The Privilege of Time and Being Eco-Friendly

by - Wednesday, June 01, 2016

This month, the blog was all about weddings, registries, and the environment, and it made me pretty nostalgic for the time we spent planning our wedding. The Boy and I really enjoyed the process of planning, and we spent so much time DIYing and working out details. Even though I was working on my dissertation, it feels like I did a good job of carving out time.

Life doesn't feel like that right now. If anything, we are caught in a crazy whirlwind, and our holidays and special events have been treated like fly bys in 2016 (I can barely stand to write that). With jobs, a toddler, and a panicked sprint to our next spawn's arrival, we just never seem to get anything completed.  Of the things I want to accomplish, on an average day, I probably get 15% of it done. I know that some of this is just the season, having a toddler doesn't lend itself to any other activity of any kind.

At least, that's what I thought.

Early this month, in the midst of all this wedding blogging madness, The Bub and I headed back to my hometown with The Boy. This trip shocked me and made me realize that I still do have the privilege of lots of time. It felt like getting a taste of what being a single mom would be like- on the one hand, I had a lot more family support than we do on a regular day. On the other hand, I never got a break. In the first 4 days at home, I never even opened my computer (jet lag on a sick baby did not help, but wow).

It kicked my butt. Can you see how tired I look here? 

This really helped me check some of the privileges and assumptions that this blog works on. I still believe in what I am suggesting, but I want to say I can see just how freaking hard it might be.

As I stand in the shower, with a 15 month old trying to wash my knees with a toy fish while I try to make a mental list for the rest of the day, it dawns on me that the hardest thing about making changes in our life is finding the time. I have such plans to make my own laundry soap or volunteer with seniors or go reseed the forests that burnt down last year, but I still cannot accomplish every goal. And I am basically a rich white lady with enough free time to try to talk you into buying recycled paper towels (DO IT). I also realize, maybe for the first time in my life, that time is an incredible privilege (not youth, which is too, but just the time in the day to cross your t's and dot your i's), which sounds like a platitude but is wildly relevant to this blog.

The basic premise of the blog is

To Buy Less (make due with what you have, repair old things, make it yourself)
To Buy Used (get it off of Buy Nothing, go to consignment stores, borrow it from a library)
To Buy as Locally as Possible (Stop shopping big stores like Walmart, to support local businesses, to buy products still produced in the USA)

I believe in this strategy to stuff. I think it creates way less waste, uses fewer fossil fuels, a more fulfilled life, and more shared wealth within the economy (instead of floating everything up to the top 1%). I also don't want to be an enabler with this post- if you have time to read my musings, you have time to pick the recycled paper towels. This month showed me that you can always be more busy, which means you can also find some space.

That being said, I am asking for a lot of your time, and I need to own that.

It is easy to say "shop at a consignment store," but it does take time to dig through the shelves for the gems.

It is easy to say "Do you research" but that can take a lot of time!

Composting and recycling takes time.

It takes time to repair what you have or to take an (awesome) consignment store find and make it ready for your house.

I don't have an easy answer to this. I am trying to argue that you can make small changes and still make a big difference, but I can see how it might be hard to get or stay on the eco-friendly wagon. The bottom line is "Yep, this can be way harder." Look this is cheap, fast, and easy" gets so much cultural traction because we are all so stinking busy and sometimes, everything feels difficult.

Is there a solution? A way to make this eco-friendly lifestyle more sustainable while we fight all the battles of life? Eh, I am not sure, though I do think "Have Less" is part of the answer. I read that our generation's home is on average 1000 square feet larger than our parents' were. That's crazypants. Embracing small spaces and less stuff means that there is just less to attend to that way.

Secondly, having a plan makes a huge difference. I double what I get done in a day just by knowing what I want to get done in that day. It's amazing how many time wasters exist in the world. Sometimes, you need them to blow off steam, but often they fill time that could be better spent elsewhere. Just having a To Do list and a list of things you want to buy might help. Amazon may be the Walmart of the internet, but at least you can support eco-friendly options that are usually not available in the stores. Take your list and cross things off.

Don't let one bad day discourage you. So you bought a bunch of made in China stuff? Ok, well tomorrow is a new day. If you are thinking about it, and you are making changes even some of the time, then in my book, you are doing great. Like any kind of diet, your consumption diet will be moderated by all the other factors of your life that you also have to attend to.

I will say too that I am doing my best to put a bunch of the time in so you don't have to. These lists can come off as prescriptive, but know I am just trying to put in a bunch of the time for you. If I am going to look up cute and Made in America baby clothes on Etsy, I feel like I can share what I find and at least save you time. I think that's why I am particularly proud of the Greening the Basics blogs. I can save you a little time (and sometimes even money) by finding these options for you. All you have to do is shop the lists.

That's all I have got. It is slower and sometimes harder to do the right thing, but I still believe we can do it.If there are more things I can do to make this easier or help it fit more smoothly into your life, let me know.

Life is moving really fast, but the effects of our decisions will last such a long time. We can only improve our own lives and impacts by remembering how much our choices and actions DO matter.

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