Not Made in China, only YOU can make it happen

July 18th, 2008

 A recent e-mail chain started:
“Are we Americans as dumb as we appear — or — is it that we just do not think?

While the Chinese, knowingly and intentionally, export inferior and even toxic products and dangerous toys and goods to be sold in American markets, the media wrings its hands and criticizes the Bush Administration for perceived errors.

Yet 70% of Americans believe that the trading privileges afforded to the Chinese should be suspended.
Well, duh..why do you need the government to suspend trading privileges?


It asks why not make real Easter eggs instead of purchasing plastic ones and goes on to propose an embargo on buying Chinese from 6/4/08-7/4/08.

The message above is somewhat reactionary and and oversimplifies the eco-political situation, but it has many nuggets of truth and guages the frustration of much of America.

As I see it:
Americans are not dumb but….. many do not think, many are not willing to do without having something cheap immediately despite the the fact that that it was made poorly or by captive slave labor.

We do not need plastic eggs or numerous other plastic tchotkes. Many won’t take the time (& receive the ultimate satisfaction) of creating an intricate Easter egg (or needlepoint holiday stocking). We have lots of inexpensive holiday decorations and then complain about how long it takes us to undecorate. We have too much. We are asking the government to legislate what we are unwilling to do for ourselves – say “no”.

We do not need the government to suspend trading privileges. That is the beauty of a market economy which China, India and the rest of the world have embraced. The power is all in our hands as consumers. We must find substitutes for incessant purchasing and become the pioneers we once were. Use the time we spend shopping to instead create something, cook something from scratch, learn a new skill, nurture relationships by our presence to others nearby or write a letter or e-mail to those far away.

Don’t stop on July 4. As you vacation this summer, don’t buy a souvenir unless it is made in the state or country you are visiting. At home seek out farmers markets, roadside food stands & small local shops for not only foods that directly benefit the farmers but also non-food items such as locally made soaps, crafts.

Repair: Fix it yourself, or trade skills with a friend or neighbor, keep local tailors & cobblers in business. We just went shopping for a suitcase and paid a little more for one with a true lifetime repair warranty (disclosure, it was made in Thailand). (Victorinox and Briggs & Riley both offer that warranty)

Re-think fashion: buy less but of better quality that lasts longer, shop local craft fairs (but look at labels) thrifts stores. Accessorize, trade. Learn to sew, knit, crochet, quilt. Let’s bring back old-fashioned American ingenuity & creativity. This may not always be easy but the important things in life never are.


The Compact to Live Lightly and Sustainably

December 20th, 2006

Several months ago I discovered and, sort of, joined the Compact. A group of environmentally concerned friends in San Francisco made a compact not to purchase any new, non-essential items for a year i.e. a compact lifestyle. They did give themselves a little leeway though to buy underwear, socks, and safety items new. They started a Yahoo! group to refine the rules, record their journeys, give each other tips and support each other.

Joining is not rigid -you are more making a compact with yourself – and is more about reconsidering you personal relationship with “stuff”.I’m now more likely to repair something or borrow something. I usually buy tops secondhand but have a difficult time finding pants that fit so I go straight to the stores I depend on for fit.

Soon so many others discovered the Compact that the original group was helping the world and had little time to help each other. To make it more personal again, geographical Yahoo!group offshoots have started because many shopping sources and ideas for free entertainment tend to be local.

Some local Compact group links:

San Francisco/Bay Area
Los Angeles
New York City

Other related links:
Not All Buy into Black Friday
What Would Jesus Buy? asks us to reconsider what Christmas is all about.

If you are a fan of thrift stores or would like to find out more about the stores in your area then The Thrift Shopper is for you.

Sustainable Gift Wrapping

December 12th, 2006

Many of you may be doing giftless holidays, but if not, here are many ideas for how to keep the gift-wrapping waste free and fun.

My friend, Tamara, shares some thoughtful traditions:

“Years ago when the girls were younger and their gifts were often odd-sized and bulky, rather than buying those giant plastic draw string bags, I bought some Christmas fabric at the end of the season to make my own.  I made several in a variety of sizes that can be used year after year.  They are easy to store and come in handy.

The second thing that I did was use the nesting decorated boxes that Costco usually carries at Christmas time (although I didn’t see them this year). I bought a set for each child in a different pattern, plus an additional one for any visiting child.  Each Christmas Eve, we un-nest the boxes and set them piled high near each one’s stocking.  Christmas morning, they still have the thrill of the surprise (Including which of the twelve boxes will be filled with a gift or a clue as to where to find a gift) and there is far less waste and the boxes are reused each year.  When they were little it certainly made “Santa’s” job a lot easier too!  Since each girl has a pattern that is hers, and they both still love setting up their respective stacks each year. It has become a cherished tradition along with Advent devotions.

Another way to add to the fun especially when the number of gifts is singular or fewer is to have the boxes passed to one another or the clues for the scavenger hunt to be shared.  Hope these thoughts spur someone else to think of a new way to adapt these to suit another generation.”

My sisters have been wrapping creatively for years and I save those wrappings to delight another person. (That’s my mom opening a gift wrapped in re-used materials.) After the holidays, consider designating a place where you can stash potential wrapping materials for the next time you are giving a gift of any sort.  This would be a good place to keep those packing peanuts for subsequent mailings.