Simple Living and Environmentalism: connected

I’ve been writing a few posts about environmental issues lately, like the mass of plastic waste floating in the North Pacific and the problem of exporting our disposable lifestyle to the developing world. When I think about the quintessential Simple Living blogs like Down-to-Earth I wonder sometimes if I’m veering off on tangents that are increasingly removed from the main topic of this blog, which is focussed on our family’s plan to leave the big city and buy a small acreage.

The commitment to curb spending and save money in order to make our dream a reality was the beginning of a journey for me, one that soon led me to discover and adopt the principles of Simple Living. We needed to spend less, to be frugal. This meant recognizing and resisting the forces of consumerism and educating ourselves about money (particularly the perils of consumer debt). As my journey progressed, the connection between consumption and environmental damage became more apparent to me.

Crunchy Chicken posted today about the upcoming Earth Day events. Her words sum up my feelings about the connection between Simple Living and sustainable living. She writes:

It is extremely easy to get sucked into buying into a new lifestyle and there are tons of products and companies out there to help you purchase your way into greener living…If you really want to do something for the environment, stop consuming.

Trying to live a Greener lifestyle while still holding to the consumerist lifestyle of our modern culture runs you the risk of becoming just another consumer, albeit one with a Green label. Yes, recycled plastic garbage bags are better than those made from 100% raw materials, but it’s still another plastic bag that was manufactured, distributed, and will sit in a landfill (or worse) for years. Green shampoos and household cleansers still come in plastic bottles. Biodegradable corn-based containers and so-called biofuels are dependent on an already dysfunctional and destructive corn-growing industry.

Here’s a humourous look at the concept of Buying Green:

Our environmental problems are not going to be solved simply by switching from the purchase of one kind of product to the purchase of another. Crunchy Chicken said:

“…over the last year, I’ve matured from focusing on doing green things that tend to be product based, to really focusing on the necessity of products in achieving a greener lifestyle.”

I feel the same way. This journey I’m on has taken me to the same point. And it goes back to something I wrote early on, that it’s all connected: frugality, consumerism, environmentalism. Since then I’ve found more connections. The desire to grow my own vegetables was partly based on frugality, but has since opened my eyes to the destruction wrought by industrial agribusiness on the environment and our health. It has lead to a growing interest (which is fast becoming a passion) in local and sustainable farming.

I hope this blog provides witness to that connection. I hope our journey can inspire others to question the status quo and make even small changes in their lives for the better. Mostly, though, I hope that I can join with the voices of others who have similarly inspired me and continue to do so on a daily basis (see the Blogroll on my sidebar). I’ll end with this quote from Michael Pollen (which I grabbed from No Impact Man today) about why we should bother to do our tiny little bit:

“If you do bother, you will set an example for other people. If enough other people bother, each one influencing yet another in a chain reaction of behavioral change…Consciousness will be raised, perhaps even changed: new moral imperatives and new taboos might take root in the culture…Not having things might become cooler than having them. And those who did change the way they live would acquire the moral standing to demand changes in behavior from others — from other people, other corporations, even other countries.”

Categories: being green, simple living | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Simple Living and Environmentalism: connected

  1. carosgram

    It is hard not to buy when everything we see and hear urges us to, including our government. We can buy into an upperclass status by having a Wolf range and Sub-Zero fridge. We need to have special lotions for our skin and exotic oils for cooking. Even salt is a status symbol. Amazingly we all seem to want to be someone we are not and think we can get their through purchasing power. Why isn’t it ok to be working class? Why isn’t it a status symbol to be debt free? Why do we need a McMasion? Why does every child need their own bedroom? I admire your efforts in living a more genuine lifestyle and wish you the best on your journey.

  2. ruralaspirations

    You know, I never really connected the whole “brand name prestige” thing to wanting people to buy into the upperclass. But you are so right. Buying luxury models gives us the illusion of being luxury class…even when we have to dig ourselves into debt to attain it.

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