As you may have remembered from my first ever post way back when, consumer consciousness is an area of interest of mine. There are all sorts of different reasons people buy what they buy, and of course why people buy the brands they buy. Back in high school, my Latin teacher commented that she wouldn’t buy Papa John’s pizza because they support conservative causes. I always remember that statement as interesting, almost silly, but never really gave much thought to it. On the rare occasion that I want pizza, I either make it myself to lean towards organic wood-oven pizza, so buying or not buying from Papa John’s didn’t really cross my mind. Now though, her comments are beginning to resonate, thanks to an article from The Advocate.

This time Papa John’s isn’t the company in question, but Bolthouse Farms, a California based farm that distributes amazing fruit and vegetable drinks, as well as protein smoothies. Though they’re expensive, the soy protein shake is delicious and I’ve come to associate it with just getting over really bad stomach bugs so it’s also a very comforting drink. The article in the Advocate then, that founder William Bolthouse Jr. had just donated $100,000 to Protect Marriage/Yes on Proposition 8, was pretty disappointing.

In the interest of full disclosure, the Advocate does point out that Bolthouse Jr. made the contribution without the knowledge of the company out of his own private fund, and the current CEO, Jeff Dunn, made a personal donation of $5,000 to No on Prop. 8 and noted that Bolthouse Farms provides full medical to same-sex couples.

My two immediate thoughts are best encapsulated by the incomparable Margaret Cho, from her book “I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight,” where she notes that creating separate marriage rules for gays and lesbians is a threat to the principals on which our nation is founded and freedom itself, and my high-school physics teacher’s comment “Justice everywhere is threatened by injustice anywhere.” (No surprises there, right?) So my immediate reaction is similar to that of Fred Karger’s, saying “”William Bolthouse’s $100,000 contribution is an insult to gay and lesbian Americans…Why should we spend our hard-earned money buying Bolthouse Farms’ products only to have it used against us?”  And while the chairman of the board has also stated his intention to use “the business as a platform for ministry.”

The schism in the company over Prop. 8 has me pretty torn as well. Though the company as an entity is not supporting or opposing Prop. 8, it certainly seems that some of the profits are being funneled to one side or the other. Previous consumer consciousness choices have been easy for me, as they have involved not buying products tested on animals and avoiding clothing made utilizing sweatshop labor. This one’s a lot more grey and involves potentially boycotting a company that produces some of my favorite products. Ultimately, Karger’s comment does sum up the main reason to be aware of the products we buy: profits from purchases we make support various causes, for good or for ill.

As you can see, I’m pretty conflicted on this one, especially since the company itself doesn’t fall either way. It’s already tough enough to find ethical products, and I never anticipated gay marriage being a factor in this decision. What are your thoughts, readers? Do these contributions reflect the intentions of the individuals making them or are they representative of the company as a whole? I haven’t decided if ceasing purchases from Bolthouse are necessary, but I certainly think differently of the company now.