Category Archives: environment

Doin’ it all for my babies

             In December, 2002, we visited friends in Madison because we’re the idiots who think winter is the ideal time to travel to Wisconsin.  One afternoon, we went to their local grocery to pick up a few supplies.  Our friend selected a small kiwi.

            “Now, I’m just curious,” J said.  “Why would you pay twice as much for that one?  This one is much bigger.”  The friend mumbled some hogwash about a commitment to buying organic.  J and I rolled our eyes at one another.  First everyone was low fat, then they were low carb, and now the organic thing.  Whatever.

            We weren’t even sure what organic meant.  Over the next two years, we began to learn and to shift our eating habits because it just seemed healthier to ingest only food with our food.  By the time Zachary was born in 2004, we were trying to buy organic when possible, and we were very careful with what he ate.

            After he was born, there was a fundamental shift in my world view.  And by that I actually mean my view of the world.  The planet.  Whereas once the earth was a cool place to hang out for 90 or so years, it suddenly became the place he was going to have to live.  And the place that would need to feed him, protect him, and provide a nifty little element commonly referred to as oxygen.  The place where my grandkids would be born.

            It was a planet choking from the fumes my car spat out, crowded with the trash I tossed, bedizened with bling I didn’t need, and seizing from the chemicals I put on my lawn or used to clean my clothes.  Suddenly, it seemed like a crappy piece of land to inherit.

            In these tough economic times, everyone is thinking twice before buying, but I have long been thinking thrice.  Not just do I want it and can we afford it, but can the planet support it?  My answer is most often “no.”

            J thinks I am a fanatic, but he more or less goes along with my environmentalism because he knows I believe so strongly in the importance of protecting our children’s life support system.  He does not necessarily disagree with me that if the human race doesn’t make some drastic changes, life could be pretty bleak for our kids.  And by bleak I mean civilization eroding while the strongest among us slaughter the weak in order to hoard the few remaining drops of clean water.  Read Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower if you want to get the shit scared out of you.

            J is a forest thinker.  Whereas I see concepts in terms of myriad trees, he thinks in larger terms.  And he just doesn’t think one family changing its ways is going to make a difference.  He wants laws changed in order to make everyone comply.  He doesn’t mind being inconvenienced for the greater good… as long as everyone else is, too.

            That is why Earth Justice is one of our two charities.  We don’t give to lots of different organizations because we’d spend forever researching.  With the exception of sponsoring friends in various walk/run/bike/dogsled-athons, we give to only two charities.  We also ask for and give donations in lieu of gifts.  Most people pick Save the Children of the two, but I honestly wonder what good it does to medicate and feed the kiddos if the planet is going to be uninhabitable by the time they hit menopause. 

            So, I’m happy to send Earth Justice another donation in honor of the Just Posts retiring.  I am long past the days when I would even consider buying any kind of kiwi in Madison in December, but Earth Justice is working to make everyone protect our world.  These are people who litigate on behalf of my planet, the place that is going to need to feed my grandchildren, and I’ll take any excuse to support them.  Because they are damned right: if anyone needs a good lawyer, it is the earth.

            (And Happy Birthday, Jacob.)

I don’t feel like blogging today

Now, this could be due to the total sleep deprivation.  Or it could be because anything I have to say today is vapid compared with what’s going on in Gaza.  And Iraq.  And Tennessee.  And [insert location here].  We’re crapping in our living room and blowing up our neighbors and building an economy out of empty Pixie Stix wrappers and distracting ourselves with shiny baubles so that we don’t notice the sludge we are wading through to get to the After Christmas Sales.  

Next year in Jerusalem.  Next year may all have peace.

Repealing the inheritance tax

            I love stuff.  Things.  Possessions.  I love nick-knacks and dishes and towels.  I adore Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn and my local bookstore.  But most of all, I love clothes.  Expensive, well-made, unique clothing from boutiques that feature creative designers.  Owning the right shoes for the perfect outfit for the precise occasion.  Looking funky and individual yet completely appropriate.  Oh, God, do I love clothes.

            You’d never know it to see me in my Old Navy t-shirts and L.L. Bean bargain rack vest.  Most people, in fact, think I don’t give two and a half shits about clothing.  Since I cannot afford to shop at boutiques, I figure why spend the money for the middle ground?  I get the cheap stuff or the well-made boring stuff because I cannot have what my heart desires.  Which is the highest of the high end.

            Most of the time, I don’t bother buying clothes at all.  I mean, I buy them, but not like an American.  I am cheap.  I am very, very cheap.  And every single purchase, I think, “Well, I don’t really need that.”  It drives my husband bananas.  He is the only man I have ever met who wishes his wife would occasionally spend money without thinking about it.

            In fact, not only do I resist buying clothing, but I obsess about pretty much all expenditures other than food and diapers.  Actually, I worry about every time we eat away from home, too, so I guess food is not exempt. 

            This attitude has kept me from acquiring the massive amount of crap that dominates most American households.  People don’t seem to buy less stuff if they have less money – they just buy cheaper stuff.  But, me?  I have high-high-high class taste and not so much the budget for it.  So, I buy a few cheap things and leave it at that.

            But, over the last year, my attitude has started to change.  Because, I have begun to look around my house and realize how almost everything is destined for a landfill some day.  My kids’ Crocs, for example.  Or the body pillow I used in pregnancy.  And the foam letters on our floor.  And dirty tissues.  And stickers.  And the rice cooker.  And the little plastic thing that holds on the price tag.  And the big wooden giraffes with our kids’ names on them.  And our socks, my toothbrush, old telephones, broken fire trucks, all the stuffed animals.

            It makes me gasp with horror.  Go ahead, try it.  I’ll wait here while you look around the room and think about how, sooner or later, all the things that you see that cannot be recycled will be in a landfill somewhere.

            Then look at your kids (or someone else’s if you don’t have any).  You get my point?  They are inheriting our landfills. 

            Recycling is only part of the solution.  We are over-consuming.  We are filling our lives with stuff that must be produced, creating waste and pollution.  It is shipped to us, creating smog and greenhouse gasses.  Then we throw it away.  Nice fucking world to leave our kids.  Talk about an inheritance tax.

            I have started trying to avoid buying new things for the kids.  Toys, yeah, I buy new when I have to.   But baby gear?  And clothes for the children?  Whatever.  They can pass it down from child to child to family to family.  I can buy at the children’s used clothing store around the corner.  I can abase myself before the other parents at the preschool and take their hand-me-downs.  Whereas once I used to just try to limit how much stuff we got them, I am taking it a step further and trying to also make sure we buy as much used as possible.

            There will be things I have to buy new.  I did not like the paltry winter coat selection at the consignment shop, and if I cannot find someone to give Zach a jacket in the next day or two, I’m buying it with our store credit at the Gap.  I figure I have three kids who will eventually wear it.

            I, however, and not growing.  I have a coat.  I do not need a new one.  I might like one, but I do not need one.  There is nothing I need right away.  I can be patient and wait for the things I would like to appear in a thrift shop.  I have lately found myself preferring to just buy there.

            So, the time has come.  The time has fucking COME.  I am taking the plunge and making the commitment.  For the next year.  Twelve months. Three hundred and sixty-five days.  I will not buy myself any new clothes.  I will only shop used for my clothing.  Furthermore, I will not drive a half an hour to find the clothes, but rather shop where I am.

            The only exceptions are socks, bras, underwear, and shoes.  The first three are for obvious reasons, and the fourth has the complicated roots of a Jewish superstition about wearing a dead person’s shoes.  Don’t ask.  But, I honestly have never bought many shoes (that whole cheap thing, again).  Mostly running shoes and sandals.  I may find I need one pair of each in the coming year.

            Ironically, this may free me up to buy more of the clothes I want.  I may actually discover that the cheaper price allows me to actually have funky, different shirts because they only cost $4.  Or, that may start to seem expensive to me.  Times are hard, after all.

I’ll bet he bakes bread from scratch, too

            I used to have his blog in my Reader.  Then, in one of my routine purges, I unsubscribed, on the logic that my limited blog-reading time should be spent on those reading mine.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

            No, I wasn’t jealous that his stories slide together without any of the awkward adhesive mine seem to need.  Of course, I was no at all envious of his wit that never advertises itself as funny.  It was not even remotely difficult for me to read writing so clearly superior to mine.  I’m just that big of a person.

            Then, he had to go and get himself on NPR.  I am not kidding you.  I was driving back from dropping off the boys, and an essay came on.  I missed the name at the start, but by the time I got to my driveway, I was so riveted that I let Lilah fuss in the backseat till it was over.

            Yes, people, it was he.  He had an essay on N-fucking-PR.

            The essay was about Recession Wear.  You can read all about it on his blog, where he describes it much more entertainingly than I do, but the gist of it is that he has been buying adult clothes as the Salvation Army and then using the fabric to sew dresses for his little girl.

            Yeah.  Just to clarify, he’s a stay-at-home-dad who in his spare time records essays on NPR and sews clothes for his kid.  And you wonder why I would stop reading his blog.

           Not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment.  I, too, have begun to switch over to buying used clothes whenever possible.  It started as an environmental move.  Around the corner from our house is a children’s used clothing store.  We walk there, select four pairs of pants for under $20, and walk home.  There is absolutely no cost to the planet, other than the price tags on the clothing, because I bring a canvas bag for my purchases.  I save money, I do not use any gas, no new crap gets produced for us, and, best of all, the clothes come already sewn.

           A few blocks in the other direction (thus confirming that pretty much anything one might need is a walk from my house) is a branch of the cleverly named Out of the Closet, a chain of L.A. thrift shops that raise money for AIDS charities.  I suppose I could start refurbishing adult clothes that I find there into kids’ frocks, but then I’d need both a sewing machine and the ability to sew.  No, I go there for my clothes.  Again, cheap, no environmental cost, and it raises money for charity.

          So, we’ve got our own version of Recession Wear around here, although I’ll admit it doesn’t look as good as the stuff on Mike’s daughter, nor is NPR likely to come calling anytime soon.            

          I just wish his blog weren’t so damned good.  I think I am going to have to add it back into my Reader.

Flat screen TVs

Please, please, think twice about buying a new flat screen TV.  We really only have one planet.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

            At first, I was sort of amused.  We all have been running about, talking about how Sarah Palin’s family should be left alone to deal with private matters.  Yet, there she was, pushing them front and center during her acceptance speech.

            My amusement, however, quickly changed to horror.  Yes, her speech was ugly in the same way Biden’s was.  I would love to see a campaign during which no one ever attacks the other candidate, but I am realistic enough to accept that this is the nature of contemporary American politics. 

            No, my horror came when the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate made a joke about Obama “Turning back the waters and healing the planet.”  Turning back the waters?  TURNING BACK THE WATERS?  Is a Republican candidate seriously joking about turning back the waters three years after Hurricane Katrina?  Maybe there’s a reference I missed in there that makes it a little more palatable, because everyone in the audience seemed highly amused.

            Healing the planet is not a joke.  It is not to be taken lightly, and a woman who professes to be religious ought to take her responsibility to the planet a little more seriously. 

            Healing the planet ought to be the first priority of any candidate who claims to want to serve the American people.  Because, without someplace to live, all the abstinence and victory and drilling will be pointless.  Who the hell cares if we can claim “victory” in a war about oil if our children face a future filled with wars over clean water and food supplies?

            So, her answer to everything may be to stick a drill into the ground and pump more gas into SUVs, but I have news for Sarah Palin.  You cannot claim to put your country first if you are putting the planet that it is a part of dead last.

Saving the planet for Starbucks customers of the future

            I don’t drink coffee, but that doesn’t seem to put me at a disadvantage when I go to Starbucks, especially with their new chocolate banana thingadingy.  I like Starbucks.  I like that they have comfortable chairs.  I like that they have low-fat options.  I like that their sheer ubiquity makes finding a bathroom when traveling the world feasible.

            What I don’t like is the apparent Starbucks addiction to disposable items.  They own ceramic mugs and they own real plates.  Yet, every time I go in, even if I specify that my beverage or Danish is “for here,” the whippersnapper behind the counter reaches for a plastic cup or a paper bag. 

            It’s for here, kiddo.  I promise I’ll leave the mug behind when I leave.

            This seems a universal across Starbucks’s internationally, although the issue is more noticeable in the U.S.  Sitting in a Starbucks recently, having narrowly escaped a plastic cup, I looked around.  There were ten or eleven other people in the shop, but not one of them had a reusable cup.  Every single one of them was drinking from plastic.

            So, here’s what I am wondering.  Why, in these days of greening and earth-saving, can’t Starbucks try out two new policies?  First, perhaps they could make more of a commitment to recycling, providing separate bins for all those plastic cups in every single store.  And, second, they could train their cute little people in green aprons to ask with every order, “Would you prefer a mug with that, or do you prefer something that you will use once and then toss in a landfill?”

            Now, you know that no business is going to start changing policies just because I think it should do so.  I need a few more people behind me.  Like you and your friends.  You can do this one of two ways.  Either go to the Starbucks comment website and send an email about this issue (and include a link to this post, please, so they know it is a group effort), marking it as “corporate responsibility” issue. Or, please leave a comment for Starbucks today on this post.  Leave a nice little comment telling them that you really would prefer if that company did not have it’s own private landfill.  Even if you never comment, even if you don’t have a blog of your own, PLEASE COMMENT TODAY!   

            Also, please forward this post to your friends, family, and complete strangers.  Please link from your blog if you have one.  I want to collect as many comments as possible before I forward the link on to Starbucks, and I want them to get a tidy little group of emails.

            And, finally, when you next go into a Starbucks – and believe me, there is one near wherever you are – if you are planning on staying, tell the perky youngster behind the counter that you want that latte in a mug.  You may have to say it twice, but hopefully the message will get through.

Please, today restrict your comments to this particular Starbucks issue — I’d like to stay on point here and get the message across!  Thanks.