Wednesday, March 21, 2012

where to shop?

I find myself often wondering where I should shop. There are so many dimensions to this! Whether the food or other products are fairly traded, how much gas I have to use to get there and how much gas was used to move products there, local, organic, supporting various companies (or not), and stewardship of my monetary resources (cheapness).

I live in a small-ish town where we have a few grocery stores, and only one store that really has clothes and other helpful items, like kitchenware, etc.

We also have a Farmer's Market during the summer, many farms around where we can do U-pick berries and other fruits, and the ability to grow some fruits and vegetables ourselves in the summer months. There are also several CSAs in the area.

But you can't get everything from a CSA or a Farmer's Market, and I don't have the knowledge or interest to make ALL my family's food and other products myself. I think part of living in a community is that we shouldn't each have to reinvent the wheel...everyone does something to make society work, and when we all do our part then we can all reap the rewards of working together. Ideally.

The problem, of course, is that some people around the world get stuck in a factory for 16+ hours/day, sleep, and get up and do it again, just so we can have relatively cheap electronics--and we expect them to be grateful that they have a job.

And then there's the problem of transporting all these goods, which currently requires a lot of fossil fuels, which messes up the environment, and it also creates a culture that is dependent on oil, which causes us to think we have to fight wars to gain leverage in oil-rich areas of the world.

And then there's the problem of the healthiness of our food, and the health of workers who produced it, and the land it was produced upon. Using chemicals isn't good for any of these, but it's good for companies because they can make things more cheaply, which is good for us in that we can buy things cheaply and without having to grow them ourselves.

And then there's the problem of packaging, much of which ends up in the landfill. Even the things that we can recycle are often so costly to reuse that they don't actually get reused, so there are just warehouses full of "recycled" plastic.

Is using the Internet ecologically responsible, due to the huge data storage centers that have to be powered?

So, how do we navigate all of these dimensions at once? When I buy something local, it may or may not be organic. And what if something can't be found locally? Do I do without things like cars or computers because their parts are made in other countries? Do I go to another town or buy things online that are fairly traded, but waste gas to get it to me and money because said products are astronomically expensive? Do I try to buy things in bulk so that there's not so much packaging wasted? But if I buy in bulk from a big store (Costco, Winco), how do I know if their employees are being treated well and they get stuff that has been fairly traded? Do I just make my own suburban compound where I try to grow and store all my own food and make all the things I need from recycled stuff or trash?

How do you all navigate these questions? Are there Friends or other organizations you've found helpful  in discerning which companies to buy things from?

Friends in the 19th century refused to wear clothes dyed by slaves. As Friends in the 21st century, how could we begin to actively address these things together?


Alice Y. said...

I've been looking at Christian Aid's "live below the line" campaign, where folks are invited to try living on below £1/day for food, and having a go at drawing up a menu that is also in accordance with Christian Ecology Link's LOAF principles - Local, Organic, Animal-Friendly, Fairtrade. I'm trying to find out how to eat in the closest way possible to a fair share of the earth's resources.

I have time at the moment and skills to cook from scratch, and to buy in bulk, which helps. I think christian life looks different in every dimension to the mainstream industrial/consumer culture - we start to look different, we sound different (minding our own business not talking about others or celebrity culture; speaking the truth and so on), we eat differently, we bahave differently (stopping to help those in need for example) - we are being drawn into a new creation, a world which is emerging as God calls us beyond the industrial/consumer culture. Eating with mind and heart engaged in seeking God's will has the potential to connect us into a food ecology which is actually sustainable, and it's potentially life-transforming to go on the journey.

I have a feeling if we are faithful in living up to our guidance we might soon be in a position to help people further down the ladder to get better, healthier, cheaper food too - mass exodus from the industrial culture would be something to celebrate.

Laura D said...

Don't forget getting/ sharing stuff like kitchen things and clothes from each other and the several thrift stores very close to us (I'm including McMinnville) that have that stuff. I've lowered my standards for wanting things to be just right and exactly when I want them (clothes-wise). I only just now finally found some skinny jeans that work right. But anyway, I'm wondering the same type of stuff because I need a new cell phone very soon and I'm not sure what my options will be once I go to my carrier store in Sherwood. We'll see, but I'd love to pick the one that I felt the most peace about supporting, not willing to give it up just yet.