Category Archives: consumer culture

Conflict-free Camera

In follow-up to my post yesterday about the Story of Electronics, I’ve been searching for a conflict-free camera to replace our obsolete one. 

While the demand is growing, there are currently no actual verified conflict-free cameras on the market (or laptops, phones, ipods, etc).  There’s only camera one that I managed to find that is so-called “ eco-green ,” but I couldn’t find any information about what makes it’s design environmentally benign.  

I’m aware of the extreme  atrocities  in the Congo, because my Twin Sis was there for most the past six months. She was there helping rape victims who are being threatened from their villages which may hold more conflict minerals. Here’s a quick video from the Raise Hope for the Congo campaign, which mocks the feud between Macs and PCs while spelling out the conflict in seriously simple terms.


Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Story of Electronics

I’ve felt empty-handed in past few months, ever since my digital camera went kaput. First the flash started going, then the digital screen died, and it was clear that our camera was terminal. 

We bought our digital camera as our first “family” gift for the holidays right before our Big Guy was born. It’s become part of the family, always at all our special occasions. It even helped me earn my pet name of “Mamarazzi”. But with our 5 year anniversary around the corner, it seems like camera manufacturers planned on our camera’s demise.  

Unfortunately “planned obsolescence” appears to be unavoidable. Yet, it wreaks havoc on our environment and breaks the bank when you suddenly have to replace your electronics every few years.

Today the brilliant folks at the Story of Stuff are debuting the “Story of Electronics.” They will no doubt explain how planned obsolescence came to be the modern-day norm, and hopefully they’ll provide some tips about how we can shift the consumer demand.

How much does planned obsolescence costs your family?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Bag Lady

When I first started thinking about whether paper or plastic was better, I always chose plastic because a clearcut is easier to envision as harmful. I’ve been diligently toting my own grocery bags for about a decade. Portland continues to attempt a ban, and amazingly Mexico City beat us to the punch with its recent plastic bag ban.

Like most, I have a reuse collection. We even have an abundance these days, since Girly’s cloth diapers are wrapped up in old bags in a smell proof box that I tote back and forth on the bus each day. We manage to reuse the bags once more for our Doggy.

Lately there’s been more and more media attention about the ocean of trash and dangers of plastic bags to wildlife. Below is a mockumentary on the “The Majestic Plastic Bag,” and it’s truly worth 4 minutes of your day. I haven’t shown my kiddos yet, but I think it would be a good visual lesson.

Will this help you remember your bags?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

New Fridge!

Yes, I’m excited about our new fridge! Our estimated electricity with cost us   $43 a year, and our homemade pops won’t melt .

A few weeks ago I wrote about how our fridge was Melting Down, and thankfully we managed to buy a new one before anything catastrophic.

I found a great resource for choosing a green fridge, which helped compare many styles and features with energy efficiency. 

I shopped virtually before heading to the store, then I spoke with two different sales guys (most are paid by commission), and then I compared the deal online again after mostly making up my mind.

We ended up buying a Whirlpool Gold from Lowe’s. We got 10% off because another big box was having a sale, and got the price down to $1179. From my research, this was a really good price for a nice basic modern cooling unit.

Unfortunately, the freezer is a tad smaller and needs to be organized more efficiently, but that’s a different post…

Have you upgraded to an energy efficient refrigerator?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Yard Sale Savvy

Today’s title is a bit in jest, because I don’t consider myself to be all that savvy when it comes to yard sales. But when my neighbors decided to host a group sale, I couldn’t help but join in.

Technically, I ended up in the hole. I bought more than I sold. I had tons of kids clothes, 2 bags of books, some chair cushions and a futon cover. Virtually no families with young kids showed up, so I only sold a few jammies and onesies. The books sold well, although I wasn’t sure how to price them and I’m pretty sure that I should have headed to Powell’s for a trade before offering them up for $1. In total, I only earned $29. Yet, I felt like I came out ahead…

My neighbor had the perfect antique chase and a sweet little wooden bench seat! Both need to reupholstering, but they are exactly what I had in mind on my home wish list. Plus, I scored 5 boxes of jam and canning jars, which I was planning to purchase the very next day. I also picked up a couple of games and dress-up clothes for the kids: all for $65.

Here’s a few tips:

  • Prep the week before and plan to set up early – expect early birds
  • My neighbor sold donuts in the morning and sodas in the afternoon for $1
  • Be willing to negotiate on price, but don’t sell something for less than donation value
  • Group pricing 2 for $5 etc, to encourage bulk sales
  • Have cash and change handy
  • Crank up some music and have some fun! 
  • More tips…

Getting buyers to you sale is critical. They advertised in the newspaper, on Craig’s list, and signs. With an informal poll, generally the older generation found out from the paper, while the younger crowd hit craigslist or simply scouted by signs en route. In hind sight, I should have been more proactive about advertising via Facebook and local mom networks to help get the word out. 

Lastly, despite the bargain scores, yard sales always remind me why we try to live uncluttered and how too much stuff harms the planet and robs you in the process.

What are your tips for a successful sale?
Do you find sales worth your time and energy?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.