8,000 people signed the group’s petition over the shirt.

The NotBuyingIt hash tag is used when people find a type of media sexist. Go Daddy commercials, for instance, have earned top place with the most #notbuyingit tweets ever at 7,829. Miss Representation is currently campaigning on Indiegogo to raise money for a new app. (Pssst … This Magazine also has an Indiegogo campaign to check out.) The app, also named Not Buying It, will allow users to upload media they find sexist, or inspiring, to share with peers and the companies involved. It will also track and share the geographic locations getting the most attention and the areas where people are speaking out the most. Canada’s center for digital and media literacy, Media Smarts, reports people living in urban centres see up to 5,000 ads a day (Find out the mediums they list here). This app will offer the chance to use media in a positive way when faced with offensive marketing.

Apps geared to the ethical consumer aren’t new. In fact, they have a witty moniker: Apptivism.

The Not For Sale Campaign released the Free2Work mobile application. It was first released a couple years ago in time for the holiday season. A consumer can scan a bar code while shopping to see which company makes the product. They can then view the company’s ratings, based on the organization’s evaluations, on transparency, policies, monitoring, and worker’s rights.

The Good Shopping Guide app, by The Ethical Company Organisation, has information on over 700 famous brands, organized into seven categories: food and drink, health and beauty, travel, energy, fashion, home and office, and money. Included are ethical ratings and in-depth reports on each company.

Shoppers in Europe have Barcoo. Users can scan a barcode to find information such as sustainability, nutritional information and a seasonal vegetables list.

Games have also entered the scene. The Apptivist Studio’s slogan is, “Game for change.” It released its first game, Minke Rescue, where players must survive as Minke Whales living in the “harsh” Antarctic Ocean and dodging whaling ships.  The game sells for $2, sixty cents of which goes to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Applications can have a more narrowed focus. Vegans and vegetarians can find a wide variety of helpful tools in iTunes. PETA and Ethical Bean Coffee, among other groups, have also gotten in on the fun.

Last year half of Canadian cell phone users were using smart phones and Rogers research found 68 per cent were buying and using apps. An eMarketer 2012 forecast predicts 14 million Canadians will be smartphone users by next year.

Last month, the power of #notbuyingit forced Amazon UK to take down offensive shirts reading, Keep Calm and Rape a lot and Keep Calm and Hit Her, under 24 hours. Go Daddy received 7,000 Not Buying It tweets during the Super Bowl.

So now when those villainous Angry Birds pigs have pushed you over the edge, or you’re bored of zombiefy-ing pictures of your cat, your app prowess can be used to make informed, ethical, shopping decisions.









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