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A Manifesto of Sorts

I'm tired of living a disposable life.
My life is not disposable.

The incessant crinkle of cellophane fills my ears too often. It envelopes my food, my knitting needles, my freaking underwear. I peel and shear my way through layers of plastic to access my daughter's new toys, made of the same petrochemical polymers as the packaging that protects them from warehouse dust.

I am tired of sixteen dollar food dehydrators that break inside a couple of weeks. I'm even more tired that I'm not surprised when it happens—that I've pretty much come to expect it. Then, I start scanning family photos for my genealogy research and I see kitchen wares my mother still uses in a picture dated 1963. Once upon a time, we shopped for goods that would last us a lifetime. Now we just hope it will last until next season's patterns are released.

My father's jeans used to be covered in patches. A hole in the knee or seat would be covered with iron-on denim or a scrap scavenged from another pair of jeans to be worn at the construction site another day or week or month or year more. I know how to mend clothes, but too often I view it as just another task on the pile of things that I should do which overwhelm me every day. When did spending another thirty dollars on a pair of trousers become more convenient than ten minutes with a needle and thread?

I'm tired of feeling like I live in a disposable world.
It's not the world that I want to live in. It's not the world that I want to bequeath to my offspring.
I want to reshape it into something better.

Having a child has made me think more critically about how I live my life. The old saw about living one's life as an example unto others has long been familiar to me—but I now spend every day as the primary example to a developing person. She looks to me to figure out how the world works.

Live more. Consume less.

This is my wish for my daughter.

I'm not entirely sure how to lead her there. A mantra from my childhood comes to mind, though, as a guiding principle: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Today I tried to apply those principles when I went to the market. In every aisle, before reaching for an item, I tried to ask myself: “Do we need this?” Now, every household needs a quantity of food that will leave all of its members satisfied, hopefully with qualities of tasting good and promoting healthy nutrition. Beyond that, though, there are a lot of choices.

This week I decided to forgo “snack foods” because most of them come in excessive packaging and/or packaging that can't be recycled. Instead, I decided that I would do some baking this week—because I have the resources to do so and it means engaging in a hobby that I enjoy. It also gives me a chance to share the experience of baking with my daughter. At nineteen months, she is too young to really assist with the task. Still, I can let her stand on the step stool at the counter to observe and learn.

It's going to take a while to make the shift in lifestyle. With luck I can keep my intention in my mind as I go about life. And maybe, just maybe, it will be a shift that my daughter never has to make. Maybe for her it will just be how one lives life.

I'm tired of living a disposable life.
My life is ready to change.


( 24 murmurs — Talk About the Passion )
Jun. 11th, 2013 12:43 am (UTC)
I decided this week that as one of my personal wishes is to start a blog--that I would work on writing a more classic blog-style post. It has been a while since I attempted such a task, and it proved to be rather more challenging than I anticipated. If anyone has time and wants to leave feedback specific to what I did well / could improve upon for this genre of writing, it would be appreciated. Thanks.
Jun. 11th, 2013 12:48 am (UTC)
good luck and yes yes yes.
these thoughts often cross my mind too.
Jun. 11th, 2013 01:23 am (UTC)
I recently was listening to an episode of the Commonwealth Club of California on NPR and it was discussing waste reduction issues and it just really got me to thinking more about this stuff. It was stuff that I already thought about quite a bit--but it made me realize I was capable of doing lots of stuff better.

The key is to remember that I don't need to be perfect--I just have to keep trying to improve.
Jun. 11th, 2013 01:42 am (UTC)
Where I live now, everything is packaged. Everything. The fruit and veges come prepackaged most of the time. I haven't found a market yet, and I don't even know if one is in cycling distance.

So yeah... you can only do the best you can do :-)
Jun. 11th, 2013 02:07 am (UTC)
That's one of the things that drives me bonkers when I've shopped at Trader Joe's: so much of the produce is prepackaged with styrofoam and shrink wrap.


At some point I think we confused innovation with neurosis. The world does not need to be wrapped in plastic for your protection.
Jun. 11th, 2013 03:00 am (UTC)
The world does not need to be wrapped in plastic for your protection.


I think instead of being for our protection it might be for theirs. Harder to shoplift a random apple that way?
Jun. 11th, 2013 01:48 pm (UTC)
Maybe... I don't know.

But then the plastic wrap just starts to get silly--why does a plastic toy need to be wrapped in plastic? Why does a men's button down shirt need to be wrapped in plastic?

When I worked at the college bookstore, one of the vendors would send us polo shirts individually wrapped in plastic! It drove me bonkers. The other clothing vendors didn't do it, they just sent us boxes of clothes.
Jun. 11th, 2013 12:50 am (UTC)
This was really inspiring!
Jun. 11th, 2013 01:24 am (UTC)
Thanks! :)
Jun. 11th, 2013 01:45 am (UTC)
I'm also tired of things that don't last and of plastic packaging that is impossible for any human to open, even with a pair of huge scissors. Good luck making the lifestyle shift--even though I haven't done very well at it, I believe it's worth doing.
Jun. 11th, 2013 02:11 am (UTC)
What's really frustrating about the things that do not last is that it isn't just the cheap stuff anymore. Even a lot of higher end products are shoddily made and break after too short a time. M's parents had this fancy blender from Williams and Sonoma that also had a heating element in it to make soup. It started malfunctioning after a month or two. And it was really expensive. Luckily they were able to return it for credit... but seriously! When did we all just start expecting that everything was going to break quickly--and when did we become complacent about it?
Jun. 11th, 2013 04:44 am (UTC)
1. I love this post.

2. You have a love thread. :)
Jun. 11th, 2013 10:01 am (UTC)
I've often commented that they don't make things like they used to. My dad's stove with double ovens was bought in 1970 or 71. Before I was born. And it it still works. Unlike today's appliances that break down after five years and can't be easily fixed by the common man.
Jun. 11th, 2013 04:15 pm (UTC)
Oh this is so true and I agree. Very inspiring. :)
Jun. 11th, 2013 06:55 pm (UTC)
*hugs* Good luck.

I liked it. I think the little spots where you line-break almost like poetry gives a nice bit of emphasis to the important points, but I also like that there's prose to explain it. :)
Jun. 12th, 2013 03:18 am (UTC)
This is a lofty goal and I wish you luck. I too bemoan the plastic wrap. Especially those blister packs. They're on everything now. We're trying to make a move toward more organically grown and raised food. It's difficult because the other stuff is so easy to come by. I think that's why we're complacent and accept things that are poorly constructed or made of poor quality materials. It's just become too easy to get a replacement.
Jun. 12th, 2013 03:24 am (UTC)
I couldn't agree more with the points you've made here. As I am now approaching 50, I've straddled both sides of this situation: things that last and are reused until they irredeemably die, and things that are utterly worthless and hardly last more than a year or two.

Haunting thrift-shops is another way to reuse, as you may want something that someone else no longer needs (or you don't need it "new"). By then, the packaging is gone, so it's doubly nice!

I do think that over time, this will help your daughter to value experiences more than things, and to appreciate what things she still has. Good luck with this. You don't have to be "pure" in any of this kind of pursuit-- simply doing better than you would otherwise can make a huge difference.
Jun. 12th, 2013 11:04 am (UTC)
This. So much. I've thought a lot about doing the same, but the sheer volume of everything I start thinking of overwhelms me. I had similar plans for a blog indeed, mostly to document the things I do make (and mostly to show to myself that I *do* those things, even if it's not everything at once and there's a long road ahead). Good luck and keep us posted :)
Jun. 12th, 2013 03:07 pm (UTC)
I love this manifesto! Keep us posted on how it goes, OK?
Jun. 13th, 2013 01:16 am (UTC)
This is definitely a worthwhile goal! You're right about snack foods coming in excessive packaging; nowadays it seems lie there are all these little "snack size" packages. It's much less packaging and waste to buy a large bag of chips (for example) and just portion it out as needed into little Ziploc bags or Rubbermaid-sort of containers that can be re-used.
Jun. 13th, 2013 03:42 pm (UTC)
I've struggled with balancing my need for convenience and time-saving, and wanting to reduce the amount of packaging and 'stuff' we have in our household. I used to be so green... then having the children, well, just having children! But because they're quite close in age, I've had to just let some things slide. And I felt so bad about that. Wracking myself with guilt didn't seem to help anyone, though, so I have just resigned myself to accepting that for the time being, some of my day-to-day practices are less environmentally friendly than I'd like. But I also know that I can indoctrinate my children pretty effectively :D and hopefully that will mean that they're going to be better global citizens.

I really liked this format you took, and think that it would work well in a blog setting. Where are you thinking of setting your blog up?
Jun. 13th, 2013 09:11 pm (UTC)
You are a girl after my own heart!
We recycle, compost and all that. I even clean out my ( plastic) K-cups to put the grounds under my hydrangea. I love mending clothes to get more wear, especially yard and garden work clothes that have too much good left to just throw away. I made quilts with fabrics from my kids clothes years ago. My husband is a "fixer" and enjoys repairing things and re-sells for a little profit now and then. We have that thrifty Yankee pride and it was instilled by how we were raised--way before things went 'green.'
I can't believe your little daughter is 19 months already. Seems like only yesterday she was the latest Idol baby!
Jun. 13th, 2013 09:25 pm (UTC)
Plastic is a true scourge - it fascinates me, because it's so likely to outlast most of the things we build and make. Our trash is going to be our monument to the future. I just hope they can make something good out of it.

You may be interested in this. :)
Jun. 13th, 2013 11:31 pm (UTC)
I work in a restaurant, and the amount of trash waste I see when I work just boggles my mind

I really liked the rhythm of the piece, but it was somewhat unclear which topic you were covering?
( 24 murmurs — Talk About the Passion )