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Consumerism vs. consuming with dignity

I’ve never felt moved to post a video on my blog, but this one really speaks to me. It talks about the rampant consumerism being foisted upon our children’s daily lives.

When I first moved to this little groovy town in CA, I was struck by how little anyone here cared about stuff– who had what, what brand handbag did she carry, did they have the newest sportscar? I felt an immediate weight lifted off of my shoulders; as an artist, I’d long discarded that type of consumerism as necessary to my life, and although I kept my hand in as a necessary evil to my life in fashion in a big city, I was never comfortable (nor good at) keeping up with the Jones.

Enter a new phase for me. Is it my new town? Is it my new state? Is it my age? Is is new times overall? Can’t say for sure. But I do know that I buy much much less than ever before. I recycle, repurpose as much as I can. Even my art relies heavily on recycled, repurposed, environmentally sensitive tools and techniques. My stash report would be pretty boring– I haven’t bought fabric in a very long time, unless I need something specific for a project– so that comes in and goes out, taking some existing stash with it.

The hubby? His whole business is recycling– eCycle Group Inc. is all about recycling printer cartridges, and now cell phones.

The kids? They are this family’s heaviest consumers. DS1 wears out tee shirts almost before they hit his stinky little body. DS2 gets hand me downs when I can salvage something. I try to buy them only enough for a week’s worth of wear, so they are not loaded with clothing, but they do have plenty. DH and I have always agreed to only buy toys on birthdays and Christmas. Unfortunately for the boys, they are only 2 weeks apart (well, now, you know your biology better than that! They are 2 YEARS and 2 weeks apart) so for them, new toys come in waves– August and December. Books are available year round at the library. But I see letters to Santa appearing at odd times during the year– so I know those tv commercials are doing their job.

Sorry for this rant. I do so hope I can instill a sense of what I call “consuming with dignity” in my children. According to the above video, I’ve got a mighty adversary working against me.

Edited to add: I got a comment from my friend and fellow artist, Vicki Welsh, and I was so impressed that I found myself commenting back to her. Instead of keeping our communication private, I am bringing it forward to include with this post. The following is our “conversation”:

Vicki wrote: I totally agree with you. what I don’t agree with in the video is that it’s a corporate problem. It’s a parenting problem. It’s the parents job to teach values, it can’t be legislated or forced through corporations. Did you see the episode on the today Show yesterday about the family that tried cutting their weekly spending in half? Those people had absolutely no clue how much money they were wasting. I think this link will take you to the segment. Those people are morons when it comes to money and instilling a sense of what things are worth in their children. All the regulations in the world will not fix that.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/25600619#25600619

This is a big topic that sends me off. Since when did having pedicures, 5 TVs, 4 cell phones, Starbucks every day and a lawn service become “basic needs”? Personally, I think the more crap (the bad crap, not CRAP – Creative Resources and Projects) you have the more work it is to manage all of it.

Sorry to rant. I’m with you on this one!

Susan wrote back: Vicki, I am also blown away by this family’s “basic needs”. Their lifestyle is completely contrary to my own– we don’t eat fast food, rarely go out for dinner, have only 2 cell phones (for the adults). I wash my own car and paint my own toes. When something breaks, we try our best to fix it.
As for their kids; it seemed like they were the beneficiaries of the week of non-consumption! They looked so happy to be participating in activities with Mom and Dad! With a community pool as fun as theirs, why in the world is she taking them to the movies a couple of times a week? And she needed an adult beverage to get over the trauma of cooking a few hot dogs for lunch– OY! Lady, have a green smoothie, instead!
I agree with you, dear Vicki. It is my job, not the government’s, to teach my children their values. I try not to preach to the kids, and I am hopeful that my actions speak for themselves. On the one hand, I am glad that there’s a consumer group pointing fingers at the advertisement immersing our children in consumerism, yet I take responsibility for my own children’s actions (in regards to consumerism, not in regards to their constant fighting with each other; that’s a different post altogether). I’m not perfect, and I probably “waste” money and resources, too. But I am consciously trying to spend responsibly, and I am trying to educate my children to respond responsibly to outside influences.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin: A penny saved is a penny earned.

In more ways than one, Ben, in more ways than one.

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Tee bags: a tutorial to recycle a tee shirt into a shopping bag

Tee-bags is the name of my 10 year old’s new business. A tee-bag is a tee shirt, recycled (and washed in hot water!) into a reusable shopping bag! He has granted me permission to offer a free tutorial on how he creates shopping bags using t-shirts!

Since his dad (my DH) owns E-cycle Group, a green business recycling printer cartridges, DS1 is very excited to follow in his dad’s green footsteps with his own recycling business. Not only is he preventing the tee’s from becoming landfill, he is also providing an alternative to the age old question, paper or plastic!

A bonus is that the bags are machine washable, which is a nice option to have when you go to the farmer’s market and get bits of lettuce and onion skins in the bag! The tee-bags also fold up to stuff into your purse or glove compartment–so they are convenient to use, which is a key component to making recycling part of your lifestyle.  For more tips on recycling and environmentally friendly choices, visit the eCycle Group Cafe blog!

He was able to obtain free tee shirts from our local Freecycle organization (note: Freecycle is an entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving and getting stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills) He was also able to pick up unsold tee shirts from a local rummage sale.

After a quick lesson on my serger, he was able to whip out some bags. His BFF worked on the marketing end, providing a beautiful poster, as well as rigging up a wagon for a portable display. Their proceeds go towards a 6th grade (next autumn) field trip.
This morning, I took the boys to the local Farmer’s Market, to test the waters. They sold out within one hour!! The boys are really excited, and are already back at work in my studio, getting Tee-bags ready for next week!
Here’s a quick tutorial for making your own tee-bags:
(DS1 says to tell you that first, wash the tee in hot water, to get rid of any germs.)

Turn the tee shirt inside out, line up the bottom hem, and sew or serge the bottom edge together, just above the tee shirt hem.

Line up the sleeves seams and cut off the tee shirt sleeves. It works best to cut off the sleeve seams!

With the shirt still flat, cut out the neck: cut close to the neck ribbing at the sides of the neck

then cut a “scoop neckline” including the back of the tee shirt in the scoop.

Here’s what it looks like when all the pieces are cut off. Knit jersey (tee shirt fabric) doesn’t fray, so you don’t have to hem any of the cut edges!

Turn the bag right side out, and go shopping!

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