Think before you pink

By By Beth Ranschaw

By Beth Ranschaw

In a recent trip to my local supermarket, I was attacked by a parade of pink. Pink had infiltrated almost all my once-bland products. Pink was on my yogurt, my cereal, my cosmetics and even my TV dinners.

During National Breast Cancer Awareness month, many pink products boast donations of “a percentage of the profits to increasing awareness,” and initially, I felt an overwhelming sense of philanthropy. I thought to myself: “Simply by shopping, I can donate to a serious cause? Shopping? Now that’s something I can do.”

But after I got my array of pink products home and began to read the fine print, I found out that my consumer habits do not necessarily promote a humanitarian cause.

For instance, while Yoplait yogurt assures customers that for each pink yogurt lid they send back between October and December, Yoplait will donate 10 cents to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Even if I could eat four containers of yogurt a day for the month of October-and I assure you, I cannot-my donation would come to the grand total of $12.40 (not including postage).

Clearly, with the American Cancer Society estimating that last year alone more than 200,000 women were diagnosed with new cases of invasive breast cancer and another 40,000 women died from the disease, everyone can admit that increasing awareness of breast cancer is a good cause.

Increasing awareness, however, is no longer the issue. With people witnessing the effects of breast cancer on their friends and families, millions have donned pink ribbons in hopes of increasing awareness and education, evincing that breast cancer is no longer a secret.

While other companies who proudly bare pink like Yoplait go further by donating profits to organizations such as the Susan G. Komen or the Breast Cancer Research Foundations, it is important that consumers be critical.

Such criticism can be hard to find in the midst of pink this October. Thinkbeforeyoupink.org is one source of information providing consumers with facts to consider before purchasing pink products. The Web site is a project of Breast Cancer Action, a member organization that stresses the importance of consumer action and specifies important questions to ask-such as how much of your money is being donated, to which organizations and to what extent these corporations practice what they preach.

The Web site exposes companies that, despite their colorfully advertised donations, do not display a larger devotion to the prevention of breast cancer through their practices. For example, while Estee Lauder has agreed to donate up to $100,000 in proceeds from its Elizabeth in Pink lipstick, the cosmetic company has not signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics that would guarantee that their products do not contain chemicals known for causing cancer. Presently, as thinkbeforeyoupink.org points out, Estee Lauder uses a chemical class called parabens that is linked to breast cancer.

Before you throw away your pink ribbons in protest of these devious marketing techniques, remember that breast cancer is a disease that has affected all of us. Many have witnessed the ramifications of this disease among friends, grandmothers, mothers and sisters, and for many, the pink ribbons remind us of that. It is because breast cancer is such a serious issue that we all need to consider how we choose to fight the fight.

Instead of buying pink products this month, why not simply donate money directly to preventative and research organizations? Rather than being concerned with “awareness” or “the cure,” we must begin to consider what we can do to prevent this disease from taking more lives.

When it comes down to it, 10 percent of our time, energy and money is not enough.