I think that as biologists, my peers and I struggle with the knowledge of human impacts on the Earth and a desire to live sustainably in the realities of a modern civilization. As biologists, we are probably more likely to seek out environmentally friendly purchasing options, but like everyone else we let a lot of our consumption slide beneath the radar.
Packaging. Imports. Durability. Quality. Disposal. Pollution. Human rights. It seems to me that these are some of the issues of which we need to be cognizant in our purchases. And in my case, there are also the issues of poverty and obsessive-compulsiveness to balance.
I've been giving this some thought lately and there are a few changes that I need to implement in my lifestyle to meet my objectives of reducing my impact.
1. Drive less. I live a constant distance from work. That can't be altered. I'm in the boonies, so carpooling isn't feasible. On the upside, the high gasoline prices earlier this year "broke" me of the habit of hopping in a car whenever the spirit moved me. I used to visit my family twice a year. Now I go once a year or less. However, lower gas prices might encourage me to drive more. I must remain vigilant.
2. Buy less. This is helped a great deal by poverty and Jake-ownership. I have learned the hard way about replacing things Jake is prone to tear up. Can anyone say window blinds? However, I do have the issue of O-C behavior that sometimes causes me to become fixated on a product, which I purchase beyond my needs(food, shampoo, socks, and t-shirts). However, I can discipline myself. I know this is going to be a difficult one to stick to, but my objective is this: If I can't afford it right now AND I can't start using it right now, I can't buy it right now. Even if it's a great deal. Even if it's on clearance.
3. Buy smart or don't buy at all. I have a lot of things that are not very valuable. My furniture includes a 12 -year old futon, a 20-year-old coffee table, a hand-me down sofa-bed, a 15-year-old recliner, a hand-me-down upholstered chair that was liberated from Bek's old apartment. I think that chair was on her front porch when she moved in. I have two antique dressers, a 10-yo king-size bed, and a new breakfast table. I have a series of three shelves that I have hacked to make a tv stand for a tv I seldom watch. None of it matches. This used to bother me. It doesn't anymore. They are functional. But in the future, when I buy durable goods, I will do so with an eye toward quality and durability. No more crappy furniture or appliances. No more temporary shelving to hold crap I don't use. Which brings us to.....
4. Downscale my belongings. I just sold my dining room suite that seated 12 and replaced it with a breakfast bar that seats 4. It was the best thing I have done in years. It opened up space to move in my house. I should be doing this elsewhere in my house. Every time I move, I have boxes I never unpack. My brain tells me that if I haven't opened a box in 5 years, I should just not open it and take it directly to Goodwill. My fear is that they are full of "heirlooms". In reality, they are probably full of crap. I need to get organized and sell or give away the things I don't or won't use again. No longer will I devote space, time and energy to maintaining and storing things I don't use.
5. Clothes. Clothes demand their own category. I have winter clothes that are only appropriate for Chicago. These are quality clothes and I'm not getting rid of them in case I move back or move to northern climates. Ok, maybe I'm living in denial, but these are good clothes bought when I had money to invest in quality clothing. But I have a lot of other junk that is crap. I have clothes that don't fit. Two sizes too big or two sizes too small. Clothes that I might wear when and if I, oh let's say I ever get asked to go to the opera. I can only wear so many clothes in a week. If I don't wear it, I'm gonna sell it or give it away. I did this a few years ago and cleaned out quite a bit of stuff. Still, I couldn't manage to get rid of some of it and it remains there, back in the back of the closet, waiting for it's turn in the sun. This process, however, did have a bonus: I started wearing clothes that I normally wouldn't, and Bek noticed that I was beginning to dress "nicer". I think that was a compliment. :\ In any event, I am going to get a handle on the clothing situation so that it is manageable within my living space.
6. Buy quality only when durability, comfort, or safety are considerations (home repairs, furniture, automobiles, work boots, shoes, dress and winter clothes), otherwise go as cheap as possible. Realistically, I think clothing should be expected to last 5 years with daily wearing and weekly washing--socks and underwear excluded. Dress shoes should last 15. Tennis shoes should last 1 year. Over the years, I've begun doing most of my clothes shopping at discount stores like K-Mart and Wal-Mart. I'm going to start doing most of my clothes shopping at Goodwill, especially for field clothes. I've gotten great compliments on some of the stuff I've managed to pick up in there.
7. Buy local when feasible. Buy used as often as possible.
8. Buy with an eye to wasteful packaging and disposal.
9. Stop buying on credit. This was harder when gas prices were high--I did have to get to work and back. Even then, I attempted to alter my work schedule so that I could work from home 2-3 days a week.
10. Buy things that can be reused and recycled. No more plastic water bottles. No more one-time-use batteries. Although I am torn. Should I buy in glass bottles and reuse them for storage or buy in plastic and recycle? Any thoughts?
11. Set up some sort of scheme to exchange items among friends and peers. I think I'll start with our listserv.
12. Start finding free things to do with my friends. Hikes. Camping. DVD night complete with popcorn and juju beans. My social life does not have to revolve around the cinema, the bar, and restaurants. Nor does every get together have to be a "party". Sometimes, we can just hang out. How about a host-revolving "game night"? It can be poker. It can be Cranium. Want to spend time with a boyfriend who wants to spend time with his friends? Why not bring your friends and his friends together? Besides, who doesn't need more friends? Who's in?
Hair jokes and an uppity reporter.
19 hours ago