Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day, bah humbug!

I've never been one for observing 'special' days, if I ignore your birthday, don't feel bad, I ignore everyone's birthday (except our kids, that would just be cruel!). Perhaps 4o years ago, when it was first conceived, the original Earth Day might have had more meaning, however, like anything 'green', it has become a convenient marketing tactic. "Spend XXX and get a gift certificate." "Buy a green XXX and save 1o%." "All XXX are 15% off today." I fail to see how encouraging people to buy more things is going to save the planet. Call me jaded, but our consumerism is largely responsible for most of the ailments that plague the environment today. Rather than searching out 'green' deals today, we should all take the time to reflect on how we can change our lifestyle to leave a smaller footprint.

I don't consider myself a hardcore environmentalist. I do, however, consider myself a hardcore frugalist. I am cheap. I don't like to spend money. Save for my unexplainable Starbucks habit, a lot of thought goes into every purchase I make. I don't buy things because I want them, I buy things because I need them. Except for my Coach handbag. That was my once-in-a-lifetime-what-the-hell-was-I-thinking decadent purchase (we're all allowed one, right?). But I use it daily, and when I die, I've instructed my husband to pour my ashes into it, so it will stay in our family for generations to come. Aside from that one purchase, I generally don't buy things on a whim.

Our customers benefit from my frugalism, I do my best not to stock junk, and if you've had the pleasure of shopping while I'm working (seriously, it's a pleasure to be around me, isn't it?), you'll know I'm the world's worst salesperson, I have an uncanny knack for talking people out of purchases. It's not unusual for people to come into the store thinking they need something, only to leave the store empty-handed (seriously, I'm *that* good!). I am very good at making what you've got work!

Shopping habits (or lack thereof) aside, my frugalism benefits the environment in other ways. At the store, small packing boxes are reused for online orders, plastic bags are reused as garbage bags; repurposing packaging in this manner significantly reduce's the store's waste, and our costs -- it's a win/win situation. At home, we recycle what we can, and the city of Ottawa's Green Bin program has easily cut our household waste in half (half!). We've recently eliminated meat from our diet, did you know eating less meat is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint? I have always felt guilty about how much we rely on our vehicles as a mode of transportation, I like to think our new menu helps to offset the time we spend in the car (an unfortunate side-effect of living in the 'burbs, have I ever told you how much I hate living in the 'burbs?).

Anyhow, the point of all this is to say that even though I do what I can to lessen my own impact on the environment, I know I can do more (cue violins). Earth Day is a great opportunity for all of us to reflect on what we can all do to lessen our impact on the environment. Collectively, we can make a difference. Although I will probably never completely wean myself off my Starbucks habit , I'm going to make a habit of keeping a reusable mug in the car. When I see litter that can be recycled, I'm going to pick it up and toss it in our recyle bin -- as I'm quick to point out to my own kids "Even if you didn't make the mess, it doesn't mean you shouldn't clean it up." These two acts alone are completely manageable, they're hardly life-altering, but in the grand scheme of things, they will make a difference. So that's my plan of action for Earth Day, what's yours?


  1. ha, I was wondering why there wasn't a facebook update about earth day sooner, or *gasp* some kind of sale.

    I am one of the customers you've talked out of a purchase... but for that I'm a lifelong customer now! There's nothing a respect more than an honest salesperson, it's as rare as an honest lawyer, I tell ya. I guess your strategy (or lack thereof) can actually be beneficial to your business, as backwards as it seems.

  2. I've been known to pick up garbage on the way back from walking the kids to school. I do the same at our local park by the shop a couple times a week. Not my mess, but it's my neighbourhood and I don't like seeing garbage lying around it.

    My yard is "lawn free" - no gas guzzling mower required! It's also planted with a lot of fruit bearing trees and bushes - great for the kids who play in it and great for the local wildlife. A couple years ago, I made a great little patio for it out of recycled, smashed-up patio stones from Freecycle, other friends' reno projects and dumpsters at home building centres. It cost me nothing, but has gotten me some great compliments. ;)

    I love buying clothing and collectibles at thrift shops. Buying something secondhand or repurposing something for another project gives me a great deal of satisfaction!

    There are so many easy ways to lessen our impact on the earth - I admit, being frugal is a big motivator for me but so too is cutting down on the amount of "crap" we accumulate that is really unnecessary to our health and happiness. :)

  3. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks that Earth Day has become a little too commercial! I consider myself an environmentalist - I'm sure some in my (red)neck of the woods would even call me hard core! LOL So I don't believe that there needs to be a special day for me to be good to our planet. Every cloth diaper and hand-me-down piece of clothing I put on my children is me being good to the planet. Every time I use a re-usable mug to satiate my own Starbuck's addiction and even every time I wipe my butt with our re-usable cloth toilet paper (sorry if that's TMI!) I am being good to the planet. 365 days a year... not just one a random day in April.

    Great post :-)

  4. I've got my reusable mug, this cool links calculates the impact of this simple switch... I drink 3 coffees/week (bad, Susie, bad!), by switching to a reusable mug, I can save two trees. It's a start! And I even get a discount with each coffee!!!

    susie ;)