Monday, April 26, 2010

I'm a changed woman.

I've been working hard at trying to finish The Story of Stuff book, and I'm almost there.  I can probably read the rest of it tonight.  Having said that, I must say that shopping is a totally different experience with this new knowledge.  Today I found myself at the Mall of Georgia.  I held an Apple iPad and thought, oh cool I can see the whole web page - but what's the point?  I ducked into Old Navy and even tried on a pair of khakis.  My thought used to be that I could never have too many khaki pants.  Now, I'm thinking mine don't yet have holes in them and I no longer feel the need to have one in every color.  We went into the Disney Store.  Now, I love all things Disney, but did you know that Haitian workers in Port au Prince who sew Disney garments only make $3.75 an hour?  I was able to buy two shirts for Sarah for $7.50 each.  Where's all that profit going?  The CEO of Disney, Michael Eisner made 8.3 million in 2005.  So those poor Haitian working mothers who don't even get home in time to see their kids go to bed are paying the price.  It's not fair.  With almost all of our goods in the U.S. being made very cheaply overseas, things break down faster and easier than they used to.  And why don't we repair them rather than buy a new one?  I'll tell you why - because many times it is actually cheaper to buy a new one than to have your broken one fixed!  That's planned obsolescence.  We should be making things here, making them durable and right, and then having them fixed when they break instead of throwing them in our landfills, or worse...shipping them overseas to pollute someone else's country.  Repairing things here has another bonus: more jobs!

Here's another interesting fact: in the U.S. 12.9% of all municipal garbage (that means the garbage that you and I throw away) is FOOD SCRAPS!  Yet poverty is rampant all over the world.  We have the smart brains to figure out how to put a man on the Moon, how to design an iPhone, how to perform life saving heart surgeries and brain surgeries - yet we can't solve our poverty problem?  Did you know that 30.9% of our municipal garbage is containers and packaging for all those things we buy?  I'm as guilty as anyone else.  I like stuff.  I've been trained to like stuff all of my life.  By the time we are 20 years old, the average American has viewed nearly a million ads.  In 2006, $276 billion was spent on advertising.  One year we buy khakis with a straight cut, the next year, a skinny cut, the next year a super flare - ads tell us what we should want, and then we do want it, and then we buy it and then next year, we're on to something else.  Again, planned obsolescence.  At age 35, I've already seen fashions from the 80's make a comeback (god help us).  What will it be this decade?  We think all these new things will make us happy.  But research says they don't.  They make us feel better for a couple of weeks, and then poof, we get that credit card bill and start feeling bad about our debt.

How do we find a way out of this work-shop-spend cycle?  How do we buy less and therefore, decrease the demands on our planet?  I don't yet have the answers to those questions.  But what I do now have is a different feeling when I shop.  If I need it, I'll buy it - but only if I can justify a need or a super-duper want.  A super-duper want for me consists of thinking about something for at least two weeks before finally giving in and making the purchase.  And having been raised with the old adage, women are born to shop, this might be difficult and painful at first.   With Hal not working these past two years, I've already had to tell myself no many times...but this will be telling myself no every time and then reconsidering on a case by case basis.  I'll help myself in the end.  We don't have as much money as we used to anyway, so to stay out of debt, we need to learn to consume less.  This is a good thing.

Even the car I drove around in today was an unnecessary purchase.  I didn't have to have a brand spanking new hybrid Honda Insight a year ago.  My 2005 Volkswagen Jetta worked just fine.  It got 29 miles per gallon.  There's no doubt that my Insight gets better gas mileage, at 46.1 mpg average.  And yes, I have saved money on gas and have used less gas.  I feel good about that.  But how much energy and natural resources did it take to produce my new car?  Had I traded in a 20 year old gas guzzler, I'd have made a better deal - but the car I had was only 5 years old.  I probably shouldn't have bought the new one, even if it was a hybrid.  The only thing I can do at this point is drive it 300,000 miles or until it falls apart, so that I know I've used it up.  Then it should be scraped and recycled into new parts for a new car.  We need to produce things in a closed loop and stop draining the Earth of all it's natural resources and filling it back up with garbage and toxic chemicals.

It's a lot to take in.  You all owe it to yourselves to read this book.  You don't have to buy it.  I'll loan you mine!  :)  But if you're too far away and you want a copy, here's the link: The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for Change

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