Monday, November 12, 2007

:: Sucks Hormone-Laden Eggs ::

A few weeks ago I wrote about what a thoughtless consumer I am. I’d link to the post but (a) I’m kinda lazy right now and (b) you can find it by searching for “chart” in the search box to the right if you just really really need to read that post.

Here’s the relevant bit right here:

I need to make some changes. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to learn to be a better consumer. […] I’m going to be more thoughtful. I’m going to research my options. I’m going to learn about buying local foods. I’m going to make gifts and give books that I buy directly from small publishers or that I get at the really cool independent bookstore downtown. I’m going to give cloth diapers another shot. (Actually, we tried Evan’s two Fuzzi Bunz today and he has finally grown into them and they worked great — except for a big leak after a nap, but I could get used to changing them more frequently.) I’m going to stop pretending that making good choices is something only rich people can do.

If you’ve ever read my journals, which you better not have ever done because come on people that’s my journal and by the way what are you doing in my bedroom, you know that this reeks of me. It reeks of Gee I Need To Change My Life In a Drastic Way and I Need To Do It Now.

So OK. I’m a bit overzealous sometimes. And yet, there’s something real here. Sometimes going way overboard and then looking at the results yields self-knowledge.

A progress report should tell the tale…

Thinking More Before I Shop: Very Good
Shopping Independent Stores: Quite Good
Actually Buying at Independent Stores: Not As Good But Better Than Before

I haven’t been to Target since I wrote that post. Twenty-five days without stepping foot in Target. My mom, if she’s reading this, just gasped. But I don’t miss it. I haven’t needed anything and so I haven’t gone. Easy. Boring, at times, but easy.

I have also made a very concerted effort to shop at local, independent shops. I visited the indie bookstore, took Evan to the local toy store to shop for a birthday present for a small friend, and patronized the local yarn shop. The latter was cool, actually, because in the back there were all these ladies sitting around a table knitting. Between the woman who worked there and these women, I had everything I needed in the way of advice and suggestions. And they doted on Evan, which of course was a bonus. The best part about going there, though, was that they had so much more to choose from. I had cashmere at my fingertips, something I’ve never even seen at JoAnn Fabrics, which is where I’d usually get my yarn.

Buying Locally-grown Food: Needs But Probably Won’t Get Improvement

Turns out, even though I know know know that there are really excellent reasons for buying locally-grown produce and meat and all, I really just don’t care enough about this. I like eating nectarines and strawberries in winter, and I’m just not really going to drive 15 miles to some farm north of here to buy eggs and chickens. I’ve never actually even cooked chicken (this falls in the Have Hubby Do It arena), and frankly the idea of buying one whole freaks me out. Knowing where it comes from and saving the planet from refrigerated-truck carbon emissions just apparently isn’t enough to convince me that driving around with a whole dead chicken in my trunk is a good idea.

Buying Organic: Contentedly Sucks Non-Organic, Hormone-Laden Eggs (Or Needs Improvement But Come On, Really?)

Again, here my knowledge and my values come into conflict. I know that buying organic is a good thing and I am convinced that pesticides from our food are probably not good for us. Probably there’s some pesticide leaching through my membranes right this very minute, mutating my genes and cells. This bothers me on some level, of course. And if it were a case of immediate threat or harm – like in the case of GHB-laced kid toys – then I’d be singing a different tune. But honestly, while I believe that pesticides (and BPA, for that matter) are probably harming us, I also believe that we all need to die of something and if dying from 80 years of pesticide exposure is it, then whatever. I’ve made it this long with no symptoms, right?

Using Cloth Diapers: Slight Improvement Shown; Potential For Further Improvement

I’ve started using Evan’s cloth diapers more, although since we have only two that fit him, that’s almost a moot point. At best I can cut out two disposables a day, if I wash the two cloth ones every night, but then we’re getting into water consumption and other factors that I don’t fully understand, and so I use them every time I do laundry and figure that a little is better than nothing. I hope to buy some more and by the time baby number two comes around (oh, I mean if and when baby number two comes around of course – no need to startle anyone) we’ll be better informed about how to do cloth.

Making Gifts / Buying Handmade: Shows Excellent Progress

I have many projects in the works that I can’t tell you about because their recipients read this blog. How nice of them and how boring for the rest of you. But trust me: they’re good. I also made my Christmas list using Etsy, which is, I think, one of the best things about the Internet. In fact, you should go there now. Find something pretty. Buy it.

Overall Assessment:
Actually cares about buying from the folks who make things and folks who own their own shops. Fully able to restrict mindless spending.

Only half-cares about reducing waste (particularly in the form of disposable diapers).

Doesn't give even half a hoot about buying local or organic food and probably won't ever give even a tiny fraction of a hoot.

Transformed? No, not really. More mindful, though? Yup. Aware of values? Definitely.

The best thing to come out of this so far has been the new-found understanding of what I believe about things like where and how I spend my money (and my efforts). I have been barraged with buzzwords like "Buy Local" and "Go Organic" but haven't ever really given much thought to whether I understand the terms and am willing to commit to the lifestyle.

I also didn't realize before how important going indie was to me. Brian challenged me in the car one day about this, saying something about how all businesses, even the biggest ones, started out as local businesses. He also pointed out that sometimes, the bigger, national (or supranational) chain stores have benefits: they may provide health insurance to employees who might not get health insurance from independent store owners; they provide consumers with a certain level of confidence that they can go to any Starbucks, let's say, and know what they're getting; they can provide deeper discounts on things like kitty litter and hand soap and garbage bags.

I have to admit, I felt stuck at first. I felt in my gut that I wanted to defend my new-found desire to shop indie stores and to buy handmade whenever possible, but I had no reasons to back this up. Unwilling to lose to my devil's advocate husband, I sat awhile and thought. And thought. And then I started in with my ideas. And it turns out, I convinced myself:

  1. I believe in ownership. I really like the idea that there are people out there who own the businesses that they run. I wish that more of us could own something big, could know what it means to be in charge, to be the one making the decisions. More indie stores means more owners. More revenue for indie stores means possibly more indie stores.

  2. I believe in making things with my hands, and in supporting other people who make things with their hands. It's hard to make a living doing this and I want to support people who are trying.

  3. I believe in variety and in creativity. I can buy an inexpensive necklace at Target and see three people wearing it within a week, or I can buy an inexpensive necklace from someone on Etsy and have something that no one else has. When we start to think outside of the Which Big Store Is Closest And How Much Can I Get There box, we start to discover all kinds of neat things that we never would have found otherwise. Things we won't see on every kid in the supermarket or in every garage. Have you seen these, for example? Or these?


juliepippert November 12, 2007 at 7:11 AM  

It sounds great...balanced and realistic. Good for you!

Using My Words

Christina November 13, 2007 at 6:17 PM  

I don't think it's realistic to try to make so many changes at once - your approach seems to be a good compromise, and you can feel good about the changes you have made.

I should probably just e-mail you about this, but which knitting store did you go to? My fav. is Knitters Mercantile just off High St. It's always fun to hear about new knitting stores in town.

I hope you'll take pictures of the crafts you're working on and show them after the holidays. Do you read the Sew, Mama, Sew! blog? They're doing new craft projects each day in November.