Written by Kenna Kuhn, ESLLC 2016-2017
We have all heard it before: Your dollar is your vote. To some, this statement is too vague; to me, it’s incredibly powerful. (If you haven’t seen “The Story of Stuff” I recommend you watch it before reading further.)
To begin, let’s look at a random product bought in a store like Target or Bed Bath and Beyond… your shower caddy for example. The entire process begins with production (often overseas in factories with little-to-no pollution regulations, paying workers wages still under the poverty line, risking their health and spewing pollutants into the atmosphere risking the health of entire communities).
Then there is distribution (think planes, trains, cars) circulating products up to 9,000 miles from factory to store (not even accounting for the routes from factory to airport, airport to warehouse, warehouse to sorting facility to store to consumer).
Consumption (you, actually using your product, hopefully for a very long time).
And then disposal (ideally after being reused and repurposed everyone is recycling, however the reality is that disproportionate quantities of our waste, in the United States, is just sent to landfills across the country and often to poorer countries abroad).
The reality is is that all along the chain of consumption, most consumer items have a disproportionately degrading impact on the environment than they do a positive impact on our lives.
Given the aggressive consumerism our economy relies on, it is undeniable that what we buy, and from whom we do it, really matters. For me, the following two rules are my biggest commitment to changing the consumer effects on our planet.
Shop local, shop second hand. Today, I want to talk about shopping local.
In my opinion, there are a million & one reasons to shop local…the most important of which being as follows:
- You know where (to whom) your money is actually going
- Who is your purchase supporting?
- The environmental (and political, social and economic) ethics of your supplier are honest and accessible
- Just ask! Does the company your supporting support anti-gay movements?
- Shopping local eliminates the insane environmental degradation found on the chain of consumption:
- Production happens small-scale, usually in-country, abiding to the comprehensive guidelines of “environmentally-friendly” practices written into U.S. law, not to mention made by people who care about the quality of their product
- Distribution, quite simply, doesn’t involve anything going very far. The heart of local lies in the idea that producers and consumers are part of the same community and the stuff we consume comes from and serves that same community. No planes, no trains, no cars.
- Consumption, when done locally, makes all the difference. You support of local businesses means your money is cycling back into your community. Your dollar is voting for sustainability, ethical practices and the hard work of people you know by taking it out of the hands of big, fast/mass scale corporations and putting it in the hands of people who care.
- Disposal. My ideas for this don’t change regardless of where the product came from. There is no better way to dispose of an item than to re-use it. Repurpose it. Repurpose it again! And then, if you must, recycle it. What’s cool is not only can you shop locally, you can dispose locally too. Donate used clothes and useful items to homeless shelters, sell things to consignment stores, give things to friends, coworkers; hell, put stuff out on the street for free! Then, put what is left in the blue bin.