Friday, April 04, 2008

Environemnt and Debt: How to Abhor Spending Money

Go Green seems the motto of today's chatter.
Save the world: buy organic.
Save the world: buy alternative fuel.
Save the world: buy cloth.
Save the world: buy local

All well and good but do you see a problem? One little word joins all of these together...a word which our economy is built upon...a word we are told will ruin our nation if it is taken away: BUY.
But does it matter? What affect could this have on the environment? Producers of goods will see that Americans care and will therefore start producing more environmentally friendly things, right? Sure, and if that is your goal, you will win with this motto. However, before your victory dance is done, consider this: With every product that is made, there are factories which run to produce it, trucks consuming fuel to transport it, and something being thrown away which it will replace. is one more thing to clutter the earth.

Sometimes it seems to me that environment isn't really the focus of these "green consumers" but rather the "status" of being Green itself. Here is a case in point from a small corner of the internet world. There exists in cyberspace an internet forum called Diaper Swappers: a sight having everything to do with the resurrection of the cloth diaper. As you could imagine, most of the participants are quite concerned with the environment. However, I see a catch in their logic; a small amount of, may I say it, hypocrisy in their reasoning. To many on this sight, diaper buying/selling/trading becomes an addiction. If a "fluffy" package (or five) does not arrive in the mail, it can apparently ruin a good day. Yes, many of these are used diapers...traded amongst the members... but delivered all across the world, thus consuming fuel, creating the need for packaging, and breeding dissatisfaction with their current "stash" (the term used for one's supply of poop-catchers) as one realizes that there will always be a better diaper and "I must try it."
Of course, this is only one small example of the point. Goods are being thrown away by the loads as they are replaced with more environmentally green products.

Wouldn't the earth be better off if we would simply stop consuming so many products: green or not? Well, if environment itself does not persuade you to halt consumerism in your spending, perhaps you need something more tangible because, let's face it, global warming can not be seen in the everyday walk of life; thus making everyday consumerism justifiable as we tell ourselves "just this one time."

Back to the word "buy." As our economy faces recession, the government will do whatever it takes to jump start our spending again. A check for around a thousand dollars will apparently make us feel that everything is okay: persuading us to go and have some fun "on the house" (the white house that is). So I wonder: are people simply paying their debts every month out of mere tradition...habit? Are they forgetting the piles of money they are inDEBTed to pay to their creditors?
We are not free and clear on this one by a long shot. We knew when we started our adoption that we would be getting into "unsecured" debt. We accepted this and now is where the rubber meets the road as we see the reality of debt in a troubled economy. It is all quite unsettling.

These two things have, just recently, been impacting my view of spending. The word consumerism...when taken in the context of personal responsibility to our environment and to our finances...has begun to change how I feel when I take a trip to the store. I have even begun losing my desire to leave the house, knowing that if I do I will only find something to buy that we "need." (and yet could have gotten by perfectly fine without had I not gone out).

I will conclude this rambling post with two things to consider when you are thinking of buying even the littlest thing:
1. What will have to be thrown away if I buy this product?
2. (if you have debt) Buying ______ instead of using the money to pay off debt is just the same as putting it on my credit card. Would I buy ______ on credit? It is worth going further into debt for?

Peace as you consider these things.


Anonymous said...

Kudos to you Jodi! The word "green" is almost making me hate the color as I see the how quick we all are to continue to buy in the name of green. (as if that will keep the landfills from filling up)

As I clean out my basement I realize how very irresponsible I have been with our environment and with our personal spending.

Good insight!

JPB said...

I'm milling this one over some.

Jodi said...

Mill away... and please point out any faultiness in my reasoning. Hypocrisy is rampant when the issues of environmental and financial responsibility are discussed and I KNOW I am not free of it!

Oswald said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
J.J. said...

I agree in large measure with what you’re saying. My first memory of the environmental movement when I was a child was the slogan “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” (i.e. “Stop buying by realizing that you don’t really need that, stop buying by reusing the things you have, if you do buy something and can’t reuse it, recycle it). This might be a good summary of what you’re saying.
I think your criticism of “green” is in many ways similar to the criticism leveled against Christianity when a “Christian” does something contrary to their alleged ideals. There is wheat and there are tares in the Church – side by side. In the same way, there are probably people who are really concerned about the environment (even before it was fashionable), and there are people who are riding the trend wave. The existence of “Green tares,” however, doesn’t render evil the four “buy” statements at the beginning of your post. The fact is that after you’ve decided that you do indeed need to buy something, you still have to make a decision about what would be best to buy. We all make this choice every time we spend money, and these decisions are driven by what we value.
When you come up with a solution to living in a consumerist society, please let me know what it is. I’m in 100% agreement with your sentiments about the tax rebate.

Jodi said...

There are a few glaring problems with the blog. One is the lack of true contemplation that goes into a "post." Mostly, they should be considered simply first drafts of thought. Unfortunately, because of the fast paced "blogosphere," our thoughts do not get enough developing.
A second problem is the task to convey tone.
You are right, JJ, with what you said. My criticism would not be to argue that green things need to be avoided, only that perhaps those who are truely concerned with the environment should think before they buy what they don't need. Also, it is to point out, as you said, the tares who only ride the wave of trends.