Tuesday, 2 June 2009

consumer thoughts

I'm not so exposed to media here and have got out of the way of the consumer lifestyle. I tend to be frugal in my purchases and have a fairly strong desire to simplify and make do. Our local, privately run, recycling center has just gone broke and suddenly we are all faced with trash, with the horrid and startling realization of what do we do with all this stuff?

Here there are no bulk bins, partly to do with economics and partly to do with humid tropical weather, most 'bulk' items come packaged in 1 kilo plastic bags. I have a lot of empty 1 kilo plastic bags. Recycling kind of makes this trash innocent or invisible - I buy with a tinge of guilt and remorse, but I dispose of with the grateful acknowledgment that it will be recycled, a balm on my conscience. But now there is no more recycling, that trash is just trash. Do I store it until someone else gets the wherewithal and the funds to restart 'ReciCaribe'? Do I send it to the landfill? Do I stop buying rice and flour, coffee and beans?

I read anti-recycling articles which state that which I know to be true: recycling is good for the environment BUT it doesn't stop consumption, it's a sticking plaster on a tumor. It's a beautiful thing to have efficient and well organized and orchestrated recycling programs for paper, glass, cardboard, plastics, metals and even yard waste and food scraps like some European and North American cities. Those people can rest assured that they are doing their bit and keep up the consumption. But for the rest of the world - including at the moment my little slice of paradise, there is no luxury of recycling, we are polluting. Yes, there's less to buy here, and less money to buy it with, but the percentage of what gets bought and therefore thrown out must be higher.

Our trip to Cuba opened my eyes to many things. Not least was the realization that Cuba is not a consumer society. There were no advertisements for cars, laundry detergents, bread, alcohol, banks. No billboards, no company logos, no signs outside shops or factories, nothing on bus stands, nor public telephone booths. No advertisements. There was very little to buy. People had enough, not much at all, but basically enough. Without things to consume, without the drive or desire to consume life changes. The people were happy, they were proud of their country, were open, friendly, interested, curious. It wasn't about what one had, it was about who one was. It was a delightful and a refreshing experience.

I've also joined the online forum/social networking/sustainable living 'Freedom Gardens'. There are thousands of people worldwide, some of whom write online, some of whom join such organizations or communities, some of whom just do it, who are doing their best to reduce their footprint, or trying to leave an enriched footprint behind them. This is so encouraging and supportive and joyful to know that change is happening.

And then I read articles like 'Waste not Want not' which brings me back to the world outside my bubble. It's all something to think about, remaining conscious and alert of actions and effects of actions.

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thanks for sharing!