Last year when I was attending Netroots Nation, Darcy Burner, then a candidate for Congress, spoke of an idea she had that was pretty exciting for anyone who is painfully aware of the Koch brothers far reaching influence over politics and consumers. She had an idea for an app that would make it easier for consumers to avoid buying products with any ties to Koch Industries. Burner, a former programmer for Microsoft, had a mock interface that she hoped to build on.
Now it appears she was unaware there was already a group trying to develop a similar idea, and it's just been introduced.
Called Buycott, the app is pretty amazing in all that it can do. I downloaded it as soon as I heard about it, and it's pretty impressive. (I wasn't the only one who thought so. The developers have had some problems keeping up with demand.)
Not only can you "join" campaigns as per your interests, like sustainable and local food initiatives, those which allow you to avoid plastic bottles, and the big favorites like avoiding products made by Koch Industries, Monsanto, and even any with ties to ALEC. (The American Legislative Exchange Council.)
For instance, say you want to join a campaign that demands GMO
(genetically modified organisms)
food labeling. Once you join, you can read more linked details about the campaign. If you touch "focus"
on the app toolbar, it calls up an extensive list of companies to avoid who donated more than $150,000 to oppose GMO labeling in California. Select Cargill, Inc. for instance, and you'll see a "family tree" option at the bottom. Touch that and up pops the company tree. There you'll see that Diamond Crystals and Truvia products, among others, are two of the brands you can refrain from purchasing. You can also use the integrated social media to Tweet or share information on Facebook.
Say you're out shopping for paper products and want to know if a certain brand of paper towels is a product from one of the campaigns you've joined. Choosing the scanner on the bottom allows you to scan the barcode in just seconds, and it will tell you if it's a brand to avoid. Scan a package of Brawny paper towels and it will trace back up the family tree to show you it's made by Georgia Pacific, which is part of Koch Industries.
Since company information is always changing and new products come on the market, the app also lets you add unknown products by scanning them. You can contribute information and contacts that you discover and add them to the Buycott database.
Of course another great thing about the app, it's free! The only problem that I can see with it so far is that you may have difficulty finding brands you CAN buy, depending on how many campaigns you're following. Between Koch, Monsanto, and ALEC, just to name a few, their industry and product range is vast and encompassing. You'll have to do your homework and shop around to find products to reward companies who share your views, but this app sure makes it a lot easier.