Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Consumerism vs. Conservation

This has been an interesting year for me in terms of consumerism vs. conservation, so to speak. What I mean is, struggling with my love for shopping and the novelty value of having something new versus my efforts to go green, recycle and reuse, save the planet and all that.

It started back in February (?) when I read Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine. Levine and her husband, (if my memory serves me) are native New Yorkers who were as caught up in the same consumer culture as the rest of us of buying, accumulating (but not always using), and then buying some more. With a few minor exceptions, both pretty well stuck to their pact to go a year without buying anything other than basic necessities.

As inspired as I was by her efforts, I, like probably most people, know I would never be able to go a whole month, let alone a year without buying something outside the box of “necessity.” That’s one of the reasons I like to go grocery shopping, so I can reward myself with either a magazine or newspaper, or maybe a sweet to enjoy after I’m done with the task at hand.

However, as I am also a fan of Ed Begley Jr. and his efforts to “go green,” I have tried to step up my efforts to recycle and reuse even more and find other ways to be environmentally friendly.

For starters I bought the Page-a-Day calendar “Living Green – 365 Ways to Make a Difference.” At first I really tried to embrace each idea and often put pages aside to refer back to later. However, by about half way through the year I found myself knit-picking their ideas and how absurd many of them are (like trying to get your company to be environmentally friendly – yeah right! good luck with trying to convert corporate America!).

I also bought the environmentally friendly water bottles I saw on an episode of “Oprah.” Unlike a lot of plastic bottles, these are partially made of corn. Maybe it’s that reason that they’re not recyclable. They tell you the bottles can be reused up to 90 times. I didn’t even try to keep count, but only after about 9 months switched to a new bottle and noticed a major difference. As each bottle has a filter (that the water passed through as you suck it out the spout), I can see why this is necessary.

I have stocked up on enough canvas bags to hold a year’s worth of groceries - now if I can only remember to grab one every time I go into a store (not just grocery stores). FYI- it’s a good idea to write your name in marker somewhere on the bag so they don’t try to charge you for their store bag when you use it (Target!).

My husband and I stocked up on CFLs on our last trip to Ikea and have tried to replace bulbs wherever we can, but as a lot of our lights are on dimmers, those aren’t as straightforward.

We are rinsing out a lot of our plastic bags (including store produce bags) and reusing them as much as possible, and still save the occasional piece of tinfoil or clear wrap.

I greatly reduced my lunch time shopping trips – partially because of road construction (and revamping of a favorite store) near some of the shops, and partially wanting to avoid the old consumerism trap (probably more due to the road construction/revamping to be honest).

Cutting down on shopping certainly means I have a lot more free time to do things around the house (or read more on my lunch hour). I am forever moaning about not having time for all my little projects, but when given the time, I still find I would rather be out and about scouting for a bargain or the often overlooked treasure. It’s hard to reprogram years and years of a bad habit.

Today I came across this blog called The Simple Dollar that sums up my life perfectly. At the top it says, “Be a Creator, Not a Consumer.”

“A lot of us want to accomplish something great. We want to read the great works of Western literature. We want to train for and run in a 5K. We want to write the “Great American Novel.” We want to have the perfect home for our family.

The truth is that no product on earth will ever make these things happen. You can get the great books of Western literature for free from the library, but you can’t buy the time and patience and concentration to read them. You can have the best running shoes on Earth, but if you’re not out there jogging thirty minutes every day, they’re useless - the barefooted fellow will do substantially better.

You can have all the slick notebooks in the world, but if they’re just filled with empty pages, they’re useless.”

The things I personally hoard the most are books and craft supplies. To my credit, I am trying to make an effort with the books. It’s been months since I set foot in my local library. Instead I am trying to read my own books first. Okay, so I have bought as many if not more books this year than I’ve checked out of the library, it’s still an effort, albeit not a perfect one.

As far as the craft supplies go, I am just trying not to buy more of them, and making a list of goals/completion dates to try and get inspired to use some of the blank photo albums/books I’ve bought. Since I am currently in the middle of a 6 week session of classes, trying to do anything else besides homework / practice for these classes is a major effort, so I’ve postponed most projects until after Christmas (I don’t plan on taking anymore classes until at least March).

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