Posts Tagged 'consumer culture'

Changing our habits

Before dinner the other night, I picked a napkin out of the napkin holder, ripped it in half, saved one part for myself and gave the other to my mom.

My mom, who uses compost coffee grinds in her garden and saves old cereal boxes to package leftovers, rolled her eyes. I was taking my “no-waste” kick too far.

Or was I?

(I should add that these were ridiculously large napkins.)

I’ve been astounded lately by the amount of paper and packaging around me, and somewhat repulsed by the amount of unnecessary waste that gets used and thrown away each day.

When I returned from Argentina, I took a trip to Costco and nearly threw a fit as I stood amidst floor-to-ceiling aisles of goods wrapped and rewrapped in miles of plastic and cardboard.  As I stared, paralyzed, down the seemingly endless bread aisle, I wondered When did plastics start to give me the heebie jeebies? When did I start getting nervous around any product that isn’t reusable?

(The sheer multitude of bread choices only exacerbated my plastics anxiety. Would my family prefer Honey Wheat and Oat, All Natural Whole Grain, Original Oatnut, Original Multigrain, Multigrain Plus, Healthy Eight Grain, Whole Grain Whole Wheat or Split Top Whole Wheat? And why is everything double-bagged? I grabbed a white loaf and ran.)

Josh mentioned this in an earlier post: The economic crisis hit at the same time people really started thinking about living green. Or perhaps people really started thinking about living green because of the economic crisis. Somehow, the two are intertwined. People are changing their consumption habits, not because it’s trendy or crunchy, but because it makes more economic sense.

In the past, we could buy, throw away, and then buy again, emptying our wallets and filling our landfills. But a new economic reality has caused U.S. citizens to examine their purchases and their habits more carefully.  It now makes more sense, monetarily speaking, to dry your clothes in the sun, turn off the air conditioning, using less toilet paper, drive less often, buy fewer clothing items and purchase more durable goods.

Coincidentally, these habits are also good for the environment

(According to this article, we each use 60 pounds of tissue paper a year. Germans use 33 pounds a year. Are we dirtier or just more wasteful?).

Perhaps the upshot to the economic crisis is that it will serve as a painful hangover in the morning-after stage of the “frat years” of U.S. consumption. It will force us to stop seeing the green movement as a cause for liberal granola-eating elitists, and to start changing our habits out of pure necessity.  Going green — or light green — doesn’t mean we eschew all plastics, live in tents and wear burlap sacks. It simply means that we are aware of the ecological and economic impact of our lifestyles.

For me, it’s also a realization that the products I use are created somewhere else in the world, by other people (perhaps in South America, where I just came from!) and that my life impacts their lives. But that’s a discussion for another post.

If you want to think more about environmental sustainability and its connection to our consumer habits, watch this life-changing video: Story of Stuff. I also recommend “Usélo y Tírelo” a short book by Eduardo Galeano (yet to be published in English, I’m sorry!).

Question: Have you changed your day-to-day consumption habits in light of the crisis?

Julie.

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How has your life been affected by the crisis?

To kick off this blog, I decided to ask some of my hip young friends how their lives have been affected by the crisis, and if their thoughts on money, social norms and consumer culture have changed since October.
We all know that young people are being hit particularly hard by the crisis. The question is, how has that changed their thinking?
Josh, a fellow traveler who has once rode across Bolivia in the luggage compartment of an overnight bus, was the first to e-mail me back. After a brief stint making windchimes on a farm in Patagonia, he now works as the Washington Jewish Film Festival Coordinator in Washington, D.C. He’s 23.
How has my life been affected by the crisis? I think the crisis, in my life, acts as a catalyst for stinginess and simultaneous freedom. On the one hand, it makes me think harder about purchases, cutting back on frivolity. You rethink the essentials, and my hope is that is brings us back to a simpler way of life, redirected away from a consumer culture. Interestingly enough, the whole economic crisis has been perfectly timed to coincide with the green trend. It puts an interesting spotlight onto re-using, reducing waste, cutting back on energy spending, and an overall tightening of our carbon footprint along with the tightening of our wallet.
I also think it allows people a freedom they never had before. The term funenmployment is a perfect example. Because people are getting laid off and not making money they’ve perhaps taken time off and taken time to do what makes them happy, to enjoy life. They’ve used the crisis as an excuse to basically live their dream.
In my work, we have noticed surface level things such as extreme budget cuts, cuts in government funding, and lay-offs. But I have found in my dealings with work, that the crisis is worldwide, and people want to help each other out, people want to be flexible, need to be flexible in order to make their living. In dealings with costs of films, we’ve been able to reduce prices by as much as 700 dollars. So its an interesting phenomenon wherein other years I don’t think there would be this flexibility, everybody is hurting.
I’ll be asking more of those cool, hip friends for their input, so stay tuned.
Julie.

What is this blog?

The "Unstatic Blog" documents the changes going on around you and me. It will ask and answer — and then ask again — how is your world changing? Read and participate in the conversation.

stat⋅ic

/ˈstætɪk/ –adjective 1. pertaining to or characterized by a fixed or stationary condition. 2. showing little or no change: a static concept; a static relationship. 3. lacking movement, development, or vitality
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