Thursday, January 26, 2012

Becoming an Ecologically Conscious Shopper

The course that I took this semester, "Greening the Bible: An Ecological Reading of Scripture" has made me very aware that I want to have an Earth-Friendly lifestyle.*  I've always been fairly conscious of the impact I have on the environment, but the main thing that I never paid attention to before is the way that I shop. 

I have always been a clearance-queen.  30% off??? That's nothin'.  I'm a 75-90% off kinda person.  Well, since taking this class, I haven't been able to avoid thinking about what the profit margin looks like on something that is 75% off.  And if the profit margin is low, then the person making the product (yes, in fact, a real live human being made your clothes) is receiving very low wages, right?  Is it worth it to me to have a $5 pair of shoes if it means that somebody in China is making far less than $5 to make that pair of shoes?  I mean, let's be real-- they're probably making cents on that $5, even before it went on clearance in the first place.  

I could elaborate, and also talk about the pollution involved in the production of many of the products that I own, but for now, I'll leave it as a social justice issue about fair wages.  

We may not be rich, but our money is power.  The way we spend our money says something about what kind of world we want to have.  From now on, I'm going to be much more intentional about what I spend my money on.  I'm not gonna lie-- there will probably be an adorable skirt on sale at Target that I won't be able to pass up, and at our current income level, we're going to have to pick and choose a little, but as much as I can help it I'm switching to a second-hand, fair-trade, local-economy shopping style.  

I want to get this book: The Better World Shopping Guide, which gives a grade to each company, taking into account their business practices, etc.  Here is an example of the way the companies are rated, but in the book they are divided up into sub-categories that have more specific qualifications for the grades.  Guys, I'm sorry, Oreos get an F.  

I'm also going to purchase more of my products from Etsy, which is a community of independent artists, and my online August birthgroup, where a lot of the women are attempting to make enough money to stay at home with their little ones.

Most of all, I'm just going to try to purchase less.  Evelyn honestly has enough clothes to wear until she's 18 months.  Because I'm allowed to love dressing my little girl, I'm not going to stop buying for her entirely, but I am going to buy less and when I do, I'll buy second-hand or from an independent or local designer. 

So, does anyone have advice?  I need some.  

* Not seeing the connection to religion or scripture?  Check out The Green Bible.  But, simply put, when we don't take care of God's creation-- the people in it, in addition to plants, animals, air, water, etc.-- we aren't taking care of God.  Can you imagine someone treating your masterpiece the way we treat God's?  

P.S.  I've been really busy, so I'm sorry that I skipped Evelyn's 5 month update.  She is growing beautifully and doing the stuff 5-month-olds do, such as sticking her hands in her dad's mac-and-cheese, sitting up on her own, and drooling a lot.  


  1. Buy food in bulk and bring your own containers to get it in (just have them pre-weigh the empty containers at the customer service desk first). This cuts down on lots of trash.

    If you own your home, start a compost pile with fruit and vegetable waste and yard waste.

    Save vegetable/meat scraps in tupperware in the freezer and then make your own soup stock.

    See if your community has a "green" yellow pages.

    Jake and I have an amazing friend who makes great beeswax candles,; however, he is in Colorado, so that's not local for you.

    Learn to can! Buy local produce when it is in season and make your own jellies, apple butters, juices, and canned fruits and veggies.

    Find a local dairy and get your milk delivered from them. They wash and reuse the bottles.

    Find a local source for eggs (or choose back yard chickens) and they'll often reuse egg cartons.

    Find a local farmer to get meat from. That way you can see how the animals are treated, the respect they get in life will transfer into you as you use them for nutrients.

    Get raw local honey! Not only does this retain the minerals, but it also supports your immune system. Bees are vital for food pollination, so supporting your local beekeepers will be supporting your local bees :)

    Thrift stores have everything you need. Sometimes it's not in the form that you are expecting or available immediately. So, keep an ongoing list of functions you need/want and take that with you when you go and cross off what you find! I'll often use thrift stores as a library of sorts and buy things, use them once or twice, and then re-donate them when I no longer need them.

    I also find Facebook is great. I can shout out "Who makes x" or "Who does Y service?" to my community and get local recommendations. However, as an avid crafter, I find that I can do the work locally, but finding local resources is much more difficult and exponentially more expensive. This is where finding used items at a thrift store comes in handy, but can be very time consuming.

    I'd also recommend and seeing what you can make yourself with what you havon hand.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks! This is so helpful. We don't own a home right now, but when we do we plan to get our own chickens and start a compost bin. I know someone who does it and it is so much fun for her kids and they get 2 eggs per chicken a day. They are small, but still delicious!

      We are starting the journey to get to know our farmers better. I think it will be fun!

  2. My roommate and I live in an apartment but we were always so frustrated with how much compostable stuff we ended up throwing away. We found friends in the area who have a compost bin in their backyard. We have a 5 gallon bucket we bought at lowes for $5 or so that seals and we fill that up with our compostables. Then once every few weeks we go to the friends house and empty it. It may be worth asking around and see if any of your friends have backyard composters.

  3. I only wish the companies with better scores were more affordable to shop at. As someone who relies on coupons to make ends meet, I'm now realizing that a lot of the coupons I'm using and good deals I'm getting are for companies with D's or F's! :(

    1. Same here! That's why I say that I'm going to have to pick and choose, but we do what we can. We always buy cage free eggs and fair trade coffee even though they're more expensive, for example. It's hard to do, but the more I learn, the more it feels like an obligation to my Christian faith.

      I'm not perfect and I'll continue to buy a lot of those D and F products for now, but it's a process.


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