Let’s talk about stuff baby. .
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
and the bad things that could be…
Let’s talk abooooooouuuut stuff.
I have been reading many a blog post reflecting on this years Blogher convention…yeah I’m a little behind these days….and the concern over the focus on STUFF. Since mass consumerism and carbon reduction aren’t exactly best friends, I can understand the irritation.
But……we can’t just stick our heads in the sand and ignore stuff. Why? Because sometimes new stuff is actually better stuff. Like cotton shopping bags and produce bags verses plastic disposable bags. When I first started Organic Needle, one of my little projects was to count the actual number of plastic bags saved by using the cloth ones. It was hundreds before even a few months went by. To me the new stuff…the cotton bags…even if it they are made out of completely new materials…are BETTER. I now see people designing and marketing all types of shopping bags made from all kinds of “alternative” materials…organic cotton, recycled bottles, hemp, even old movie signs and think it is fantastic. To say no to all new stuff, free or paid for, is to also say no to innovation.
Now, I’m just a teeny weeny business woman who does my best to design responsibly, but do not exactly have an enormous impact on the consumer/environmental balance in the world. The truth is if we want to to make BIG changes…we sometimes even need to invite the big evil kids to play because even if we ignore them…they aren’t going away…nor is their stuff and their stuff making capabilities. Life would be better if we get them to play the games we want them to play. For example, here in NYC so many people now carry cloth bags BECAUSE so many of the chain stores have gotten on board and offer them at a price and an abundance us little guys can’t compete with, making them now the norm. (Yes…I know there are issues with those store bags made from recycled plastic, but I still lean towards it is batter then new virgin plastic each week.) So while supporting small and local is certainly a very good thing, we can’t just ignore the stuff-making giants, nor ignore the potential positive impact they could have if properly guided.
As far as swag and other give aways go….follow the same rules you follow for shopping…
1. Only take things that meet YOUR personal standards in terms of materials, production ethics, etc.
2. Only take things you REALLY think you will actually use.
3. Only accept things that will potentially reduce your impact. For example…is it a long term item that will replace a disposable one? Is it made from more sustainable resources than your current brand of whatever? Is it more local? Yadda yadda yadda.
(I saw the soap nuts were part of the swag. I totally would have been all over those.)
My point is that complete anti-consumerism isn’t the answer. Responsible consumerism that encourages the innovation in goods we desire may take a lot more thought…but will in the end by the solution. So…yes…you should look the stuff gift horse in the mouth and have a good ol’ looksy around for potential evil…but do have a look. Just make sure you’re looking in the right end.