I’m at home today, hoping to battle off the sick-ish feeling I’ve had all week: exhaustion, scratchy throat. Not really flat-out with it, but limping along the way we get with the onset of a cold. It’s lots of vitamins here and good food, a sick day from work and hopefully I’m on the right track again by tomorrow.
I’m thinking this morning about a new campaign started by a provincial union called The Ten Percent Shift which is all about pledging publicly to buy local — a shift in itself as the union movement has traditionally run “buy Canadian” and “buy union” campaigns without ever giving the environmental impacts of shipping a second thought. But in keeping with “greening” the labour movement and revitalizing our local communities, CUPE is putting itself out there to encourage shifting 10 percent of our purchases to local goods and services. An admirable goal to encourage, but one that I don’t think goes far enough.
About a year ago now, Brian and I pledged changing some of our consumer habits in order to reduce our own carbon footprint after we read Bill McKibben’s book Eaarth (which presents the need to do so in the most urgent of ways). I’ve always considered myself a somewhat ecological consumer – but the reality is, North American consumer design pretty much works against being so at every turn – and to get out of that trap you’ve got to work at it a little bit.
While we are far from perfect, some of what we’ve elected to do to reduce our carbon footprint in the last year includes:
Over the next year I’d like to work on consuming less overall, canning double the amount of food we did last year, and growing more food as well as getting the honey production started in our backyard. I’d also like to get back to cycling and walking for all local errands rather than getting in the car because I feel pressed for time. When we do consume, I would like it to be from locally-owned business as often as possible – which means paying more for things (Walmart is cheap for a reason – and that reason is usually the tiny fingers of children making your goods) and buying less of them.
I get the ten percent shift though, because for a lot of people moving away from Walmart, Costco, Safeway, IKEA, and other convenient and cheap retailers is inconceivable. How do we get buy without uber-cheap food and goods given that wages are generally low and the cost of living so high in areas like housing? To which the answer for each of us is to look at how we consume. Do we need so much? Do we throw out a lot of the cheap food we do buy? (Stats say yes, that Americans and Canadians throw out on average 50% of the food they purchase because they won’t eat leftovers or let food go bad before using it). Is it possible to purchase items second-hand rather than new?
Really, it’s all in the questions we ask ourselves and how we answer them which gets us to shift any of our lifestyle behaviours. In our household, we have a *long* way to go before I will consider us truly ecological (as evidenced by my Cash Diet post of last week) but for the moment, at least we’re asking the questions and trying to figure out where the answers take us.