May 20, 2008

Msnbc.com’s special business series (extreme.msnbc.com) explores the trend of consumers going to extremes in their quest to align purchasing decisions with their personal politics.   Whether they are concerned about global warming, the decline of U.S. manufacturing, pesticides in produce or other hot-button issues, more and more American consumers are putting their money where their mouth is.

In a four-part series, msnbc.com reporter Allison Linn investigates these “extreme consumers,” who represent a trend that can no longer be ignored by retailers and marketers.

Part 1: Made in the U.S.A.

Today, Linn explores consumers who are passionately dedicated to buying American.  From lead paint-laced toys to poisoned dog food, recent safety scares have led many to question whether cheap imported goods are worth the potential tradeoffs.  But these extreme consumers face challenges in buying toys, apparel and many other products.

Part 2: Leaving no carbon footprint

On May 27, Linn will look at the outer fringes of the environmental consumer movement.  While many people try to help the planet by using less gas or recycling more, a handful of true activists are taking more drastic steps, such as giving up meat, buying clothes and toys secondhand and drastically reducing car travel.

Part 3: Buying little or nothing

On June 3, Linn will examine the “simplicity movement,” sometimes known as  freeganism, frugalism or anti-consumerism.  Some of these extreme (non)-consumers can literally be described as dumpster divers.  Whatever the moniker, these Americans are taking their distaste for rampant consumerism to the next level, foraging for food and other necessities in trash bins, on sidewalks and through networks of like-minded people.  Some have given up high-paying careers, bigger houses and fancy cars in their quest to live on as little as possible.  Linn’s story examines whether this extreme movement will gain momentum in an economic downturn.

Part 4: Eating local

The series wraps on June 10, with a behind-the-scenes look at the “locavore” movement. You need not look much further than your local Whole Foods or Wal-Mart to see that organic food is all the rage these days.  But for some people, the push to buy foods grown more responsibly is more than just a passing fancy – it’s a lifestyle commitment.  A growing number of Americans, from upstate New York to metropolitan Portland, Ore. are trying to eat mainly food and livestock grown within 100 miles of their homes.

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