Stuff, Part II: Ways to Get Around It
Posted: 11:44AM January 10th, 2013 | Comments
Stuff: Part II- Ways to get around it
By Creal Zearing, 10 January 2013
If you haven’t read Stuff: Part I, find it here. You can read about why “stuff” is an environmental problem in my words or, better yet, watch Annie Leonard’s video called The Story of Stuff and get an entertaining and informative visual.
I promised to share some thoughts and tips on ways you can make change in your home in this post. But first, I wanted to clarify my goals for writing the tips that I have chosen:
1) Reduce the demand for new items that create harm in the lives of other people and the environment,
2) reduce personal stress and increase personal happiness,
3) provide resources so that you can live at a similar level of comfort, style, and activity (this is because I feel there is a stereotype that buying pre-used items means downgrading one’s level of style, comfort, or activity).
Step #1: Begin by slowing the incoming of new items into your life:
- Say “no thank you” to free items that come along with event attendance, memberships, exhibits, and registration. It will be hard at first to say no to something that is free but be honest with yourself and ask “Do I need this?” and “Where will this item be in 6 weeks?”
- Get a lot of junk mail? One holiday season I spent about an hour going through my mom’s stack of miscellaneous catalogs and unsubscribing from their mailings on their respective websites. This significantly decreased the amount of random, useless, consumer-driven mail we received and also the clutter in the house. My parents continue to receive minimal junk mail because of this. There are some websites and organizations that will help you to remove your name and address from mass mailing lists. I suggest www.dmaconsumers.org.
- “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” This classic Leave No Trace quote translates to my belief about souvenirs. If you must, buy something edible or functional as a souvenir. Otherwise, take lots of photos and review them frequently—they will make you smile. J
- Fix, repair, mend, jimmy-rig. Do everything you can to use an item as long as possible. This includes cell phones, computers, TVs, even shoes. There are many places, if you look for them, that will repair electronics, cell phones, shoes, watches, etc. Understand that it is often more environmentally harmful to buy a new “eco-friendly” option than to use your old, out-of-date option until it can no longer be used. Electronic items in particular are very hard on our environment when produced and also when thrown away or “recycled”. Please watch Story of Electronics for further information.
- Buy in bulk (food, that is, and not Sam’s Club-style but Willy St. Co-op-style). This might seem contrary to what I am telling you to do in this blog post, which is reduce your purchasing, but hear me out: When you buy in bulk you reduce the amount of packaging that comes into your life. Even if you know that you will eventually throw away or recycle that plastic container that had nuts in it, it’s better than single-use packaging. The beauty of buying in bulk is that you can bring your own container with you to the store, fill it up, use it at home, then bring it back again when emptied (if you don’t want to bring glass jars with you then just keep a stock pile of the same plastic bags and use them over and over).
- Finally, only shop when you need something. Don’t go shopping as a hobby, don’t do it online when you are bored, don’t do it as an activity with a friend. The more you are exposed to the cute dress at Target or that shiny coffee maker at the kitchen store downtown the more likely you will be to buy it and the more you will feel that you “need” it.
Easy, right? Next is “Sub Step #1A,” wherein after you begin to reduce what comes into your life you begin to evaluate what is already there. You notice clutter in every drawer, closet, basket, pencil holder. And then… you begin to de-clutter! I have heard that some people who have done massive “de-clutterings” have lost substantial amounts of weight in pounds or stress in the process. I think that we all understand the amazing feel when you finally get around to cleaning out the car, that basket full of junk, or your closet. Stress accumulates with clutter and is released when de-cluttered. The amazing thing here is that with your actions and commitment to Step #1, the build-up of stress from clutter should become less and less.
Okay, now go do Steps #1 and #1A then come back in a week for Stuff: Part III which is about what you do when you actually need to buy something.