Monday, April 15, 2013

Your fearless blogger gets ranty

I was going to review a book I read. I was going to, but the thing is I was so busy restraining myself from throwing it across the room that I wasn't sure I could finish it, let alone provide a coherent review.  

What bugged me about this book is what bugs me about a lot of the environmental/voluntary simplicity movement.  There's a large subset of the movement--the one that gets the most air time it seems--that would have you think you have to buy expensive hybrid cars, live in expensive, tricked out homes, and only shop at certain places.  That if you don't cook all of your meals from scratch you're a bad parent and if you don't buy everything local you're a bad person (forget the fact that some folks just cannot afford the prices, and yes, I know all about the subsidies to big agra, but that doesn't help the single parent on food stamps who's trying to get by, people). If you don't live in 400 square feet, you're doing it wrong (unless the home was constructed out of totally reclaimed materials with passive and active solar and a greywater recapturing system).

I just. . .I cannot even.

Listening to Graham Hill or Barbara Kingsolver or Michael Pollan or some of these other people, you could understand why so many people think this sort of thing is a  trend pushed by affluent to wealthy people that has nothing to do with the rest of us.

I remember mentioning a CSA on the blog and one of my readers commented wistfully that it sounded nice but it was way beyond something she could afford.  And that's something I think we all need to keep in mind.  It's nice to be able to do these things, but not everyone can and no matter how much you complain about the real price of food or fuel or whatever, it's not something that people who don't have a lot can afford.  It will not change their financial situation one whit to say that well, those eggs you got so cheaply were actually the product of agricultural subsidies for big corporations.  Yes, okay, but at the end of the day, if you have limited funds to feed your family, you're going to go for the cheap eggs.

So I'd urge anyone who is about to give a TED Talk or write an article or a book about this awesome sustainable thing they're doing to just lay off the lectures.  Lay off the insistence that it will save you money (no, actually, chances are it won't) or that it's cost effective the end (no, actually, for someone who's barely getting by, it isn't).   Remember that not everyone can do the things you're doing and it's not because we're all living in McMansions and driving Hummers.


  1. Well said! It's frustrating when you are treated like you are some sort of earth-hater because you shop at a big box store. Not everyone can afford to shop at their organic market. And I'm tired of folks wiping out store shelves with coupon deals because they're donating to charity... when there are average folks who just want to save a little money and can't get what they need.

  2. Pamela,
    I agree with many of your "rantings" as you put it. I consider myself fairly environmentally conscientious, but also frugal-there has to be a balance.
    -My car?yep, she gets 42 mpg, and she isn't a hybrid!
    -clothing/household goods? we try to get as much as reasonably possible second hand, eliminating packaging in many cases
    -do I cook from scratch most of the time? yes, it's a choice I make for health as well as economy. Do I have some boxed convenience items on hand to keep me out of the drivethrus" you bet!
    -Food-we do belong to a CSA, trying a new one this year. It is local, it is organic (CT, at least Fairfield county tends to be pretty earthy crunchy where food is concerned)Compared to buying organics at the store, it saves me money. I freeze/home can surplus for Winter months.
    -buying organics: I choose to buy organic for certain foods such as Chard, lettuce greens, spinach. Surprisingly, organic chard is the same price per LB as non, organic greens at Aldi's or Xpect are pretty reasonable, too. More importantly: eat seasonally! Until June, we'll continue with frzn and canned vegetables for the most part, although cabbage, carrots, onion, potatoes, greens etc will be purchased as fresh.
    -want to impact the environment and your pocketbook? eat less meat!

    Agree with your main thread-we all do what we can/have to for our families.
    Carol in CT

  3. Hi there, I am a new reader and follower of your blog and this is a great post. I completely agree.. We live on a fixed income and we can only do what, we can only do.. I refuse to let someone else dictate to me what I 'should or shouldn't be doing".. If they want to do that they'll have to foot the bill for it..
    Great post!

  4. The other thing that bothers me about some of these lifestyle movements, is that they can be sort of faddish with the celebrity people who take these changes on. One day, they're all about being green or simple or whatever, then the next, they've had enough and go right back to excessive lifestyles.

    I really don't like the idea of slapping a label on myself for any of the things that I do. I find that too constraining. I like to think of myself as just a sensible person.