Skip to content

Live simply so others can simply live

November 22, 2016

My mom recently shared with me a motivating op-ed from the New York Times about ways in which folks can react productively to Donald Trump’s election. The op-ed lists 12 steps a person can take to bring about positive change to confront the discouraging outcome. Were I to write my own list, it would look much like this one–but with one major addition: I WILL live more simply.

I believe that most Americans, regardless of political affiliation, fail to recognize the connections between our lifestyle and dirty politics. Americans, on average, consume FAR more resources than any other people on the planet: we drive more, we live in larger homes, we consume more processed foods (which require more packaging and transport than raw foods), and we spend gobs of time utilizing energy-consuming devices such as televisions, computers, tablets, and smart phones (yes, I recognize the mild hypocrisy in sharing this message on just such a device–but I will shut it down and unplug it when I’m done).

How does our level of consumption connect us to dirty politics? All of our politicians are charged with upholding our “quality of life,” which amounts to defending our nation’s claim on resources (including people, such as low-wage workers) around the globe. Neither party can truly pursue economic or social justice if we all expect to continue consuming approximately 20% of the world’s resources when we make up only about 5% of the world’s population–as a math teacher, I can assure you the numbers don’t work out.

I am not advocating that we all abandon our homes, jobs, and hobbies to retreat to the woods, but I AM advocating that we learn to relinquish some of our so-called luxuries as residents of the wealthiest nation on earth. I, for one, do not own a smart phone (the phone I do own will go for 4-5 days without needing to be charged) and, although I own a personal vehicle (two, in fact), I rarely drive one unless I’m leaving town (which isn’t very often): I choose instead to ride my bike wherever I go, even on frosty mornings like today when everyone else is running their cars for 15 minutes prior to even driving so that the occupants won’t have to suffer a moment of chilliness during their morning commutes.

I also make sure to turn off lights when I leave a room and unplug all of my devices and appliances when I’m not using them. Surprisingly large quantities of “phantom” energy is wasted while our microwaves, TVs, computers, coffee makers, etc., rest unused but plugged in; unplugging them prevents this waste. I also reuse as much as possible: I use old wash cloths and tattered clothes to clean up spills and messes rather than wasting paper towels; I use glass jars from previous food purchases to store leftovers. I bring these jars to the food co-op to purchase bulk items such as beans, rice, honey, and peanut butter so that I don’t have to waste plastic containers. And, speaking of spills, I use water rather than chemical cleaners for most household cleaning (except for toilets, which I DON’T flush every single time I tinkle, and tubs–they get an “eco-friendly” cleaning product). A sterile environment is terrible for our gut flora anyway 😉

Most important, I don’t buy much of anything except for food–and most of the food I do buy comes from within a few hundred miles of where I live. Although it costs me more to purchase local and organic foods, I do so because it is better for our farmers (living wages) and better for the environment. My food budget is easily my second-largest expense after rent, and I can make it work because I don’t spend much money on clothes, shoes, makeup, accessories, or household items. Almost nothing in my apartment matches because I’ve bought it used or received it as hand-me downs, but it’s functional and that’s what matters. My clothes are surely not in season (unless the season they were purchased in years ago happens to be back in style) but they keep me covered.

I am not sharing these ideas to toot my own horn, but rather to offer suggestions for ways in which others can begin to cut down on their consumption as well–and, in turn, to begin to cut their ties to dirty money and dirty politics.

Live simply so others can simply live. It’s the best way that I can think of to achieve social justice, and it doesn’t require waiting four years to make a change.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: