Archive for the ‘Greener Living’ Category

Cover of "The Female Eunuch"

Cover of The Female Eunuch

Please help me create a rad reading list for fledgling Radigans! I want to create a tab/page with a suggested reading list for people on the verge of a political awakening who stumble across my page. Suggest works that personally challenged you or led you to some sort of new awakening. Fiction and non-fiction, ancient and contemporary – everything’s welcome.

Here are my first suggestions, off the top of my head:

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
The Better World Handbook by Ellis Jones, Ross Haenfler, and Brett Johnson
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer

I’m sure you have better ones, so submit them in the comments!  Websites, blogs, artists, musicians, festivals, and so forth are also welcome, though I’m keeping the page limited to books for now.

Pledges to consume less are consuming me.  Everywhere I look, someone’s giving up buying clothes for a year, shopping at the Evil Empire for a month, or buying anything ever.  I feel like I want to do a little experiment of my own and blog about it.  Why do I feel this need?  Honestly, the amount of waste produced in this country makes me a little ill.  When customers at the restaurant ask for 2 Styrofoam boxes so that they can keep their small amounts of food separate, the waste makes me cringe.  I schlep reusable bags to the grocery store, and I only bag wet, leafy produce.  I stood alone in a grocery store aisle, and I looked at all the prepackaged food and realized that all the containers were landfill-bound, and I felt a little ill and panicky.  I want to do a little more to waste a little less.

Beyond the material waste that ends up in the landfill, I am bothered by the spend-work-spend-work-spend rat race we seem to find ourselves in.  I’m not a big shopper, except when it comes to books.  I went to a big chain bookstore to purchase Taking Charge of Your Fertility yesterday, and I tortured myself by walking up and down the aisles looking at wonderful books that I’d love to own.  Maybe that’s how other people feel when they shoe shop?

From a selfish, purely monetary standpoint, I’m interested to see how much money I can save if I purposefully shop less.  I should be starting grad school in the summer, and I won’t be able to work much, if at all, for about a year.  I don’t like to be stressed about money, and sometimes I bring little money crunches on myself by spending too much.

I’ve found some guidelines in The Compact.  A movement that began in San Francisco in 2006, the Compact is a pledge to purchase very little for one year, though some Compacters may continue these spending patterns indefinitely.  According to the GOOD article linked in this paragraph, “The premise was simple: barter, borrow, or buy secondhand for a year-food, drink, health, and safety necessities excluded.”

So, the brakes I bought this year – fine, I needed them to keep other drivers and myself safe.  The secondhand jogging clothes from the thrift store – alright, it was secondhand, so no new waste was created.  The ingredients to make tamales – no problem, it’s food.  The book I bought yesterday?  Not so much.  I suppose I might argue that it was a health necessity, but that would be a pretty big stretch.

I will be an unofficial Compacter starting January 1st, 2011.  I will also write a little more in-depth about the nuances of the Compact and its aims.

Starbucks claims that they will begin to work on a recyclable paper cup, in this article available on the New York Times blog.  Some recycling facilities don’t recycle Starbucks cups, due to that waxy, plastic-y coating on the inside that makes them waterproof.  In theory and practice, I support recycling.  However, there is still so much waste and destruction that goes into creating the cups, even if, in the end, they are recycled.  The recycling process itself then takes more energy and chemicals to reengineer the cup into something else.  Sure, it’s a hell of a lot better than throwing in the landfill to slowly rot, but I think we are working on the wrong problem.  We’re operating on the assumption that it is okay to go to a place and purchase a non-essential good for pleasurable consumption in a disposable container.  Maybe it’s not.

So while the head honchos at Starbucks get crackin’ on the recyclable cup conundrum, here are some Rad Alternatives.

Rad Alternative #1: Stop drinking coffee.

Whoa, Nelly.  That is radical indeed.  I pretty much only drink organic green tea at home these days.  I love the taste, it’s quick and easy to make, and I’m not as jittery.  Plus, green tea is hella good for you.  I drink free coffee at the restaurant if I work a double shift, and I go out for a girls’ coffee night with some seriously rad friends of mine once a week.  I still love coffee, but I’m not a pot-a-day junkie anymore.

Rad Alternative #2: Make your own damn coffee.

Alright, I know this might sound crazy, but you can make your own coffee!  This is better than going to the Bucks for a couple reasons.  One, you save money, and you can invest your daily latte money in a mutual fund and retire with enough money to be able to go volunteer with the Peace Corps in your old age instead of living off Social Security and working part-time as a greeter for the Evil Empire.  Or, if you’ve got your radical retirement plan in place, you can donate that money to Amnesty International.

Okay, aside from the money you’ll save, you’ll save time.  It doesn’t seem that way, I know; you want to dash out the front door as quickly as possible so you can wait in line for five minutes.  Or you could just make your own latte in less than five minutes.  You’ll save gas, if you typically drive to the Bucks and idle there waiting for your tasty treat.  You’ll be able to control the quality of your drink.  I’m not a great barista, but I got a little espresso machine/milk steamer from one of my girls’ night coffee chicas when I got married, and I do alright.  I can use products that I know are organic and fair-trade and cruelty-free.  There’s a small upfront investment, but you’ll save money in the end.

Rad Alternative #3: Carry a reusable cup!

This option is the easiest thing in the world to do.  You don’t have to quit drinking coffee or make it yourself.  All you need to do is bring your own cup along.  This probably means you can’t use the drive-thru at some Bucks locations, but we both know a quick step inside to interact with the people is good for you anyway.  If you are worried about remembering to clean the cup, it’s no big deal.  You can put a tiny dot of soap in it in the morning and blast it with hot water if you forget to put it in the dishwasher the night before.  I will even allow you to buy 2 cups so that you always have a clean one.  (I’m firm, but fair.)

If you already have a reusable cup, you should start using it today.  From this day on, you are a reusable cup user.  If you don’t have a reusable coffee cup, the Rad thing to do is to check out the local thrift stores and see if you can find one there.  Remember, it’s all about reducing consumption, Radigans!  If nothing shows up at the thrift stores, a natural, hippie-granola store might have one.  Whole Foods and markets of its ilk probably will.  Discount stores will.  If you can wait for some shipping time, why not get a reusable mug that supports a cause you love?

Rad Alternative #3 Bonus Points

If you still plan on going to coffeehouses frequently, make sure you ask for fair-trade coffee.  The world’s coffee workers and their environments are being exploited!  Organic, shade-grown, fair-trade java gives you a boost without first stepping on the weary backs of the Third World to get it.  Ask for fair-trade.

Also, look into non-mega-chain coffeehouses in your neighborhood.  I found an adorable one down my street.  Now, girls’ coffee night features local artists’ work on gallery walls, fair-trade coffee for purchase in bulk, and the occasional local band performing.