Buycott: new app for smart phones lets you vote with your dollars!

Avoid Koch Industries Campaign

Avoid Koch Industries Campaign

A new free smart phone app is quickly gaining popularity. Last week Forbes.com, the business magazine, profiled it in this article, New App Lets You Boycott Koch Brothers, Monsanto, and More By Scanning Your Shopping Cart. (Well done, Forbes! I didn’t know you had it in you.)

The article has already gotten about 440,000 shares on Facebook, which probably qualifies it as being pretty close to viral. I downloaded the app, but apparently they were overwhelmed with new users and still working on some functionality after the Forbes article.

Today it appears to be working fine. I took it for a test ride at my local H-E-B.

To me, this app represents a capitalist democracy functioning at its finest. Companies are of course very sensitive to sales, and at the same time many are making unprecedented use of corporate dollars to influence the governmental representatives that we voted into office to do their bidding. They’ve bought our politicians, and the Supreme Court has given its blessing.

So who’s watching out for us?

We the people can vote with our money and influence those companies to act more in our interests. Yes, we not only get to vote in the voting booth, but now this app makes it really easy to vote with our pocketbooks at the point of sale, which is probably way more effective than just voting in a booth in these days of Citizens v. United.

Here’s how to use it:

  1. Download the free app. When I first went to the website, it said the Android app is coming soon. The iPhone app is available in the Apple app store. Did I mention it’s free?
  2. Open the app and set yourself up with an account, or you can log in with Facebook if you have an account there.
  3. Note the three buttons at the bottom: Activity, Scan, and Campaigns. Click the Campaigns button to view and join campaigns. Next, select a category. For example, I selected Health.
  4. Joining A Campaign

    Joining A Campaign

    A list of health-related campaigns appear. I selected the campaign “YES to Organic+NonGMO — NO to Monsanto+GMOs” (see photo at right). I can now view information about this campaign, lists of companies and brands aligned with this campaign’s purpose, and Buycott members who’ve joined this campaign. I simply clicked a button to join this campaign. Click the Back button to continue to select the categories and campaigns you want to support. Now you’re ready to shop!

  5. When you are in a store considering a purchase and want to know if the money you pay will support or oppose your values, open the app and click Scan. Hover the phone’s camera over the product’s bar code so that you can view the entire code on the screen. Hold the phone steady for 2-3 seconds until a message says the bar code is loading.
  6. Once the company info appears, you can see whether it supports the campaigns you support. You can view company info, its family tree, and the campaigns it supports, and make a decision about purchasing the product that’s in line with your values.
  7. To scan another item, click Close and do steps 5 and 6 again.

If you want to see a history of your actions (campaigns joined, items scanned, etc.), click Activity (see photo below).

My Activity

My Activity

That’s pretty much it!

So, just for fun, next time you go to the store, go to the soda aisle and scan a bottle of Coke. Then take a look at its family tree. The screenshot below shows the companies/brands owned by Coca-Cola. You have to do a lot of horizontal scrolling to see them all. Then click Campaigns to see where the company stands in relation to your values.

Why meditators are happier

A very interesting article that fits in well with this blog, Eat, Smoke, Meditate: Why Your Brain Cares How You Cope was published recently in Forbes, the business magazine — an unlikely place for an article about meditation but a good sign, meaning that this kind of information is reaching the conservative mainstream business audience.

The article, by health writer Alice G. Walton, states that for millenia people have turned to different activities to cope with life’s stresses: going for a walk, taking a deep breath, eating, drinking, smoking, praying, taking drugs, running, meditating.

She adds that most people would agree that the mind’s annoying chatter is a major source of unhappiness. It’s the obsessing, worrying, drifting, fearful mind that creates feelings of unhappiness. (We meditators know it as monkey mind.)

This internal chatter and the unpleasant emotions that accompany its thoughts are really what people are trying to get away from. A Harvard study done last year confirmed that mind wandering and unhappiness are clearly connected. That study found that when people are awake, their minds are wandering about half the time.

Another study found that mind wandering is linked to a network of brain cells called the default mode network (DMN for short). This network is only active when we are flitting from one life-worry to the next.

Meditation is about quieting the mind, facing, and then relinquishing those unhappy, stress-inducing thoughts.

New research from Yale has found that the DMN in experienced meditators is markedly less linked to other regions of the brain. And…when the brain’s “me centers” (areas governing thoughts about the self, such as the DMN) are activated, meditators also activated brain areas for self-monitoring and cognitive control.

They did this automatically, even when not being told to do anything in particular.

This implies that experienced meditators habitually monitor their thoughts and control them — a skill learned during meditation. When the mind wanders — when meditating and at other times — experienced meditators bring it back to the present moment.

Could this be the primary benefit of meditation, that you learn to monitor and control your thoughts, and therefore you feel happier?

The article suggests that meditators actually create a new default mode that is more present-centered and less “me”-centered.

The writer wonders whether happiness is really about shifting our tendency away from focusing on ourselves. Another study found that in praying nuns and meditating monks, brain areas for concentration and attention became activated, while areas that govern how a person relates to the world deactivated.

The author states that this suggests that the focus becomes less on the person being a distinct entity from the external world and more on the connection between the person and the external world.

Separation and oneness, away from and toward. Aha!

The article continues, stating that other tools to relieve stress like cigarettes, food, or alcohol actually end up making the users unhappier. Addictions create negative feedback loops that include craving and relief, followed by craving and relief, et cetera.

She concludes:

 Addressing the process itself with other methods (like meditation), which allow you to ride out the craving/unhappiness by attending to it and accepting it, and then letting it go, has been more successful, because it actually breaks the cycle rather than masks it.