Women's hand using a dial pad on a machine. The fore finger is placed on the dial pad key and is about to press on that. Small sized display with blue background light is also visible.

People care when they know.

That’s the tagline in a recent video from Fashion Revolution, a global movement in 71 countries trying to set an industry-wide example of better standards in the fashion industry, featuring a 2-euro shirt vending machine with a twist. Once people put their money into the machine to purchase the stylishly packaged white t-shirts, a video comes up on the screen showing them who made the clothing and under what conditions.

After viewing the video, purchasers had the option to buy the t-shirt… or donate money to support the workers. Unsurprisingly, eight out of ten shoppers who participated in the social experiment in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz chose to donate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfANs2y_frk

The movement is hoping to challenge brands and retailers to take responsibility for the people and communities on which their business depends. The video suggests that, when confronted with the conditions in which inexpensive clothing is produced, most people would choose not to purchase the product.

People care when they know.

They know when they learn the facts—whether through a creative social experiment, a viral article, or a conversation with a knowledgeable friend.

But what happens after you know the facts? How do you decide how to help? How do you decide which causes you’re willing or able to “take on”? And—a less comfortable question—how do you not feel guilty? For the luxuries and money you have, for the comfy bed you sleep in, for the food you sometimes throw away, for the extra-long shower you take…the list goes on and on.

There are so many worthwhile causes and important changes we can make to improve every aspect of the world we live in, from the environment to the lives of factory workers abroad. Deciding what to care about, how to make a change, and how to balance that with the reality of our own lives is a difficult equilibrium not often talked about.

There is a point in many of our lives where we come to this exact crossroads of what to do and how to accomplish our goals. Often we end up feeling overwhelmed, guilty, or helpless. Of course we want to help, but sometimes we’re not sure how, or if, we can.

That’s why it’s so important to search for the little actions in everyday life that offer a chance to create change. For some, that might mean taking action in a big way in order to create sustainable change in an area of the world you feel deep compassion for. For others, it might be something small: drawing attention to a cause you care about through social media like these inspiring teens, making donations to worthy causes with guidance of websites like Charity Navigator, or volunteering your time in your own community.

This vending machine experiment also shows that education must be paired with a chance to take action. When we’re showing others what we know, we must also offer an alternative—whether that’s a small change, or a bigger one—so people who do care can use what they know.

There are so many causes worth caring about and it can sometimes begin to feel like our part doesn’t matter. But if people care when they know, then perhaps the best thing any of us can do is learn and share, hoping we encourage others to start the cycle all over again.


Amanda Oliver is a freelance writer, librarian, and frequent traveler. Currently all of her belongings fit into one suitcase. Visit her website, or follow her on Twitter: @aelaineo.