How Do We Stop Consuming in a Disposable Society?

Right now the economy is in a very slow recovery stage. Most people are pissed about it. Lots of politics and blame being thrown around. Lots of upset over the lack of job growth and the unemployment rate. It hard for some people to see the big picture of the huge shift that needs to and is trying to take place. It’s like I’ve always said when encouraging people to buy, well, anything that is worth it, from organic produce to a Prius, “It’s worth the extra money, and the price will go as supply and demand kick in…but someone has to be first!” It’s the same in our country as well. There are shifts attempting to be made from bad, dirty, and non-sustainable energy sources like coal and oil, but people who either work in those industries or have money invested in them do not want to support these shifts. I recently was listening (against my will) to FOX News and heard a commercial advocating natural gas. It spoke of all the thousands of jobs that could be created and all the energy that would be generated right here in America. The tag line was something like, “Natural gas, there’s no question.” Ha! Is that some subconscious suggesting, or what?!  There are actually LOTS of questions that should be asked before we jump on that band wagon. Click here to read some concise Hydraulic Fracturing Facts by Josh Fox, director of the Academy Award nominated documentary Gasland. You can learn things like how much water is used during fracking (1-8 million gallons), or how many chemicals are used (80-300 tons, none of which the natural gas industry has to disclose due to what’s referred to as the “Haliburton Loophole” where the Bush/Cheney energy bill of 2005 exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act). I encourage you to watch the movie as well and be on the lookout for Matt Damon’s new “anti-fracking” film The Promised Land.

So there are questions to be asked. On the same home front, as our our current President tries to place regulations on the coal industry, he is met with actual hate. People say he is driving up energy prices and shutting down work and not letting us America take advantage of its own resources. I realize there are a lot of scared people out there who wouldn’t know what kind of work to pursue if there industry was limited or shut down. But we must reconstruct and retrain people and start new jobs in industries that are environmentally sustainable. We have been seeing this over the past decade or more in the tobacco industry. Lots of people were pissed when the government started limiting their advertising and forcing them to have disclaimers on their products making sure that the public knew that consuming this product will hurt their bodies. Lots of jobs lost in the tobacco industry. To me, it seems the same. Right now lots of people are fighting for dirty energy which kills the planet just like the tobacco industry fought to keep sales up and the unemployment rate down by selling a product to the American people that would kill them. (Watch all this advertising stuff go down on the AMC series Mad Men–it’s very interesting!) Once when I was making my case for buying hybrid or electric cars, someone said, “yeah, but you wouldn’t want everyone to start buying electric cars, because then we’d have too many of them and  we’d all be using too much electricity.” Ok, but the point is that we have access to UNLIMITED FREE GOD GIVEN ENERGY from the wind, water, and sun that we could use, if we can turn our money and endeavors away from current bad energy sources and direct our funds and attention to harnessing this clean power instead. I think this whole God Given Energy thing is amazing, personally, and you would think it could really be something the conservatives and Christian contingency could get behind. I hope so anyway. Because I will truly never understand when caring for our home, this Earth, became something to sneer at. I mean how many movies do we have to see that are about aliens killing off the humans to save planet Earth before we ruin it before it sinks in that we are actually ruining planet Earth?

But I digress. This was actually a post about how to stop being such a consumer. I started with all the other stuff to show how, sadly, living a mindful life seems to go against a prospering economy. We are all supposed to be consumers. Buying and consuming is the only way the retail world will pick up and the economy will recover and there will be jobs for all the people in the stores to sell more things to all the rest of the people. I am not totally naive. I realize that we live in a material world and that this is how the economy works and that we all need things. But I do think we can improve the quality of the things that are for sale and that we all can be more conscientious consumers.

For example, when I am living in NYC, I love sampling all the wonderful things we have access to here. I have favorite flavored carbonated water drinks and I love to take advantage of having free home delivery from local restaurants. I also do not feel as guilty here taking advantage of those things because almost everything is recyclable and delivery guys ride their bike to deliver your food to you. When in Arkansas, I get a coffee about once a month and I bring my reusable mug with me. I will not purchase anything that is served in Styrofoam. I never get anything from a gas station and I try to bring my reusable water bottle with me to yoga. So I am saying that I justify my consumer lifestyle here in NYC but I am starting to think on another level of actually consuming/buying less. This article I read in Yoga Journal over two years, was very inspiring to me. I highly encourage everyone to read it and consider making a challenge for yourself. Think what if we all paid for our trash pick up by the pound?  I would love this because I don’t make very much trash–not after recycling and composting (in AR). I once heard on NPR the story of a British family who only threw out one bag of trash for the whole year. Read it here!

Here are some things we can all do:

Cut down on the waste you buy in the first place. For example just say no to vegetable at the supermarket that come on a Styrofoam plate wrapped in plastic.

Carry with you or put in your car etc. reusable grocery bags (also good for retail store use), mugs, water bottles, and even Tupperware to bring for your restaurant leftovers.

Recycle everything possible and avoid items that are not recyclable in your area. (For example, in Jonesboro, yogurt containers are not recyclable, so I bought my Yogourmet and make my own now in washable glass mason jars.) Write your local congressman to request more recycling for your community if needed.

Compost! Buy a tumbler! Or at the very least, find a place at the back corner of your yard to place your food scraps. I’ve noticed in NYC, lots of farmer’s markets will accept your compost now, so that’s very exciting.

Just become more aware in general. Remember that what you do and what you use matters. Make small changes one by one and keep up the good work.

I however, wonder if I am ready for more. The selfish part of me doesn’t want to stop having special things while in NYC. The same part of me always wants to stop into stores and buy new clothes or shoes or whatever, but the list of what I actually need, is quite short. I am currently trying to reconcile these two different things–living mindfully and still living in this society. Part of me longs to totally separate myself. I believe that I could challenge myself to live off the land (when I get my farm up and running in AR) and say no most consuming. What a great lesson in not always getting what you want, but always getting what you need.  I am searching for the balance. Have you found yours?

May we all learn to live within our means, in a mindfull way, with regard to those around us and our planet,


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