09/30/2014 03:06 pm ET Updated Nov 30, 2014

Shift Your Spending to Make a Real Difference

How are you going to spend your money today?

The reason I ask is because... it matters, especially when it comes to protecting our environment and reducing climate change. Here's how.

You've all heard the old saying, "Money talks."

I look at it a little differently.

I believe money makes things move. It's like the way flowing water can dislodge a tiny pebble, but eventually thrust even big boulders downstream. The way we spend money moves politicians to vote, governments to act, other people to care.

Our spending habits also influence the kind of products companies manufacture, and how. Because manufacturing burns so much energy and uses so many resources, a company's decisions affect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the places we go to relax and connect to our spiritual selves. Global warming? Yup, that, too.

The more we opt for products and services that benefit the environment, the more we move companies to be more environmentally responsible, the more responsible we are ourselves, and the better off we all are.

Please don't misunderstand me.

I firmly advocate for the passage of strong local and national legislation that will enforce and strengthen laws and regulations that require all of us -- individuals, communities and companies alike -- to do as much as we can to save energy and consume less.

I regularly work for political candidates at the state and federal level who are committed to passing legislation that will have massive and sweeping impact on climate change, toxic chemicals, land use and other environmental issues that affect the health and wellbeing of all Earth's living creatures.

And I don't believe "retail therapy" is the only solution to our energy and environmental woes. Runaway consumerism has played a significant role in the collapse of the planet, given the energy, water, land and other resources required to produce all the stuff people buy... and buy... and buy.

That said, I do believe that if we overlook our consumer clout, we are abandoning one of the most powerful and available tools we have to make a difference.

Of course, first and foremost, we need to buy less. This should be a "no brainer."

Remember "reduce, reuse and recycle"? It still makes sense. With the onset of so many wonderful sharing sites, neighborhood list-servs, online re-selling and swapping options, and mobile apps, we should all head to the web or our neighborhood thrift stores and consignment shops before we head to the mall.

But the three Rs get us only so far. Whether we've been paring down our purchases for years or are greenhorns when it comes to a green lifestyle, on some level we still need to shop.

When we do, we can make our concerns felt by shifting our spending to the greenest products and services available. As much as manufacturers oppose environmental legislation and regulation, they embrace what happens in the marketplace. They have to. Consumer dollars are their lifeblood. Corporate need for profit gives consumers power.

Why don't we use it?

You know that other old saying, the one about the future being "in our hands"?

Well, it's not.

The future is in our purses and pocketbooks.

We can spend our money dislodging a few pebbles here and there.

Or we can spend it moving big boulders downstream.

It's our choice. Our world.

I say we move boulders.