Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day: Help rewrite "The Story of Stuff"



The Story of Stuff, by Annie Leonard (full video here -- about 20 minutes). What better way to remind ourselves on Earth Day that our culture of consumption -- capitalism's not-so-secret ingredient -- is also our one-way ticket to a permanent landfill?

This of course amid the 8 million other reminders, tips, statistics, and grim warnings that come out of the woodwork on such eco-friendly holidays.

But what I like about "The Story of Stuff" is that it's firm, realistic, and thorough -- just the 'get things done' attitude we need at this moment in our global battle against climate change.

After all, the video says, we've used 30% of the earth's natural resources in the last 50 years alone. 99% of the stuff we use is trash within six months after we purchase it. And with our manufacturers bent toward creating planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence, it seems impossible for us, the little consumers, to break the mold.

Ah, but what power we have! Especially if we all do the same thing at the same time.

So this Earth Day, let's do an environmental examination of conscience, and see if we can find good reasons to take one, some, or all of the following actions in the next year:
* Opt to purchase less clothing -- and when you do, choose more classic styles with high-quality tailoring that you can wear for many more years.

* Take care of your belongings. Forgo items purposefully designed to be disposable, and treat your longer-lasting stuff with care and consideration.

* Examine what you really need. Consider your basic needs -- food, water, shelter for example -- and make informed, economical decisions around meeting those.

* Question what you really want. No need to adopt a Spartan, monastic lifestyle. But you don't have to be bacchanal either. Prioritize luxury items, and go with only the ones at the very top.

* Buy fresh, unpackaged food. We introduce toxins to our body and landfill fodder to the earth when all our foodstuffs come prepackaged. Go for the natural stuff instead, and you'll go a long way in healing your body and the Earth's. (Extra points if you support local agriculture through a CSA.)

* Follow 'reduce, reuse, recycle' to the letter. It's in that order for a reason -- recycling should be the last stop, not the first. Do your best to eliminate waste on the front end to amplify positive impact.

* Investigate the CSR of companies who manufacture your favorite products. A little bit of due diligence will reveal how committed your favorite companies are to protecting the environment and supporting society at large. Who knew nail polish could help save the world?

Yes, these steps require some effort and attention upfront. But just think of the benefits. You save time and money, increase stewardship, declutter your life, eat healthier, avoid toxins, reduce your contribution to the earth's resource depletion, and perhaps my favorite one -- learn how little you actually need to be a fulfilled, content person.

In that light, are we really making a sacrifice? Not a bad way to keep our good ship Mother Earth afloat just a wee bit longer. Happy Earth Day, fellow globemates!

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