Friday, September 20, 2013

Conscious Living Guest Post by Just Stuff

My name is Jenni and I blog over at Just Stuff using the tagline:  Learn. Choose. Change.  About five years ago our little family began making a concerted effort to live more conscientiously.  Before kids, my husband and I often bought organic and cooked things from scratch, and having a baby in our life only cemented those habits.  It didn't take long for that mindset to seep over into other areas of our lives and we began asking the same types of questions about all of our purchases, such as, "How and where was this shirt made and who was exploited to make it?" and "What are the environmental impacts of mining the components for this cell phone?" and "What can I do with this container/toy/pair of jeans besides throwing it away?"

One of the first areas of consumerism we tackled was clothing.  We committed to making fewer purchases overall and buying only secondhand or from companies working sustainably.  When our kids were younger, this was easy, because they had little say or interest in where we went clothes shopping.  Luckily, we live in a small community where most of their peers got their clothing from our local thrift store and consignment shops (think - "Hey, that used to be my shirt!" in class).  As they have gotten older, I prepared for some resistance, especially from my teenage daughter, but a couple of factors have worked in our favor.  One, we were always really honest about why we shopped the way we do.  We talk about school children picking pesticide riddled cotton in Uzbekistan, factories paying their workers (mostly teen girls) as little as possible in Asia, and the massive amount of waste that is accumulating at every point in the garment industry.  The second effect has been unexpected.  She has become accustomed to thrift store prices!  We often find very current, even name brand items for about a tenth of the retail price.  When she does splurge on something, it is usually to support an artisan, buying a very special piece.  While she is still more likely to buy something handmade from someone else, my youngest has jumped on the upcycling wagon.  Recently I wrote about her first day of school outfit and her ability to see the potential in clothing.  Just this past weekend, she was looking at "dangly" earrings at the thrift store deciding if she wanted to buy any.  I was so proud when she walked away saying, "We can just make some, right?"
At this point each purchase we make is considered carefully.  I love to watch my kids stop and ask, "Do I really need this?"  We often mend or make do around our house.  The neighborhood we live in is designed to be close knit, our back porches face each other and we share a common lawn in the center.  This makes it easier for everyone to share resources like pick-up trucks and gardening equipment and skills.  When we do decide to buy something, the default is to look for it secondhand using eBay, freecycle, or Craigslist.  My son is an expert at shopping for used skate shoes on ebay.

In the last year we have taken the steps that allow us to become producers instead of just consumers when it comes to food.  We keep about a dozen hens with a few of our neighbors.  My husband planted a vegetable garden which has produced the bounty of tomatoes, squash, onions, and peppers we are holding in our hastily assembled family photo above, all from a 4' X 12' plot.  Inside our tiny yard we have committed to an entirely edible landscape of herbs and berries and fruit trees. 

There are so many ways this mindset shapes our lives.  Some of them are so second nature for all of us, I really have to step back to identify them.  We are fortunate to live in a like-minded community, where we are just one of lots of families living this way.  Only time will tell if these habits stick with our children as they become adults and have their own families, but it does feel that we are investing our efforts into the generations to come.

A big thank you to Jenni for telling her story. I just love hearing about their community-based neighborhood! Now, when can I move my family in?! I also like how honest they are with their children about the world around them and I can't wait to hear more on her blog.

I also hope that others will be inspired to share their story as well! If you want to guest post during my Conscious Living Series please e mail me by using the email button on the right side of my page.

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