Hey! I’m back after a long absence … Here are bits from a couple articles about “green” consumerism and how it does more for the individual conscience than it does for our planet.

Excerpt from “Can ‘green chic’ save the planet?
Moises Velasquez-Manoff, staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the July 26, 2007 edition

“…Green has also gone trendy. Last week, Whole Foods Market released a limited edition, $15 cotton bag with “I’m not a plastic bag” emblazoned on its side. When the bag went on sale at outlets in Taiwan, a stampede followed. In Hong Kong, throngs shut down a shopping mall. In New York City last week, lines formed at dawn. Later that day, bags were offered on Craigslist for between $200 and $500. “These bags are walking billboards,” says Isabel Spearman, a spokeswoman for the bag’s designer, Anya Hindmarch. “You do have to make something trendy, and it becomes a habit. That’s the whole point.”

“Savvy marketers have clearly tapped into something. But the green craze has many asking how, if at all, it addresses what many characterize as an impending climate catastrophe.

“In what it implies about changing consumer awareness, some see ‘green-lightenment’ as heartening. And since it creates demand for more environmentally friendly products, many think it’s moving in the right direction. Yet, as one professor put it, ‘We’re basically rushing toward a cliff, full speed ahead.’ Can a fad save us? Experts’ replies run the gamut from ‘it’s a mockery,’ to it’s the beginning of – and maybe a catalyst for – greater changes to come. But no one thinks that green consumption alone can get humanity out of its climate predicament. As Alex Steffen, cofounder of worldchanging.com, an environmental- commentary website, writes: ‘There is no combination of purchasing decisions which will make the current affluent American lifestyle sustainable. You can’t shop your way to sustainability.‘”

Excerpts from “Beyond ‘Green Shopping’
Jerry Mander & John Cavanagh
posted September 6, 2007 at thenation.com

“…Eco-conscious families are turning up with two, three, many Priuses, so every member of the family can help save the planet. Hybrids do use less fuel, but that’s not the best way to assess hybrids ecologically. Where did all the materials come from? The nickel used in Prius batteries, for example, comes from mines that are responsible for the devastation of a huge swath of Ontario. Other key scarce materials come from Africa, South America and Asia. How much energy is used to mine, process, ship across oceans and build all the parts for the car and then assemble it–and under what labor conditions?”

… “In fact, a new scientific discipline is gaining speed, particularly in Europe. Called life-cycle assessment,’ it examines all the processes and materials that go into a product, ‘from dust to dust,’ to gain a true picture of its environmental footprint. In environmental terms, the best choice is not the new hybrid or any new car, but a good used car.”

School starts up again Monday — I’m wondering how much I’ll be posting once things get back into swing. But perhaps I shouldn’t wonder, I should just post! I’ll still be reading the news…

Speaking of, take a look at this CSMonitor writer’s idea for a “pay-as-you-throw” garbage collection system. When it comes to reducing the volume of trash in landfills, if all else fails (and it pretty much has), hit wasteful consumers where it hurts: in the pocketbook. I say hell yeah.

Slowly but surely, I’m getting the hang of blog management — those of you who’ve visited this site since its inception last week (all two of you!) will notice the two new buttons in my sidebar — yippee!  It took me an hour and a half, but goldurn it, I whupped that rascally code monster.  (It didn’t help that the WordPress “help” was messed up; I actually had to do some thinking on my own.  At least the lesson will serve me well here on out.) 

 I should take a moment to point out the ease with which you can now donate food and books to people, thanks to the handy buttons — go ahead, try it.  :)  These are just two of the free one-click-philanthropy options at The Hunger Site; others include Animal Rescue, Rainforest, Child Health, and Breast Cancer.

 Now, on to “cyber-volunteering”:  For the purposes of this blog I’ve been researching “easy” ways to minimize personal consumption and maximize community contribution, and today’s discovery happens to fall in the latter category.  The magic of the internet has made it possible to volunteer from home — specifically, from your PC!

Volunteer Match has a Virtual Volunteering page with links to hundreds of ways to donate your time (in many cases, not much time at all) to practically every cause under the sun.  Established professionals can be mentors to disadvantaged youth, offering career advice via email; research-savvy students and retirees can locate grantors online for community agencies; teens well-versed in html can beef up their college apps by designing websites for nonprofits; anyone can print out and post PDF fliers to help local foster kids find permanent homes; and so much more, it’s incredible.

 So, take a look — might as well put that lazy rainy Sunday afternoon to good use.  : )

latzuli

Hey all — just trying to keep in the habit of posting while I try to figure out how to use everything in this blog program.  Right now I’m fumbling — being very ill-versed in all these codings and wonky tech-speak terms, I’m having a hard time… I hope that with some persistence and periodic deep breathing I can muddle through. 

 On a different subject — specifically, the subject of this blog, anti-ultra-consumerism (I know, I seem to be flitting around variations on the “consumption” theme; just trying things out) — on Wednesday I ran into Tara, a girl I sort-of knew in high school, at our local coffeshop.  She and her husband Evan had just gotten back from a social-entrepreneurial mission trip to Cambodia with their four-year-old and fifteen-month-old sons (at least the kids are getting conditioned to climate change at an early age, perhaps; it’s hotter than blazes here in central Illinois right now, but as Tara pointed out, it’s got nothing on year-round Cambodia) and were taking a break at home before taking off for “maybe” Thailand in a few weeks on another mission.  Apparently Tara and Evan, who has his MBA, are using their five years experience as managers of that same mid-Illinois coffeeshop to help small-scale entrepreneurs in the Far East.  Radically awesome!  Tara told me that they had spent some months in Hawaii training for this special type of mission work, and Cambodia was their first place to test the waters. 

 What a life!  I envy them.  I knew they were enterprising young people when I learned of their start-up coffeshop endeavor five years ago, which began shortly after they were married.  Evan is a year younger than I am and Tara is a year older, which makes their go-get’em attitude all the more remarkable; I’m 26.  I’m sure plenty of people our age are just as motivated — there just aren’t an awful lot of them around here in “non-Chicago.”  (Everything that happens in Illinois happens in Chicago, I’ve tended to believe, though in recent years I’ve been proven wrong when I’ve taken moments to stop and really look around — active community “doers” are everywhere, even if they prefer to stay local.) 

 Well, I’ve gone back and put in relevant links where I could find them.  Since I can’t be sure of Tara and Evan’s specific work (I mainly let them share what came to their minds, and we didn’t have too long to talk besides) these links are general, though I’ve tried to narrow stuff down.  I’m just so impressed by their compassion and ambition, I had to share.

If you like the idea of aiding small businesses in the third world, but don’t feel like packing up and moving to Cambodia for a few months, check out Kiva.org, which I put in my every-global-awareness/aid-link-I-could-think-of-in-two-minutes list in my first blog post (a mere two posts prior to this one, I know — hey, I’m a slow learner, hence a slow blogger; just give me time).

Meanwhile, keep your eyes and ears tuned to news of good work,

latzuli

I know I said I was going to bed, but… here I am, laptop still before me, getting my clumsy newbie fingers and eyes accustomed to using all these techie linky-management dooleebobs…my most recent discovery, GoogleReader… and here’s my favorite subdiscovery (made possible by GoogRead): a quorum at the Freakonomics blog about “street charity.”  Rather interesting.  Plus I think Barbara Ehrenreich rocks, as does her quorum contribution.

 ‘night…

latzuli

Heya!  I’m very excited about this new blog.  In it I hope to examine issues relating to consumption, specifically overconsumption — of stuff.  I’ve got lots of questions, and I’m sure a lot of you out there do, too; hopefully there are some answers out there as well. :)  Not that there are any real answers to a problem as age-old as this one.  Just plenty of room for thought-collaboration and, ideally, action!

I admit I’m feeling a bit all over the place at the moment — too many ideas swirling.  So many questions… What do people really need to be happy?  Is there a tipping point for happiness?  How much do we need each other?  What good does individual giving do?  How much of our daily lives do we rationalize, do we numb ourselves to?  Should we be worrying too much about future generations?  Is education (school or otherwise) a cure-all?  Would universal healthcare be? Is there really more bad going on in the world than good, or is it all in how you look at it?  Why do so many people feel so disconnected from others?  Why do so many people want it that way? 

How can an examination of consumption take us in the right direction?

First I suppose I should start off with some nice links to nice pages by nice people:

Kiva.org allows you to invest in a third-world entrepreneur’s fledgling business for as little as $25.

Heifer International provides healthy livestock and husbandry instruction to impoverished farming communities all over the world — you can help.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is an amazing national mentoring program that gives disadvantaged youth someone they can look up to (I’m nearing the end of my graduate internship at the local BBBS as a grantwriter, and man have I been impressed!).  Mentoring has worked wonders in the lives of countless children, helping them improve their self-confidence, faith in other people, and ability to plan for the future. 

 The Center for EcoLiteracy is a San Francisco-based public foundation that provides financial and educational support to schools and community organizations in the Bay Area; it could serve as a model for future, farther-reaching “ecoliteracy” centers.

 NoLogo.org is a website of Naomi Klein, author of the widely-read and influential book NoLogo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies.  On it you will find blog posts (she calls them “dispatches”) about current events relating to capitalism and global justice, new articles by Klein, interviews with Klein, links to other social-action sites (right now I’m sleepy after a day of researching for my grad thesis — it’s easier to link to link-rich sites!), and, of course, info about Klein’s published books — but please don’t think of it as mere self-promotion… It’s a great “gateway” site; the book NoLogo itself was a real eye-opener for me.  (And yes, she does address the seeming irony of her “NoLogo” logo.)

Here is a neat article about the “new minimalists” (well, new as of 2005, when the article was written, but that’s pretty new — and I’d actually heard the term years before then).  The “NM”s are people who are, as the author quips, “resisting the urge to cram their houses full of stuff” — and feeling much the better for it.

Here is a similar article about “living lite.”  Scott Burns of assetbuilder.com asked readers of his series of “Living Lite” columns to give their feedback on the topic, with surprising results.  The article is appended with a list of links to RV websites (apparently Mr Burns considers RVing a great low-budget vacation option, and if it weren’t for their gas-guzzlingness I’d be inclined to agree with him), but I think the take-home message is best summed up by one reader’s “three-step plan”: “Want less than you have/ Spend less than you get/ Share.”

 Well, perhaps this is a good start — I touched on a few of the main areas I guess I’d hoped to: global awareness, community involvement, education, moral responsibility, justice, individual frugality …

 Now to relax a bit before bed, perhaps curled up with the “read-and-pass-it-on” book I picked up at the local coffeeshop, Edwina Victorious.  It’s a short kids’ novel, or at least it features a kid, but it’s supposed to inspire readers to take their civic action beyond saying “someone should write a letter” … I confess that in the past I haven’t gotten much further than letter-writing.  But hey, this blog could be the next step.  How many millions of people are on the internet now?…

latzuli
 

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