October 01, 2009

Think before you pink

October has rolled around again. Even in September, Yoplait yogurt was advertising on national television for people to lick their pink yogurt lids clean and mail them to the company so it can make a (modest?) donation to Komen for the Cure.

This is a pet peeve of mine: the "pinking" of breast cancer. Getting people to buy pink beribboned merchandise in the hope that some of the sale price will benefit breast cancer research, or support women living with breast cancer.

Personally, I'd prefer that instead of buying more pink ribbon stuff, you simply make a donation in any amount to a worthy breast cancer-related cause.

The people at Think Before You Pink have created some critical questions to ask before you buy pink:
1. How much money from your purchase actually goes toward breast cancer? Is the amount clearly stated on the package?

When the package does state the amount of the donation, is that amount enough? Fox Home Entertainment, for example, sold “DVDs for the Cure” for $14.95 and donated 50 cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Is this a significant contribution, or a piddly amount? You decide. If you can’t tell how much money is being donated, or if you don’t think it’s enough, give directly to the organization instead.

2. What is the maximum amount that will be donated?

Many companies place a cap on the amount of money that will be donated. For example, Give Hope Jeans, sold by White House Black Market for $88, donated “net proceeds” from the sale to the organization Living Beyond Breast Cancer. But they’ve capped their contributions at $200,000. This means that once they had reached the $200,000 limit they stopped contributing, no matter how many pairs of jeans were purchased.

In some cases, that cap is a generous amount. In some cases it’s not. But you should know that, whenever there is a cap, your individual purchase may not contribute anything to the cause, depending on when you shop and whether the cap has already been met.

3. How are the funds being raised?

Does making the purchase ensure a contribution to the cause? Or do you, the shopper, have to jump through hoops to make sure the money gets where it’s supposed to go? Lean Cuisine, for example, had a pink ribbon on its boxes of frozen meals, but the purchase of the meal did not result in a donation to a breast cancer organization. Instead, consumers had to visit the Lean Cuisine web site and buy a pink Lean Cuisine lunch tote. Only then would $5 of the tote purchase be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

4. To what breast cancer organization does the money go, and what types of programs does it support?

Does the product’s package tell you where the money goes and what will be done with it? For example, Penn is selling pink tennis balls and the package states that 15 cents of your purchase will go to “a Breast Cancer Research Organization.” It doesn’t tell you which organization or what kind of research will be done. Will the money go to fund the same studies that have been ongoing for decades (which already get enormous financial support)? Or will it go to under-funded, innovative research into the causes of breast cancer?

If the donation is going to breast cancer services, is it reaching the people most in need, in the most effective way? The Breast Cancer Site store, for example, donates money to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, which helps pay for mammograms for women who cannot afford them. But mammograms are already covered for low-income women through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. Although this screening program does have limitations, what is most needed is the funding to get low-income women treatment if breast cancer is found. Click here to learn more about this issue.

5. What is the company doing to assure that its products are not actually contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?

Many companies that raise funds for breast cancer also make products that are linked to the disease. Breast Cancer Action calls these companies “pinkwashers.” BMW, for example, gives $1 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure each time you test-drive one of their cars, even though pollutants found in car exhaust are linked to breast cancer. Many cosmetics companies whose products contain chemicals linked to breast cancer also sell their items for the cause.

Think before you spend your money on pink items.

That says it all.


  1. Go check www.thinkbeforeyoupink.org...

  2. Good post Jill. Excellent post.

  3. The only thing I have to say is "You got that right!"
    Take this link as a starting point - Relay for Life - for making a difference,

  4. Anonymous9:08 AM

    Once again, thank you for "think before you pink." The same applies to companies that don't "pink" but, for example, give a portion of proceeds of bottled water to environmental organizations.
    - bjohanna

  5. "Personally, I'd prefer that instead of buying more pink ribbon stuff, you simply make a donation in any amount to a worthy breast cancer-related cause." - AMEN from a fellow breast cancer survivor!

  6. Great Post and I agree about the pinkness out there. Very good advise posted.

    I was rambling on my blog tonight about some paranoias...I have a PET Scan coming up on Monday. You had bone metastasis diagnosed in 2002? So you're going on 7 nearly 8 years surviving it...that is amazing. Congratulations. YOU are amazing, to go through so much and still keep fighting!

    This is my blog http://butimjustsayin.blogspot.com/
    though I actually now call it Dirty Pink Underbelly. The first post in August explains that one. I was just too lazy to start a new blog. In a nutshell: breast cancer in 2006 w/ lymph node involvement, clean mammograms to this day ever since, and now metastasis on my bones. I have a PET Scan Monday, a month after finishing some palliative radiation therapy.

    I follow your blog and find much inspiration. And can't remember if I've ever left you comments before!

  7. Ah but, some people wont make a donation but they will buy pink products. With this fact in mind surely it is good that even a small amount is donated to the fight against breast cancer rather than none at all?

  8. Sorry, I can't agree with Sara at all on this one. The problem is when you buy the pink ribbon junk, you have NO IDEA how much money, if any at all, will be donated, which organization gets the donation, and whether there is a cap on donations, unless the producer of the pink ribbon item discloses this information or you do some research before you buy. Read the article on Think Before You Pink carefully and then decide if you really need that pink ribbon item.