By far the strangest phenomenon I’ve encountered while living in the big city is the unholy wedding of environmentalism and consumerism.
Last year a law was passed requiring businesses to charge their customers at least five cents for every plastic shopping bag. In response to this law, more and more businesses are selling reusable plastic and cloth bags so that people who don’t want to pay the fee or accumulate more plastic bags have another option while shopping.
Some of the bags are black and plain, others are covered with bright colours and whimsical animal, plant or geometric patterns. Grocery stores often sell incredibly sturdy reusable bags that have the store’s name printed on the side of them. There is one style of bag that has various phrases printed on the side of it. For example, it may say this is a green bag or this is not a plastic bag.
Snide phrases like these irk me.
- I’ve never heard of any these bags (or the companies that make and/or sell them) extolling the idea of buying and consuming less as a permanent lifestyle change.
- Unnecessary purchases are not made one whit more necessary by the type of bag in which one carries them home.
- Sermonizing does nothing to endear other people to one’s cause.
- Ethically speaking, it seems so strange for one to purposefully draw attention to his or her own virtue. It is far better, IMO, to let your actions speak for themselves.
This is only one example of the melding of environmentalism and consumerism. Back when Drew and I still had cable our local news channel would occassionally feature stories in which the host talked about various ways of living a more green life.
In many cases, this involved buying new stuff that had been grown or produced in more eco-friendly ways: appliances, homes, cars, clothing, toys, shoes. Anything that could be repackaged as earth-friendly was repackaged as such and much of it was far more expensive than what one would typically pay for such a thing.
Are organic, locally grown/made, fair-trade products better? In many cases yes. At other times I’m less sure. I do feel a twinge of guilt when I buy something that was probably picked, sewn or assembled by someone working for abysmally small wages in dangerous conditions.
Sometimes there are no alternatives, though, or the conscious-friendly option isn’t even in the same solar system as my budget. This is what I do instead:
- Use it up.
- Wear it out.
- Give away what I no longer need.
- Gratefully accept what others pass along to me.
- Only purchase the absolute necessities.
For certain items I’ll also consider buying used although the North American bedbug epidemic makes me wary about bringing home anything in which they could hitch a ride. A set of dishes, cookware or cutlery would be acceptable things to pick up at a secondhand store or garage sale; an upholstered couch, on the other hand, is something I’d insist upon buying new. 😉