Category Archives: consumer culture

Green is the New Black

Trends change, and lately they are turning a darker and darker shade of green. In college I met an environmental lecturer who said that we would know that we were reaching a sustainable society when the clothes on our backs no longer destroy local cultures and environments. Apparently the darker the dye the worse the practices, and I happened to be wearing a brand new pair of black pants and eggplant purple top; I felt chagrined.

The runway shifts may have begun with a few local “trashion” shows, like Portland’s Junk to Funk, which shows how reused materials can become fashionable. Now the hot handmade online trading site Etsy has it’s own Trashion network for crafters with a knack for upcycling. A quick search also came up with a list of the Top 50 Green Fashion and Design Blogs…I’m definitely going to have to take a peek.

This week the Seattle Times had a interesting article on how “ Green is the New Black .”   Apparently even during the recession earth-friendly apparel is moving fast. I find this interesting, because despite the appeal we can’t afford Patagucci or local boutique baby clothing. I bought an overpriced bamboo shirt two years ago, and I still feel a twinge of guilt. I also have a little bit of mommy-guilt around this issue too, because my Mama sewed our clothes until we started asking for store bought in grade school. Yet, as a busy working Mama, I can barely manage to keep my kiddos in clothes that fit them, none-the-less sew them myself!

Does your family purchase eco-friendly attire?
Or would you if it were more affordable?

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

Story of Stuff

If you haven’t seen it already, this little video is as powerful as it is simple. It’s truly worth twenty minutes of your time. I’d love to hear your feedback on it.
Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Green Birthday Celebrations

Consumption and overspending need not be part of your family birthday tradition.

Birthdays are definitely cause for celebration, but in many ways the American norm has gone over the top. While birthdays can be celebrated in a gazillion ways, there seems to be one commonality: decadent consumption.

I’ve read articles about some of the extreme one-upmanship that parents can play into, and how often parties are thrown without even talking with the child about what they want. I remember going to a kid’s party prior to becoming a parent where all the kids brought a toy as a gift, and in the end the child was totally overwhelmed by about a dozen plastic gadgets. The birthday was in September, and I calculated that if the child played with each toy for one week until Christmas that they still wouldn’t have played with them all! And really in the scheme of things, this was a pretty average birthday for a middle-class American child (key word: American.)

Then there are the obligatory gifts bags for all the kids, often filled with cheap plastic things made in China. At one party, the gift bag had a plastic spinning top that lit up as it bounced, and within about 5 minutes the top came off and I discovered a mercury disposal warning inside! I was dismayed, but knew that the Mama of the birthday girl had only wanted to see the kids smile.

We can choose to celebrate in meaningful, simple, and fun ways. Others have already written creative Planet Friendly Party Tips, so I won’t repeat ever idea under the sun here. But I would like to share what I’m doing for BigGuy’s 4th Birthday Party:

  • Party invite printed on reused office paper – 4 invites to 1 sheet
  • In lieu of a gift, kids will bring a book to exchange (I actually got lucky on this one, because it happens to be the norm for the whole preschool)
  • BigGuy has recently been inspired by rocket ships, and we’ll be making some out of reused poster tubes and other reused materials
  • Serve guests on durable plates (combo of bamboo and plastic) that we bought for previous gatherings – no need to buy more! Eat from real silverware.
  • BigGuy’s gifts will likely last him several years (and be enjoyed by Girly): U.S. map floor puzzle and a fishing pole fish kite for trips to the beach
  • We’ll do something special as a family to celebrate too, by going to a new space exhibit at our local kid’s science museum

I will also note that this is also BigGuy’s first “class” party (only boys at his insistence!). His first two years we celebrated as a family and last year’s small party was as much a chance to show off our new Girly, since she was just six days fresh. In future years I plan to take the lead from the EnviroMom bloggers and celebrate through other creative and experiential ways. Growing up as a twin, my mom chose to throw us big parties only at milestone ages: 6, 10, 13, 16, 18. On the in between years we could each have a friend for a sleepover, which I recall being just as much fun as the big parties. Another childhood friend had a birthday in the winter, and we did a beach party together for their 1/2 birthday (which was our true birthday.)

The key is to talk as a family about how you would like to celebrate. Set clear expectations to make sure that the no-party options isn’t seen as a punishment, but just a unique way to celebrate a unique person.

Happy Birthday/UnBirthday to you!

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