This is one of the most important questions any person interested in living better with other humans and our planet can consider.
Image via dpr-barcelona
Firstly, you may think 'a dollar is just a dollar' so therefore it doesn't matter what you spend it on. But think of this - the population of the United States is roughly 307 million people. Target Corporation last year earned $67 billion. In the first 3 quarters of last year, BP earned $288.57 billion (this is less than its revenue for the year since 4th quarter was unavailable; also, BP is a global company but consider its revenue vs. a global population of 7 billion). A television star like Kim Kardashian earns $12 million per year. These individuals and companies don't earn this money out of thin air. They earn it because consumers (aka, YOU) spend money on their goods and services.
Image via Treehugger
Regardless of how much a company gives to charity, corporate business managers (and reality TV stars) take home a LOT of money. This is at time a complex issue in terms of 'justness', given some of these companies' and individuals' impact on the Earth and the destruction their choices cause to others.
It is also valuable to know where your money goes so that you don't end up funding a destructive production cycle for a product. For example, many people see bananas as healthy and so buy them. However, many companies that farm bananas slash rainforests to grow these fruits. Its the same situation with leather - Brazil is a top exporter of leather and cow meat, which is often grown on cattle farms in the Amazon that require those rainforests to be chopped down. Many times these farmers enslave laborers in debt bondage situations, where the laborer often cannot do much about their position since they are deep in the forest. These are just a couple of examples about how products you may buy fund a host of negative things in the world.
Image via Localblu.com
If you want more control over your money, your life, and the future of this planet, AND if you want to invest in your local community, consider shopping local or using things you can easily get for free from the world around you. An obvious example is shopping at your local farmer's market for groceries and soaps. You can get lemons from your neighbor's overburdened tree and use them to clean most of your home - kitchen counters, sinks, toilets, and diluted in water to clean the floor. You can move your money into a local credit union, many of which list the organizations and local businesses in which they invest on their website. You can support local vintage shops to buy your clothes. Take a walk through your neighborhood on a daily basis (if possible) for exercise and to check out what businesses are around that you can frequent.
If you want more suggestions or if you have a suggestion, feel free to leave a comment here. :)
Nisha Namorando Vida
Postscript: If you take issue with this post or have a take on this in any way that you would like to publicly share, please post a comment! Dialogue = crucial.
Photo by Nisha Vida at: August Local to Global Event