(Or, Yep, I'm Still Doing This ... Sort Of)
In case you don't remember, or you never read it in the first place, back in January I declared 2012 The Year of Less Consumption.
As is the case with most New Year's Resolutions, the ideals of the Year of Less Consumption have been slightly worn down by the details of reality. But I like to think that it's the details of reality that help shape a goal into something that you can live with long-term.
Let me give an example.
Back in February, Nathan went to a joint birthday party for two different birthday kids. As per one of the Year of Less Consumption tenets, "Emphasize experiences over material goods," I bought each kid an experience-based birthday gift. Let me show you what the gifts looked like, and then explain the contents and wrapping:
I got both kids gift cards. The top gift was a McDonald's gift card. (I know some may question the environmental-friendliness of McDonald's itself, but, dude, I'm trying here.) The bottom one was a movie gift card, hence the clever tag, which I actually cut out of an invitation to another kid's birthday party. That was one of my finer Year of Less Consumption acts.
I attached each kid's gift card to a box of candy to add extra weight and hopefully prevent the gift from getting lost. For the wrapping paper, I used packing paper that had been used as stuffing in a package Bill received earlier that week. There were yards and yards of the paper, but they were wrinkled, so I actually busted out my iron and smoothed them out. Nathan had all kinds of follow-up questions about ironing, suggesting that maybe I don't iron
Then we got to the birthday party, and I realized that understated simplicity is not the aesthetic most people go for when it comes to the wrapping of children's birthday gifts. I deposited my sad brown packages among the sea of brightly-colored balloon- and animal-printed gifts.
It didn't help that the next day one of the birthday kid's moms called to inquire about my gift, which had accidentally been taken home by the other birthday kid. "Did you give us a package wrapped in brown paper?" she asked, an innocent question that nonetheless made me feel like some kind of a dumbass redneck who doesn't own proper wrapping paper.
So for the next birthday party, I abandoned all my environmental ideals and bought a gift bag with matching tissue paper and tag from Target. Actually, the main reason I went that wrapping route was that by that point I was busy and frazzled from my work and other endeavors. I didn't feel like I had the time--or, more accurately, the desire--to spend half an hour ironing paper and making homemade gift tags. Which led to some guilt because, Am I too busy to care about the environment?
But this is where the details of reality come in to shape ideals into something livable. Maybe I can't always be ironing out packaging paper and making tags out of old invitations. But I did still get the kid an experience-based gift, and I like to think that a gift bag is at least a form of gift wrap that can be reused.
Bottom line, I had arrived at a level of environmental-friendliness that I could actually live with. And I think that pretty much sums up where I am with the Year of Less Consumption. I have established practices that I can live with.
For example, I always bring my reusable bags to the grocery store or Target. I have become comfortable toting my change of clothes to the gym in a cloth bag--even though I have to then put my sweaty clothes in the bag after the gym, because it turns out the bag is washable. I'm totally cool with cloth napkins now, even for wrapping my breakfast sandwich to eat in the car. (I like to think my sandwich feels all cool and artisan wrapped in cloth, even though it's just two misshapen fried eggs on a piece of toast.)
And I'm pretty good about washing out empty food containers (sour cream and the like) for food storage. I'm like your grandmother over here.
So, in conclusion, I think that the Year of Less Consumption is still alive and well, albeit in a slightly different incarnation. I think my Year of Less Consumption practices have instilled an awareness in me about what we buy and what we throw out, and this awareness has shaped my everyday practices.
I also like to think I've made a tiny impact on others. For example, recently Nathan was invited to a birthday party for my friend's twins. I emailed my friend and explained my whole Year of Less Consumption thing, and I asked her what kind of experience-based gift the twins might like. She replied with an I love this idea and suggested bowling gift cards. And maybe now she will go on to give experience-based gifts, just as I have seen other parents do after I gave these types of gifts to their children. And so, in that way, maybe I can start a tiny movement here.