With the new year fast approaching it’s time to take inventory; and after a mayhem-filled holiday shopping season, reign-in and streamline our approach to consumption. Think before you buy — taking a few seconds to evaluate your shopping choices can save you money, help the planet and benefit local businesses and craftsman that are a meaningful component of the local community.
Shopping – size matters
- Drive right by that big box. Price isn’t everything. You can generally find products similarly priced at smaller local shops and food stores if you do a little legwork and look for deals – you may also find better quality goods and less made-in-China junk if you avoid the mega-stores.
- Think about who you’re buying from and how they treat their employees – both McDonald’s and Walmart are facing protests for not paying their employees a living wage.
Food – buy local
- Buying from local farmers, farm stands and local, regional food markets can make a tremendous difference in the quality of meats, poultry and produce you put in your body. Big agricultural companies and the giant big box stores that feature their foods ship their meats and produce in giant refrigerator trucks and shipped hundreds, if not thousands of miles before it hits a store shelf. Food is often shipped frozen, or so heavily refrigerated that it’s designed to ripen on the store shelves – robbing the foods of nutritional value, flavor and freshness – not to mention the chemical fertilizers, insecticides, hormones and genetic engineering that are used to increase profitability while turning a blind eye to long term consumer health issues.
- The animals that comprise the raw materials of the big poultry and beef providers are raised in filth, squalor and the most inhumane environments imaginable and are often injected with or fed antibiotics and hormones that we consume – not pretty picture.
- Local farmers generally take better care of their crops and critters – avoiding the short-cuts and chemical additives that ensure a healthy profit margin and the resulting crappy unhealthful food quality. In addition to freshness and better quality, your local farmers are actually paying property taxes in your community and contribute to a more diverse patchwork of land use, businesses and culture.
Fashion – keep it green
- Our advice – read those labels. It matters how and where things are made. As with food, buying local, or from small crafts people and designers has many benefits. Many fashion products are produced in the worst kind of sweat shops in the Far East and Mexico – think about that before you buy that scarf or blouse made in China or the Philippines. Saving a couple of bucks shouldn’t always be the paramount issue.
- Another important benefit of buying from a small local shop or green designer – you won’t look like every other robot in the office and you’ll be helping sustain both the local economy and creative people.
- What’s this made of? Conventional cotton is a tremendously harmful crop to grown. The massive amounts of water, fertilizer and pesticides used in cotton farming has a tremendous adverse effect on the environment. Check those labels. Look for eco-friendly dyes. Buy clothing made of renewable fibers and materials like hemp, Alpaca wool, naturally-dyed linen, Okeo-Tek-certified bamboo and peace silk. Tencel/Lyocell, Ingeo, Modal and Ecospun fibers are all innovations that are earth-friendly. Avoid conventional polyester material.
- Don’t be a slave to every fashion trend and marketing blitz that comes down the runway. Don’t be a sucker. The fashion biz is designed to sell you something new every season. Develop your own style and let it slowly evolve. Shop consignment and thrift shops – keep perfectly good clothing out of the ever-mounting landfills.
- Don’t be afraid to wear something more than once and in different combinations. We live in a needlessly disposable society where ‘newer is better’ – change your perspective and look beyond the trend. Pick pieces that will work for more than one season.
Transportation – saving money and the planet
- Buy a car that gets good gas mileage and you can save a quick grand a year. The trend toward buying more fuel-efficient cars has had an interesting impact on gas prices – they’re falling. Lower demand and gasoline consumption means more gasoline reserves and lower prices (oil companies are still allowed to price fix but that’s another story). Better gas mileage, more efficient vehicle engines and less driving also means lower carbon emissions, cleaner air and an incremental slowing of global warming (or in the vernacular of the politically correct pansies, ‘climate change’).
- Driving smarter, with slower acceleration, at steady speeds (use that cruise control) and without abrupt stops and starts can save you several miles-per-gallon. Do not idle – texting for several minutes in a parked car with the AC blasting is a definite no-no.
- Car pool to cut your costs and get to know your colleagues or neighbors.
- Make sure your car is tuned up and has properly inflated tires – things that can add up to 10% to your gas mileage.
Around the home
- Update your home’s HVAC system (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning). Installing an efficient home heating and cooling system can save thousands of dollars over the long haul and increase the value of your property.
- Invest in programmable thermostats and update your HVAC system to a zone control system. A programmable thermostat will allow you to lower the heat during times when you are not home and also allow you to avoid heating and cooling the areas of your home you’re not using, saving you a bundle on heating and cooling bills.
- Insulate your home and eliminate drafts – this can help you reduce the amount of cash that’s leaving your home via those drafty windows and doors.
Better to give than to receive
- The holidays are great time to evaluate all the things you’ve accumulated over the years and designate the excess items to those who can them, be they family, friends, or a local charity or family in need.