Organic Stuff = Stuff

This post was inspired by: http://wandrlymagazine.com/lifestyle/minimalism/

The online magazine this article is in is on Kickstarter. I’m going to back them, because I think this kind of journalism is important and I want to see more of it. Just as with VPR, I’m going to support that which I think is good and worthy in this world. I hope you’ll join me, as they only have seven days left and still have about halfway to go. Here’s a link to their Kickstarter page:  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/615258261/wandrly-everymans-how-to-guide-for-full-time-trave?ref=live

Now, before I get started, let me just say I TOTALLY totally get the irony of someone preaching non-consumerism on a blog attached to their tea shop’s website. Yes, I want you to buy tea. I just don’t want you to buy other stuff. Ya know, that you don’t need. Or stuff that you could get second hand.

So, I’ve been walking around my new city, Montpelier, Vermont, lately and something’s been bothering me. I’ve been here for almost a year, but reading the aforementioned article is what finally helped me determine what it is.

I live in the greenest town around and everyone here prides themselves on being at the forefront of knowledge and action on sustainability issues. EVERYONE recycles. Composting is no uncommon. Everyone makes an effort to eat organic, to walk instead of driving, to grow their own food, and eat local food. All these things are really really great, and having just moved back from New Mexico where none of this is the case, I’m super super psyched to be in a place where it is common to love and protect the world we live in.

Yet I walk around downtown- running errands, taking kids to school, just enjoying the wonderful weather and trying to get the baby to nap- and what do I see? Brand new clothes and shoes, all the latest style of strollers, kid carriers, bicycles. Every person I see seems to have such nice, new stuff. Now I have absolutely no doubt they did their research and bought the most local, sustainably produced version of this. And I think taking the extra time and spending the extra dough to get sustainably produced stuff is great! BUT

CONSUMING SUSTAINABLY PRODUCED STUFF IS STILL CONSUMING STUFF!!!

That’s right! I said it! You can’t be holier-than-thou because you only shop at the Co-op, then turn around and buy buy buy all kinds of brand new things you don’t need. It is NOT green to buy stuff new, so matter how much effort went into reducing the impact of the manufacturing process. That item was still manufactured. It still required the use of materials and energy to come into existence.  If nothing else, the widget or thingamajig or whoosie-whatsi had to be shipped from the place of manufacture to the distributor.Free Shipping Isn't Free For more information on the environmental and health impacts of shipping, go here: http://www.oecd.org/trade/environmentandtrade/2386636.pdf

Perhaps you’re wondering what you should do instead. You do need bikes and kid carriers and clothes after all.  Here’s what I do – explore every possible option for getting something used before I buy it new.  I check with friends and relatives to see if they have one clogging up their home. If not, I check craigslist, consignment stores, and thrift shops. Try to remember that which we learned in grade school: REDUCE-REUSE-RECYCLE. 

If all else fails, try making that which you need but can not find elsewhere. I recognize and appreciate that the materials may still need to be shipped to you. But maybe not. Yarn can be locally sourced. So can wood. 

I’m not suggesting that we never buy anything new. We all need food, and underwear, and tea! Somethings need to be new for hygienic or safety reasons. I wouldn’t suggest you buy a used car seat or try to make one yourself (although it’s fine to use one a friend had if they can assure you it’s never been in an accident).  Some days you just really WANT that new dress. And yes, you probably deserve it. I wouldn’t want to buy a used cell phone with the frequency of upgrades these days. I’m not unrealistic or militaristic on the subject, we all need something new every now and then.

And we’re not perfect. We all do what we can do in the world. I’m just asking that next time you go to buy something, please take a moment to consider a few questions:

1. Do I really NEED this thing? Or is it something that’s just going to clutter up my house more? Is it something I think I need the newest version of so I can look cool/fancy/well off to those around me? Or will a pre-owned version work just as well?

2. Is this something that needs to be new? Can I take the time to ask around with my friends, look around for a pre-owned model?

If we all take the time to consider these questions, I’m willing to bet we can all reduce our footprints just a little more, and leave just a little more for everyone else 🙂

Thanks for taking the time to read my rant! Please leave a comment. I cherish feedback, and learn from that which is not positive.

3 thoughts on “Organic Stuff = Stuff

  1. I totally totally agree! I think a large part of the materialism that we’ve both witnessed in our home area is due to stylishness, a trait that neither one of us can say to possess in any large quantity…! It’s a sad state of affairs that a movement that can be said to espouse minimalistic living and recycling has morphed into one of the largest ‘buy more stuff’ campaigns of the last decade. Greenwashing is EVERYWHERE.

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