There’s a backlash against the kind of rampant consumerism that we’ve seen over the last what? decade? forever, here in the USA? Have you heard about the Compactyet, the movement that began in San Francisco with a decision to buy nothing new for an entire year (excluding medicine, plain old undies, and food, that is)?
Think about what you’d like to teach your children: that buying something is good, or that doing something is good? Which message do you like better? In a lifestyle where ‘retail therapy’ is part of the daily vernacular, and children are fighting each other over the clothes on their backs, don’t you think it’s time we, as responsible adults, began to teach a simpler life by example?
Start with the premise that most of the world lives very differently than Americans do. Have you ever read that old chestnut about if the world were a village of 100 people? Miniature Earth has a nice, visual presentation of some of the statistics, including this one:
“If you keep your food in a refrigerator, your clothes in a closet, sleep in a bed, and have a roof over your head, you are richer than 75% of the world’s population.”
Statistics vary, but most variations on this theme put five people, all of them Americans, in possession of 32% of the world’s wealth. Makes you think, doesn’t it? (Here is a nice sitethat compiles some of the “State of the Village” report history.)
What can you do? Well, for starters, do you really recycle? As in Reduce, Re-use, Recycle? Sure, you can take those plastic bags from the market and then bring them back to the bins for recycling. Or you can re-use them around your house in the small trash cans, to pick up dog poop, whatever. OR you can bring a bunch of canvas bags to the market and reduce the need for plastic bags in the world. Are you throwing things away? There are organizations that help you circulate your unwanteds to folks who do want them, starting with Salvation Army-type places and moving on to Freecycle, Community Forklift, and SocialWay. Why not release a book into the wild through Bookcrossing? Buy a share in a farm operation through Community Supported Agriculture, plant your own gardenwith seeds and cuttings from other green thumbs, or barter your skills and assets for trade in kind.
Can you go without? Can you cross Target and Walmart off your list of places to go?
How about supporting local stores when you do shop? The mom and pop stores, the amazing and magical hardware stores, the farmer’s markets and artisan open air stalls that spring up magically from the pavement on the weekends?
Can we teach our children that there’s more to life than television, video games, street fashion and the power of the almighty buck to fill our houses and minds with junk? Can we?
I’m going to try. I’m off to a good start today. A friend got a free coffee at the locally owned, wonderful coffee shop, Murky Coffee, and she gave it to me. I went to the grocery store and only bought food, and all of it was on some kind of sale, mostly buy one get one free. I walked all over the place. I used dish towels and cloth napkins, and haven’t bought paper products–besides toilet paper–since we moved in. I’m in desperate need of bookshelves but will live with boxes towering over my head til I can find some used ones. Preferably free ones. I’m giving some of my son’s toys to a local community center. I’m pondering an herb and cuttings garden out front this spring, and am keeping my eyes open for top soil. A friend of a friend gave me some of her old clothes the other day, and most of them look good on me. My son is very serious about what to do with spent batteries already (we only own two battery-operated toys), and we never throw old batteries in the trash. I’m gathering up all the old, dead <a title="Cell Phone Recycling and Donations" href="http://www.grcrecycling.com/index.cfm">cell phones to donate.
I think I might get the hang of this. How about you?
(Many thanks to Amy at Fannfare for sending me the link to the Telegraph story, “The year of living frugally: how 10 friends survived without shopping“, on even the same day that I announced to my free-coffee-giving friend that I was going to stop buying new, and she came back with, “Oh, like the Compact? Me too!”)