Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Challenge: Buy Sustainable...

I found that on another site today -- I've linked the article/challenge there with that big green box in the sidebar :o)

While I know many who can and will do this without giving it much thought, I know just as many who would cringe at the mere idea of the challenge.

  1. Ask Yourself if You Really Need to Buy it. Do you need it at all, or is it something you could live without? Can you reuse or repurpose something you already have? Maybe you have an old one in the garage that could be fixed up nicely (with the bonus of adding a repurposed/reused charm)? Or can you borrow it from a neighbor, friend or family, or even make it yourself? Also while we all need food, starting a garden will mitigate what you have to buy - you can grow vegetables year round. Plus when you start that garden, don’t buy seedlings - grow them from seed, and then save your own seeds for next year!
  2. Buy Locally. Drive as little as possible to get the item, and buy it from a locally-owned and –operated business. It’s even better if the business makes the products locally, or has a local source for them.
  3. Buy Fair Trade. Buy the item from a manufacturer that pays its workers an honest wage. AND Buy from a business with good business practices. If you have a choice, go for the business that gives back to the community, pays its workers well and gives them health insurance, and has good customer service. You may even find a business that has been built with sustainable building practices, and has taken steps to reduce its daily carbon impact.
  4. Buy Green. This means different things to different people, but essentially, minimize the impact the item has on the environment, including the materials used to produce and package it.
  5. Buy it to Last. Think twice about going cheap and easy. It’s no good for your pocketbook or the environment if you have to throw away an item when it breaks or looks ugly in a year or two, and then you have to buy another one. Instead, buy something that will last 5, 10 years - or better, a lifetime. For furniture, look at used furniture and antiques - what you find may cost the same as an item from IKEA, and it will last long enough to hand it down to your kids or your friends or someone in need. If you can’t afford good quality, wait a few months and save up to buy a good quality product that will last. In the long run, it will cost less in time, money, and environmental impact.
Could you do it? I mean really do it, 100%? Would you find an excuse to not do it for this or that item? Would you balk at jumping in headlong and complain you just weren't prepared for it now, but maybe wean yourself into the whole idea?

I think I would have some trouble in some areas, but we could easily make a very good go at it. Now, starting from scratch as we would be in many areas of this challenge, it would be a bit more costly compared to what I might be doing right now. The article addresses that. It isn't always about saving money, not that savings aren't a great thing mind you, but sometimes there is just something greater involved. Don't always look to the cost of sustainable items vs your stand-by disposable sorts. Sure, I can buy paper towels hand-over-fist because they seem cheaper in the long run...I'm not using the electricity or water to wash them...but that is really the only money issue involved, and it's more of a laziness issue for me than a cost issue. I'm not prepared to have little cloth toilet wipes hanging to dry along the bathroom wall, but honestly, that is truly the only disposable items I really would argue for around here. Cloth napkins, using hand towels for spills and the like all work better than disposable. And they aren't going into the burn pile or the garbage bin.

As the article says, it's all about being convicted and sticking to your guns in that conviction. It's hard to get out of the habits we've all been raised on...go to the store when you need it, get out that fancy appliance to mix it, blend it, bake it, wash it, dry it, etc. We tend not to buy much in bulk because we complain that there's no storage in our home for it, and besides those smaller packages are cheaper on the weekly budget. Forget that today's packages are shrinking in ounces and count yet we are paying more per unit for them. Forget we have to replace them on practically a weekly basis.

Folks, our family lives in a double-wide trailer. We have, according to measurements only, 2400 sq ft. BAH. I have 9 people living in that space, with all their individual stuff (that's another topic altogether!) and all of our combined stuff (yet another topic there as well!) and I buy everything I can get my hands on in bulk amounts. I don't buy less than 50# of oats and flour and sugars, I buy case lots of that precious toilet paper, I buy a case of laundry bars at a time to make laundry soap with or I buy a large 5 gallon tub of detergent (and I make it last at least 6mo, despite our too-large laundry needs around here). I buy powdered milk 5 boxes or more at a time, I buy yeast in 2# blocks and buy 6 a year. Schooling needs, cleaning needs, feed needs, supplies of whatever kind come to this homestead in the largest quantities I can get and haul on my own.

And I'm not storing it all outside on pallets under a tarp you know. I have every nook and cranny in this tin foil box filled with items....I have under-bed storage containers with bags of grains stored, I have put shelving up in every area I can get to (made over our master bath into a pantry because we didn't have one), I have 5 gallon pails with everyday grains for use, 6 qt canisters and gallon jars for storing everything else, pint jars for most spices and seasonings, etc.

If you want to buy in bulk and truly feel convicted that that is the way for you to go, you will find a way to store it.

If you want to buy only those things which are sustainable and as green as can be, you will find places to buy it, places to store it, new ways to use it, and even reasons for making do without things you think are prized and necessary now.

My point is (yes, I do have one tumbling about in here somewhere...) if you wanted a new car you'd move heaven and earth to go into debt and get it. you'd find a zillion reasons why it's best you get one instead of keeping what you have. Same with any other item you might be considering right now. If you want it, you'll have it no matter what the cost to you, your credit, or the planet you live on.

If you truly make the commitment to take on this challenge, you will find ways to make it happen. And you'll find those ways without flimsy excuses or whining about weaning into it all slowly. You'll be like the old Nike commercial and JUST DO IT.

One day you just might walk into my bathroom and find a pretty little container with cloth wipers soaking and a pretty little set of hooks with some already rinsed and drying on.


Maybe you'll find them hanging on the wall of our outhouse instead :o) At the end of the pretty little pathway lined with all manners of herbs and flowering medicinal plants, padded with wood chips from our tree cutting, log splitting moments.

No comments:


Jeremiah 6:16
Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.

Blog Archive