When I discovered this book I was both an independent bookseller and a fledgling passionate ethical consumer.. And yet, I found it hiding under some picture books at a Scholastic book fair at my kids' elementary school. How had I missed this book?! I bought it immediately and began stocking it for our bookstore.
Mara Rockliff has written a variety of books for young people, and I really appreciate her clear and concise way of addressing the huge topic of ethical consumerism. The first quarter of the book introduces the reader to the concepts of True Cost, Western consumption habits, and advertising schemes. The bulk of the book breaks down the issues around production, transportation, consumption, and disposal of individual industries like textiles, fast food, electronics, plastics, and chocolate. The last quarter of the book is devoted to strategies and examples of points of action the reader can take, whether it is pledging to buy fair trade coffee or joining an international movement.
The layout of this book keeps all of the information in very digestible chunks and is very stimulating. It also serves to break up some of the more somber statistics with bright graphics. I used this book as one of my resources when teaching a class on consumerism and upcycling to middle schoolers and granted them permission to make the "Debbie Downer" sound effect (mwah - mwah) when the information got too depressing or overwhelming. Despite exposing these heavy issues, Rockliff still manages to keep the tone of the book positive, assuring the reader he or she can make a difference. The blurb on the back of the book says it best:
Can you really change the world with your wallet? You already do. Buy a pair of sneakers, and where does your money really go? Order a cheeseburger at a drive-up window, and what are you really buying? Spend your birthday money on a cell phone or a video game, and what are you really getting? Ask yourself this: Who made it? What's in it? What's it doing to the earth, other people, and me? Start seeing the world for real - and discover how you can make a difference. You've got buying power - now let's see you change the world for good!
Although Get Real: What Kind of World Are You Buying? is geared towards kids, there is enough content to make it interesting and inspiring for adults, too. It would be a great book for a family to read together and then set mini-goals to begin changing buying habits. How does your family try to make a difference with your dollar?