Stop Buying Shit!

Stop Buying Shit!

I have a manifesto on my portal which is largely anticolonial and antimaterialist and which outlines some of my thinking about how we can stop adding to the ecological disaster before us while setting up an ethical approach to human interactions.  I make suggestions as to what humans can do “to alleviate economic inequality and environmental ruin” and here is one selection:

  • Plan meals and buy groceries only for the same day;
  • Limit your shopping to whole foods which will:  improve your health, cut down on packaging of pre-made foods and eliminate food waste;
  • Begin a food policy within your household of no food waste:  try not to overcook  and in the case of excess food, these leftovers should be eaten the very next meal;
  • If you don’t know how to cook, learn how to cook today.  By using whole foods you eliminate food and packaging waste and you give your body the best source of nutrients.  By tossing out bottles of pre-made drinks and diet sodas with herbal tea drinks (ie. hibiscus, verbena, chamomile) and freshly squeezed juices you greatly improve your body’s health and eliminate hundreds of kilos of metal and plastic waste;
  • Stop over-eating, lose weight and exercise: most of us in the West are guilty of one of these three behaviours, if not all three. The health crisis in North America due to these three problems alone is a drain on worldwide food resources. We have a social responsibility to stop over-consuming so as to make way for food to stay  and to keep our bodies in shape;
  • For those animal eaters, reduce your consumption of meat, eggs and dairy to two or three times a week.  According to Harvard nutritionist, Jean Mayer, by reducing meat production and consumption in the United States by just 10% would free enough grain and legumes to feed 60 million people.
  • For those who eat eggs and dairy products, reduce your consumption of these products to two or three times a week and buy only ethically procured products;
  • Stop buying crap and try to create systems of exchange or donation for items we do decide to buy (ie. books, videos, toys, clothes);
  • Buy fewer clothes and buy clothes from ethical clothing retailers and designers.  If a package of socks costs $5 for six pairs, there is a reason why the socks are so cheap: unethical labour practices.  If we expect to be properly paid for our jobs, we need to return the favour and properly pay for materials we use regardless of where they were made;
  • Don’t turn up your noses at fashion designers and fashion houses—often these are the places of more ethical and grassroots clothes design and fabrication.  As you read labels on the food you buy, learn about who makes your clothes from the designer to the tailor.  There are history and artistry in clothing and you would be surprised to learn that buying more quality and fewer quantity effects social change, supports artistry over mass production and/or maintains ethical standards of employment locally and internationally;
  • Recycle your own clothes and shoes—find a nearby tailor and shoe cobbler and keep your clothing in repair rather than throwing it out;
  • Educate yourself about where your taxes go.  Where is tax money being used and how might it be better used to alleviate the social and political conditions of poverty;
  • Buy ethical food products (ie. café equitable, etc) and try to buy locally and in-season;
  • Stop the fast-food habit and limit eating out in restaurants to once a week.  Likewise, eat out in healthy restaurants that serve reasonable portions of freshly-prepared food and do not support “all you can eat” or buffet venues which encourage food waste;
  • Try to limit your automobile usage to once a week and when running errands, invite a friend or neighbour who hasn’t a car;
  • Reduce your household waste to recycling and compost;
  • Fast several times a year, or observe Ramadan: it is amazing how refreshing such practices are of the body and these practices serve as a reminder of the implications of repetition and somatic functions;
  • Stop buying bottled water and instead carry a thermos with you that you can refill;
  • Try to reduce your intake of alcohol, drugs and prescription drugs.

Aside from being in complete agreement with the character of Sheldon (from television’s Big Bang Theory) about the inutility of gifts, still there is enormous pressure to do Christmas gifts, especially when children are involved.

In fact, I just had my first holiday season with my children where one of them was for the first time aware of the commodity fetishism found throughout the structures of the Christmas period. Even with my “presence, not presents” attitude towards the holidays, my four-year-old wanted material items.  I have discussed this for many years, thought long and hard about how to indulge my children with happiness and love at this time of year, wondering if letting us begin that tradition of gift-giving was beneficial much less necessary. Of course, to a four-year-old, everything seems necessary. So I set out to discuss with my daughter various items that might be rethought.

First on her list: a Christmas tree.  I asked why we should get one and she wanted to decorate it. So, I posed options: a small Christmas tree, a recyclable Christmas tree, or no Christmas tree in the house and instead we adopt a tree in the park nearby.  As I researched and thought about everything, I learned that the first two options were hardly ecological: the smaller trees do not survive to adulthood and the shipping to and fro of so-called ecological trees only swapped in green points, as fuel would be used to pick up and return these trees. The park contains many a tree, but none with branches adapted to decoration much less, did we want to risk that decorations are blown away only to pollute, even if they might be ecological?

So the option we turned to, was a wooden stick tree which we can decorate and use every year. It turned out to be a most minimalist and beautiful option, which upon assembly and then with our crafting, we created dozens of paper and cookie decorations with a few items from our home that we added to the tree.

Then came the issue of the “presents”.  In speaking with a friend, she and her partner had decided to give their children one gift each.  I had already been setting up my daughter with the knowledge that we were not going to do gifts and yet felt guilty enough to decide that if need be I would use her birthday gift which I was to give her later this month, for her Christmas present. Still, even with that as a possible solution to remedy her expectations, I was left in the same predicament in which I began: that my two-year-old was really impossible to buy for. He has everything a child at that age wants (he does not want for items) and I would then be forced to match a gift for him which would mean that I would buy something just to buy it.  So, as the day approached, I realised that the guilty was mine alone to negotiate and we had the best giftless present.

How this translates today as my daughter is back at school and might be disappointed to learn that she is the only child without Christmas presents is another story.  I am hoping that we might be creating a holiday tradition for our family whereby participating in cooking, creating crafts, watching movies, playing games, singing, and dancing forms the bonds of this holiday and not the suspense of what we get. For what we got, we already had: each other.