Current Research

“Pass the (fair trade, organic) pot? Political consumerism in recreational marijuana (research and writing in progress– see preliminary findings: Ethical Pot Working Paper or Ethical Pot 2pg Summary): This paper examines the nexus between environmental social movements and political consumerism within the context of recreational marijuana in Portland, Oregon (United States). Specifically, it describes which tools of ethical consumption (e.g., labeling, direct trade, community supported agriculture) environmentalists are employing to promote earth friendly pot, and discusses what these choices tell us about how environmental groups are transitioning from advocacy activities to political consumerism strategies. This paper draws on three months of original qualitative fieldwork, including interviews, media analysis, and ethnography, in Portland, Oregon. Oregon has a vibrant history of environmental activism of all stripes, including organics, domestic fair trade, and eco-terrorism. Portland, its largest city, is renowned for ethical consumption, particularly in the agri-food sector. In fall 2014 Oregonians voted to legalize recreational marijuana, and one year later dispensaries opened their doors. Environmentalists were among the diverse groups advocating legalization. They argued that legalization would diminish support for the illicit cannabis industry, which is known to divert rivers from their natural course, siphon scarce water resources, poison wildlife with pesticides, and clear cut trees in supposedly protected forests. Before legalization, environmentalists engaged in lobbying and educational campaigns. Given marijuana’s status as an illegal drug, advocating ethical consumption was not an option. Today, environmentalists can adopt strategies that are consumer-facing. This paper first documents how environmentalists have shifted their efforts to political consumerism. To the author’s knowledge, this is the first study of political consumption in licit marijuana in the United States. It draws on the political consumerism literature to discuss the potential reasons for selecting some activities over others. It explores what these choices say about transitions from advocacy to political consumerism, more generally. This paper describes how environmental social movements transition to consumer-facing activities when there is no history of ethical consumerism.

Do Voluntary Sustainability Standards Address or Overlook Income Inequality? (under review): In light of heightened attention to the linkages between income inequality and sustainable development, this article examines what role voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) play in addressing income inequality. It argues that voluntary sustainability standards-setting organizations (VSSSOs) can contribute to income equity by requiring employers to pay living wages and actively support collective bargaining. Examining the content of 25 VSS, set by 16 systematically selected VSSSOs, this study finds that only 32% of VSS mandate a living wage, and only 16% rigorously support collective bargaining. The discussion explains why supporting national minimum wages is helpful but not sufficient, examines sources of downward pressure on VSS, identifies potential explanations for variation among standards, suggests future research, and briefly describes a new initiative promoting living wage standards. While VSS are not a silver bullet for income inequality, they can better leverage their existing infrastructure to be part of a broader solution.