Buy Less, Live More | 6 Ways to Make A Difference With Your Dollar {part 4}

This post is fourth in a series about the intersection of  faith, justice, consumerism, and poverty. 

image: ndh

We've been talking about justice, global poverty, and faith, and I promised a practical sort of post. So what do we do? Where do we go from here? Then I dragged my feet and wondered, Who am I to write any of this? Our family is does not live this ethic perfectly, and I won't pretend to have all the answers. We're just learning and making changes as we go, and I invite you along this path as a fellow pilgrim, not an expert.

Figures estimate that the world's wealthiest 20% [that's us] consume 80% of its resources. Americans alone, who number only 5% of the world population consume a staggering quarter.

The truth is that we vote with our dollars, and every purchase is an opportunity to live another Way. We don't have to live off-the-grid: small changes add up, and even baby steps in the right direction make a difference.

Let's stop allowing apathy, greed, or fear of not doing enough keep us from doing anything at all. If we stop tending and propping up our idols they will fall.

We can do this: consume less that we all may live more.

1. Buy Less

That's obvious, but I'm talking about more than just the things which overflow our closets and shelves. What if we also considered the packaging our food came in and the resources used to produce and transport that? Would we buy in bulk? Would we make our own snacks instead of purchasing individually wrapped ones? Would we skip the take-out bag of trash and pack a lunch instead?

Reuse / Re-purpose. Glass jars hold leftovers as well as the plastic ones you buy, and they don't leech harmful chemicals. Old tee shirts and socks clean as well as disposable dusters and commercial bathroom wipes. Lidded snack containers can hold small toys, and the zippered bag the sheets came in gathers art supplies as well as any pencil case.

Repair. This one can be frustrating, since it's often cheaper to buy a whole new blender than to find the part to fix it, but if our family is able to keep something out of a landfill, we start there. Mending coats and shoes are often inexpensive repairs that breathe new life into old things. Part of curbing consumption is taking better care of the things that we already have. 

Do without. Who needs paper towels/napkins/plates? Wrapping paper. This season's newest clothing, decor, and gadgets. Stuff to hold stuff. Knickknacks. Our family is slowly learning to be more conscious of the items we allow into our home.

2. Buy Smart

Good deals often aren't if we look at the big picture. Cheap consumer goods are ultimately disposable, and the cheap labor who make them are treated similarly. While inexpensive toys break and clothes wear out, well-made goods may last many seasons--or generations. In the long run, cheap things that require replacing are more expensive and consume more resources--environmental and human--than those crafted to last.

Cheap reusables aren't doing the planet any favors eitherJunk water bottles or grocery bags aren't better than the disposables they are meant to replace if they aren't made well. Invest in one nice travel mug instead of six crappy ones that are destined for the recycling bin.

{image source}
3. Buy Fair
"Fair Trade products are food or crafts that are produced under standards designed to end and prevent the poverty, sweatshop labor conditions, environmental degradation, etc that are endemic to the free trade “race to the bottom” that puts profits above people and the planet." (Global Exchange)
Fair trade items are not necessarily more expensive. Direct trade relationships minimize the distance between production and retail, ensuring better wages for workers and often keeping prices affordable for buyers. Fair trade shops like Gifts With Humanity and Lotus Jayne demonstrate how affordable, beautiful, and unique fair trade can be.

Most major U.S. chocolate manufacturers--including Nestle, Hersheys, Cadbury, and Mars--rely on child slaveryThe story of coffee is similar. Buying fair trade ensures just wages and no child exploitation. We need to consider the votes we cast with our wallets: is our "need" for cheap chocolate or coffee more important than basic human rights?

{image source}
4. Buy Vintage

It's not just for hipsters and penny pinchers. Buying used is a fantastic way to reduce our consumer and carbon footprint. Scour craigslist and freecycle. Hit up consignment and yard sales. Check antique and thrift stores. Host a stuff swap with friends. One man's trash really is another's treasure, and many vintage items have more mileage in them than the brand-new, poorly made stuff lining shelves at big box stores.

If you're into previously-loved goodies, let people know. There seems to be a cultural taboo against giving used items, so if you're down with vintage, say so. It's silly to feel pressured to buy brand new gifts just because we think we should.

5. Buy Handmade (or DIY!)

There really is something special about a handmade gift. If you aren't crafty, can you bake presents for teachers or neighbors? Craft fairs and websites like Etsy are a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind toys, jewelry, artwork, clothing, home goods, body products, and more.
6. Buy Local
For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes home.  (3/50 Project)
Dollars do far more good in indie shops than in the big box stores that are most apt to put them out of business, so keep it local when you can.

Living Another Way

Healing from affluenza requires intentionality. Cancel the catalogs. Stop making mall runs "just to look."  Opt out of the daily deal emails that alert you to sales on stuff you don't need. If t.v. commercials and magazines feed a lust for stuff, cut 'em out.

It may be cliche, but possessions do have a way of possessing us, don't they? They more stuff we have, the more time we spend cleaning and maintaining it. Choosing to have less may mean having more time to play, serve, and enjoy--and more money to give away generously.  

Learning the grace of enough and living against the consumerist tide may just lead to real abundance, for ourselves and our world.

This post is fourth in a series about the intersection of  faith, justice, consumerism, and poverty. 

How do you "vote with your dollar"?  What changes have you made?  How do you fight your own consumerist tendencies or go about making more ethical purchasing decisions?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...