Vote With Your Dollar: Building Stronger Communities Through Mindful Spending

Written By Eric Henry

Owner of TS Designs and Cotton of the Carolinas 

"Conscious consumerism."

It’s the phase on everyone’s lips these days, but what does it mean?

You vote with your dollar.

Just about every day we purchase something.

Bottle of water. Cup of coffee. Pair of pants. New shoes.

We tend to be focused on “what does it cost?” - and, sure, that’s important. We have to open our wallet; we have to pull out our credit card; there are dollars exchanged. Obviously, we understand the financial impact of those purchases, but I charge people to consider the impact you are having beyond the dollars.

Where is that money going? And what effect will it have?

Conscious consumerism is understanding that our choices - the votes we make with our dollars - have a real impact to the environment, the community - our futures. It's knowing that there is much more going on behind the scenes when you spend those dollars on whatever product.

A Greater Understanding

Being a conscious consumer is the challenge to look beyond the price tag, to look at the whole story of a product, starting at the origin, to see and understand its complete impact. It’s taking the time to educate ourselves about the details, the story, the process - the lives that are enriched (and affected) by its production.

You have to ask the questions! Get educated and be aware to make good choices about how to spend your money.

If you think about those decisions you make every day, with every purchase you make, you ultimately will make a positive impact in the world in which you live.

Imagine if we do that thousands, and tens of thousands, and millions of times over…

Conscious consumerism will have - by far - the biggest impact to our economy than anything else. Stronger than any government, any ad campaign. We have so much power in our hands by how we spend our dollars.

The Value Beyond Price

Understanding the details that come together to make a high-quality product, gives us the opportunity to weight the value beyond the price: the business it brings to the region, the boost to the local economy, the families that are confident and secure in making a living - and reinvesting in their neighborhoods. Consider the other side of the coin with me for just a minute…

In 1994 when NAFTA was made a reality, companies opted for the most obvious avenue to help cut costs. They transitioned production to other countries where they could pay less - MUCH LESS - for wages.

Think about what a decent hourly rate is for an American worker. I’m not talking lavish, just decent. A base level for covering all the bills with just a little extra.

The workers who died in the 2013 Bangladesh apparel tragedy were making 26 cents an hour.

 Can you imagine making 26 cents an hour?

Can you imagine your neighbor, or anyone else in the States, making 26 cents an hour and being able to make ends meet?

The value beyond price is knowing that American workers are being paid a living wage, that our society is investing in itself for future growth and development.

Everyone loves a good bargain, but there’s a cost beyond the sale sticker that that carries an expensive fee.

Building Strong Relationships

So, look at the Brand of your t-shirt, jeans, your socks, your shoes, your underwear…

Look at them.

I can almost guarantee without looking in your closet, it’s not made in this country.

It’s a tough decision to make to pay more for a product that’s going to have the same benefit, right? But I would challenge you to ask yourself - what’s the total impact?

More and more, individuals are taking the time to investigate the source of the items they buy. It’s leading them to local co-ops, to Farmers’ Markets, neighborhood craft breweries. They’re meeting the Makers in their community and supporting the effort of quality production. 

Face to face. Shaking hands. Sharing smiles. Meeting neighbors.

The only way our society will flourish is if we find a way to work together and support each other.

So, yes, it costs more money, but consider the impact of your investment. 

With Cotton of the Carolinas

The Cotton of the Carolinas t-shirt brand supply chain was born out of a desire to bring back apparel jobs to North Carolina. We have the history - and there are still companies working hard to provide livelihoods for our regional neighbors.

When a customer decides to purchase Cotton of the Carolinas tees, impact goes way beyond the fact that it’s a “more expensive t-shirt.” The impact is positively affecting over 500 jobs in the Carolinas (both North and South, based on current supply chain*). Five hundred people. And their families. And their neighborhood local businesses. And…you get the idea.

We’re very excited to have brands like Mindful Supply utilize this t-shirt. It drives home the story of voting with your dollar, keeping your dollars in your community, and supporting the community in which you live.

The connections that develop with this positive ripple effect help us build stronger communities. 


Consider this tidbit from the Cotton of the Carolinas origin story:

I can drive about 60 miles to meet with Ronnie Burleson, the farmer who grows the cotton that makes Cotton of the Carolinas t-shirts. Before he agreed to be a part of this “crazy idea,” he had never seen a final product made from the cotton he grew. 

Ronnie and his family, and his son, Andrew who is now taking lead on farm management, face their own specific industry challenges; and taking the time to understand their challenges can help us all see the value of the product they provide. And with this understanding, comes respect and admiration as we move forward to support their effort.

And that’s just the first step in the supply chain. Just one story. Think about all the other steps along the way, all the other stories.

Worth the Cost 

Sure. The price tag might not show the lowest number from all the others available on the rack. But we know that there’s an investment behind the scenes in making great choices for our community and for our environment that makes the additional cost at the register worth every penny.

Conscious consumerism.

To me, the value beyond price is the relationship developed with the people that make your product.

That’s what drives TS Designs.

And will continue to drive us - to develop those relationships. And then share those relationships with our customers and with our community.

Because, it’s those connections that help make the community strong - and gives us value to where we are on this planet.

*The Cotton of the Carolinas supply chain is available via the online tracking tool, Where Your Clothing ( By entering a little information (the contrasting thread color found in the hem and sleeves of the t-shirt) on the website, you can confirm the entire supply chain, from dirt to printed shirt. This allows you, the customer, to understand and witness the connections that are a part of bringing such a high-quality item to market. We give you the opportunity to personally connect with the people who make your t-shirt. It’s an amazing value-add (and we’re not cutting-out anything important).


To contact Eric: 

Eric is LinkedIn

Tweet your feedback @localaction 

  • Add your comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published