Shopping with a Conscience.

Do you ever feel guilty buying certain things at the store?  There are three things that really get me:

1. Out-of-season foods.
It’s hard to eat healthy and local at the same time without boring your tastebuds to death.  I just spent the last 5 weeks in Africa where I witnessed this isn’t a problem: people have the freshest, sweetest fruits I’ve ever tasted growing at their fingertips year round.  In Cleveland, however, healthy and local aren’t commonplace during the long winter months.  Unless you want to eat cabbage and broccoli all winter, you can plan on buying imported fruits.  I first came to this realization when one day I thought, I don’t eat enough fruit; I should buy some apples.  But apples don’t naturally grow here in the winter.  Was eating an apple really worth supporting the industry of shipping exotic foods from afar all year round just to satisfy my palate?  No.  How could I get around this?  Better planning.  Next year, I should take advantage of abundant apples and other fruits growing locally and then learn to can them with spices!  Mmmmm.  Or even make pies and freeze them.  Too bad others don’t feel this way.  We only encourage such out-of-season deliveries by buying and creating a demand for more.

2. Chemicals.
After several classes about environmentalism and policies, Silent Spring attaches itself to every thought I have of store-bought chemicals.  Although I personally refuse to buy and use chemical herbicides, insecticides, and most household cleaning products, I am aware that I still buy and use things that are not very environmentally-friendly.  For example, my drains got extremely clogged last year and my mom bought me a bottle of Drain-O which I reluctantly applied.  Or how about something as simple as acetone to take off nail polish?  Or even nail polish itself?  Air fresheners in aeresol cans?  Even buying plastic zip-lock bags falls into this category for me – an evil necessity that, quite frankly, isn’t necessary at all but we convince ourselves that it is.

3. Plastic amenities.
My chemical fears continue in this category.  I don’t just mean plastic bags, but plastic utensils and kitchen items.  I buy glass mason jars and use them for everything as much as I can.  My friends make fun of me for traveling with mason jars instead of snack bags, but I feel like a much better person for using them.  But where plastic really irks me is in the kitchen itself.  I love to cook, and the thought of flipping on an oven instead of lighting a fireplace bothers me enough already.  I do everything within my power to avoid plastic spatulas, plastic cups, plastic bowls, plastic anything!  This theme continues into my housework where I strive to buy metal brooms instead of plastic sweepers.   I work overtime to avoid electricity use.  I even do a lot of my laundry by hand in my bath water after I’ve taken a bath.  My friends think this is crazy, but I argue it’s much simpler than going to the Laundromat.  And I dread the day that I have my own house and contemplate my need for washing units of my own.  What wastes!  But when it comes to appliances, I always put in the extra money for that metal toaster or metal blender with the hopes that it will last longer, will degrade better, and was better for the environment to be produced.  Besides, metal appliances are so much classier!

Maybe it’s just me – and maybe it shouldn’t be just me – but buying certain things in the store send me reeling on a guilt trip.  Are there any things in particular that bother you?  I mean, most of us break down and buy a car at some point, which is bad enough, but what about the little nagging things?  Like imported goods and plastic, plastic, plastic?

Maybe, one day, we won’t have to make environmentally-conscience decisions every time we shop.  Maybe they’ll be the only option!

International Independence… and the One Great Thing about Taxes and American Sports

As Americans, our sovereignty is at stake.  We have come to interpret “freedom” as meaning “inherited right to anything and everything I want”.  One common train of thought seems to be: “If they have it, then I want it too because you can’t tell me I’m not entitled to it.”

Between these mindsets and our constant need to push each other down and come out on top, we are ruthlessly taking advantage of cheap foreign labor and superfluous fine imports.  We fail to recall the novelty in our scant American-made products, thereby refusing to invest in and support the services of our own brothers.  Meanwhile, we continue to race our imports around the world and across our draught-impacted expanses, devouring energy sources we don’t have and undermining our own global independence.

America might be balanced on its high-horse now, but one little upset and what’s going to keep it standing on its own two feet?  What has become of our fighting spirit, of our national pride?  Have we forgotten the centuries of struggle that granted us these now abused freedoms?  Will it take an outside threat on our freedom to remind us that, despite its being a misnomer, freedom doesn’t come for free?

According to Economy in Crisis, the purchase of consumer goods in the US constitutes 70% of its economic growth.  That same 70% translates to 30% of global spending.  Yes, that means 5% of the world population (the US) contributes to 21% of the global spending through our consumer good purchases alone!  Here is a breakdown from Tax Foundation (http://www.mymoneyblog.com/the-average-americans-spending-breakdown.html) of American major spending from 2006:

32% of our spending goes to taxes.  These taxes, federal or not, contribute to the expenses of running our country, like paying for our infrastructure, our school systems, and our financial programs.  Feel confident in at least knowing that 1/3 of your expenses are going directly towards keeping the dialysis machine of the US running.  Then there is your 14% for health and medical care, which is applied to you, your benefactors, and the companies that make your insurance possible.  So that’s not too bad.

How about that transportation?  You’re spending an average of 8% of your income going places.  In the old days, those expenses came down to what it cost to buy a horse, to feed that horse, and to feed the people who took care of the horse and maybe even built that wagon for you.  Nowadays, we are importing foreign-assembled cars or cars with foreign parts, supporting foreign engineering and cheap labor, then burning fuels we dragged across the polluted open seas.  Our infrastructure might have been paid for by the government with our taxes, but what about the American companies contracted to complete the job?  Are all of those steel piles made of American steel?  What about that bulldozer?  Is it American-made?  The parts?  The fuel to run it?  Hmm.

That is exactly how to view the 17% of your income which goes to housing: importing trees and metals to complete the task of building new homes, importing fuels to run appliances, oh – and buying foreign appliances,… 4% on clothing and accessories which are most likely made in Bangladesh or some other country that you couldn’t even find on a map if you were asked, but whose residents are forced to accept meager wages because that’s what it takes to keep up the exporting demands in those poor countries, the exporting demands that you support by purchasing these “slave labor” items.

Then there is the 8% for food.  But we don’t exactly maintain our own rice paddies in the US.  We do, however, have extensive coastlines and yet our seafood imports are outrageous.  In fact, here is one breakdown from the FDA:

It’s funny, they always tell us how the three things needed for survival are Water, Food, and Shelter.  Water, we’ve got plenty of it.  That probably goes in to the smallest fraction of housing spending, less than 1% or the 17% that is dedicated to Shelter as a whole.  So, in other words… our Three Things Needed to Survive comprise of 25% of our total spending.  (I wonder, did they factor in beer?)

That leaves us with 11% for “All Other Days”… What is that, vacation?  Savings?  (I’ll admit, that one is a bit ambiguous, but I didn’t make this chart.)  And, finally, my last point: 6% for recreation.  Things you do for fun.  Hobbies and activities.  Even if your karate teacher came from Korea, he is now American.  One great thing about this category is it most likely consists of an American or mostly-American pastime.  American films seen at theatres with American workers, American amusement parks and nature reservations run by more Americans (and even government positions),… and how about sports?  Truly American sports would be basketball, baseball, and football.  I mean, in terms of modern times, how American can you get?  Amen to that 8%.

So the next time you feel like being American and protecting our global independence and overall sovereignty, go to a baseball game, grab yourself a Yuengling, and take solace in the fact that UnderArmor is made in the USA (although your fan shirt may not be).

An interesting article about non-American US Olympic uniforms: http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-capitol-hill-joins-criticism-of-made-in-china-us-olympic-uniforms-20120712,0,1586224.story