Building With the Future in Mind Since 1955

Rick Dubrow’s “On the Level” Column in the Cascadia Weekly; 4/11/07 Publication

Every dollar you spend is a vote, isn’t it? Although you are solving some need of yours by trading this dollar, your dollar spent also fuels a certain way of doing business. Your decision to hand over this buck – to agree to their price tag — supports a host of decisions and strategies embraced by this particular business.

In what way? Does their price tag also pay the cost tag?

As a consumer you’re typically trained to seek out the lowest price tag. However, as an aware citizen, one often finds that the low price tag is achieved by a business who legally or illegally reduces their price tag by holding down their costs. I could, as a builder, decrease my price to you by burying your construction debris in your yard instead of taking it to the dump. My costs would be lower; hence your price tag would be lower.

The ultimate, ‘hidden’ cost to the environment and all who reside therein does not just go away, does it? It just goes away from the transaction between buyer and seller. The price tag may not cover the cost tag! Instead, the commons – our shared air and water and soil – is the loser; it becomes more toxic.

Might we call this ‘toxic commerce’? I sure do. The purchase of goods and services that lead to the further deterioration of our commons, whether legal or illegal, is simply the wrong thing to do.

‘But wait’, you might say, ‘I’m free to roam. I’m an intelligent consumer and if I find the lowest price tag I’m using my money, my votes, optimally. I win!’

There’s the rub……….. this single perspective of how much money you spent does seem to grade your performance as a consumer. But what about your performance as a citizen? How can it be that your performance as a consumer seems to improve to the degree you injure me by avoiding some of the cost tag to protect my clean air and water?

Thankfully, more and more consumers are morphing into aware citizens, embracing the fact that consumption needs to support the commons, not injure it. They are trading in their single-perspective eyewear for the now fashionable, triple-perspective eyewear….. triple-bottom-line thinking. A mindset in which price and cost come into play. The perspectives of economics, environment and community all rolled into one. A mindset for the consumer to also behave like a citizen by caring for our commons. A commoner. (A new word I’ve just invented whose meaning is ‘a person who has a joint right in the commons.’)

Here’s another play on words. I’ve always enjoyed Binyon Vision Center’s tagline: “We care how you see; we care how you look”. Perhaps the tagline for a citizen wearing this new progressive, triple-bottom-line eyewear should be …”We care what you buy; we care that we not go bye-bye!”

So how does a commoner learn to refine their triple-bottom-line way of being?

On April 20th Sustainable Connections’ “4th Annual Spring Business Conference and Expo” comes to the Depot Market Square in downtown Bellingham from 8 until 5:30. It’s designed to help refine one’s triple-bottom-line path. Go to for all the particulars, including an incredible mix of keynote speakers, training sessions and exhibitors. Drop-ins are welcome if it’s not sold out, but why take a chance!

It’s an inexpensive price tag to pay in order to refine your proper place in the commons.

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