My mom has been asking me what Tomoe wants for Christmas. I usually say "Nothing, She/we have too much crap already", but today I had a better idea, after reading this amazing article in Fast Company about Wal-Mart. I told my mom that what Tomoe wants for Christmas, is for my mom to not buy anything at Wal-Mart. Not just not buy Tomoe's present at Wal-Mart, but not buy anything at Wal-Mart, ever.
It gave me a good idea of what I will be giving to everyone for Christmas this year too. While it may sound a little like saying "I want peace on earth and good will toward men", this is what I want from, and will be giving to, other people.
A pledge that:
- I will, when given an option, buy clothing and other manufactured goods that can be verified to have been made in countries where factories are held to strict environmental regulations, regardless of how much higher the price is. I will also make every effort to find this information about the crap I waste my money on.
- I will only buy environmentally friendly soaps and toiletries when available, regardless of the price markup. (this includes buying refills instead of new bottles just because the bottles are on sale or have a rebate)
- I will measure my monthly waste (garbage, not bodily) for one month, and reduce it by some to-be-determined percentage in the next month, and maintain a waste out-put level at or below that new target for the remainder of the year.1
- With every purchase, I will conciuosly follow and document (on my site) how I applied the "3-R rule"2.
- Re-duce: Do I really need this crap?
- Re-use: Can the item or packaging be reused, or used for more than one purpose?
- Re-cycle: Can the packaging or product be recycled?
- I will start my window-sill compost project again.
- Although I already do separate all my garbage, I'd love for family members to begin separating theirs. Although I guess there are not as many readily available recycle options in the US, the least they can do is return cans and bottels to the store, rather than throwing them in their garbage with everything else.
- (my gift to Tomoe) I will wash out the juice cartons immediately after using them so there is less mold when I take it to the recycle bin.
- I will stop the water in the shower when I am washing my hair, brushing my teeth, or shaving (yes I do all those in the shower)
- I wont buy disposable products when re-usable options are avaialable. I will bring my own tupperware to any stores where I buy goods which are not already packaged (such as the bread-shop, the fish-shop, the local tofu-shop, etc...3
- I will only buy recycled toilet paper regardless of price.4
- I will make one of my daily poops before I take a shower, so I don't need to use toilet paper. :-D
I'm not sure if people will really appreciate these gifts, but it's what I would want for Christmas.
While some of these require action and may be a pain in the ass, others simply require spending money, something you would be doing if you got me a plastic CD holder, or a lava-lampish gift "for the guy who has it all" filled with some environmentally hazardess materials, and wrapped it all up with more wasteful packaging. Instead, you can just spend the money on organic foods which don't introduce all kinds of hazardess chemicals and hormones into our environment. Not only will I be happy about that, but you will also benefit from eating healthier foods yourselves!
It isn't as hard on the wallet as it seems at first either. If you know me, you know I'm one cheap basitsh. I've found however that paying an extra buck-fifty for a package of organic eggs, or veggies, or and extra 30 yen for each package of paper wrapped natto, instead of the "cheaper" individually plastic-wrapped cups is not making me go broke. (I say cheaper in parentheses because it is only cheaper at the checkout counter. the price you will pay in the long run for landfills and waste disposal is far more than 30 yen) In fact, environmentally minded shopping actually saves me money! Although individual items are often more expensive, it is more than made up for every time I put something I "want" back on the shelf because it is wrapped three times in plastic and foam.
Why, the other day I saved 400 yen by not buying a bunch of half-priced pears which I really wanted.. unfortunately, they were all individually wrapped in plastic, with their very own non-reclyclable styrofoam tray. Why the hell would the store do that? The pears were already passed their prime, which is why they were half price in the first place. Why waste time and money on that packaging?
Anyway, this is a post about gift ideas for my family, not a rant about the incredible thoughtlessness and stupidity I see around me each and every day, which makes me really want to cry sometimes, and smack people around most of the time (like the people in from of me in the store getting a plastic bag for their drink, which they are going to be drinking the second they walk out the doors!). Even the most innocent thing can set me off. This weekend I went to a get-together where the water served was little 16-ounce plastic bottled water! WHY?!?!?!? What's wrong with a couple pitchers of water served in re-usable glasses?!? But I'll save the ranting for some other time.
I guess what I really want, is not for everyone to make some specific pledge, or document any specific deed, but rather to simply start thinking, even the tiniest bit, about what you buy and use. Once you think about something, and think about the consequences of your purchase, it is soooooo much easier to put it back on the shelf, and almost impossible to want whatever you thought you wanted in the first place.
1 Tomoe just taught me this the other day. It seems so obvious when I think about it, but I was staring at beer in cans and beer in bottles, wondering which was better for the environment. The answer is bottles, which can be Re-used, while cans can only be Re-cycled (of course I should have chosen to Re-duce, but...).
2 There is township in Tokyo which recently issued a three-liter garbage bag to each household to illustrate how much garbage each person should be throwing away each day in order to make their current land-fill last only ten years. People complained, but come on people!!! three-liters per day?!!? What could you possibly consume that would result in even three liters per week!? I guess where there's a want there's a way.
3 Only 20% of the population of the world uses toilet paper. What if everyone did?!!? There would be no trees left. The toilet-paper thing may seem trivial, but I add it because it has come to my attention that some members of my family use the most wastefull 100% wood-pulp, bleached (with horrible chemicals) white paper just to wipe their dirty ass! Give me a break!
4 The bread-stores in Japan are one of my biggest peeves. You pick your non-wrapped bread from the shelf, and carry it to the register on a tray, where they put every piece of bread into it's own individual plastic bag! What the hell?!?!