Reflective Journal: Consumerism and Materialism-Part 2

Introduction:

After tracking my spending for two weeks I was ready to track for another week, this time with more awareness and intention! This experience holds a lot of value and I encourage people to give it a try. With the holidays right around the corner I think I will continue this practice and really track what I spend over the month of December (on food, gifts, donations, etc.). In our house we always try to limit what we spend, but have never actually tracked all aspects of the holiday season. By extending this journalling task I feel like will really consider what I buy, who I buy for and needs vs wants vs luxury. By writing down what I have learned and what I plant to do I feel more accountable to move forward with my next steps!

October 29-November 4 “Spending Journal”:

Monday, October 29– No Starbucks today! I made my own coffee!! I used my Keurig machine, BUT not a K-cup. I used coffee from home and brewed it in a reusable “pod”. There can be SO much waste involved with using these single cup machines. I’ve been using my reusable pod for months and it works like a charm! I used coffee from Starbucks to make my own coffee!

Safeway- Weekly grocery run (again…no single use plastic bags used). I also purchased Halloween treats. Halloween treats is something I really struggled with this year. I think about the waste produced during the holidays each year, but this year it was really on my mind. I felt so torn. I wanted to have a zero waste option for treats, but wasn’t sure what that could be. I decided to buy peanut free ‘treats’ such as cookies and fruit snacks. I know that there is still waste from the plastic/foil packaging, but I thought that it was less packaging than mini chocolate bars or small candy. I brought the boxes to school for our Halloween “maker space day”. What is a better option for Halloween-one that still includes participating by giving a ‘treat’? I’d love to hear people’s suggestions. I miss the days of giving money for Unicef! Luckily we only got 13 kids, so we didn’t have to buy a lot of snacks.

While I was shopping I tried to buy fewer groceries and use what we already had in the cupboard. Being an organized shopper can help reduce purchasing doubles or triples of the same products. If you plan for the week then you can also purchase with intent instead of buying on a whim because you are hungry! I really noticed how as a society we focus more on convenience more than anything else. We pay extra to have an employee cut up fruit, vegetables, cheese, etc. so we don’t have to do it ourselves. I can understand this, but now food that didn’t require plastic packaging has been put into a plastic storing container. I honestly don’t even know if these can be recycled.

I did remember to bring my mesh bags for fruit/vegetables. That is one things I forget to do a lot of the time. How many of those clear, plastic bags get tossed as soon as the groceries get unpacked? I at least use mine for dog “waste” bags-but I shouldn’t be using them at all.

My mesh bags are from Norwex-but look just like this one!

What I need to do is buy more things in bulk. Many bulk food stores are encouraging you to bring in your own containers such as Bulk Barn’s Reusable Container Program. This is going to be my next step!

So Monday’s grocery shopping wasn’t just a regular run in, grab a few things and go home process like it usually is! I need to be better at shopping with intent and making sure that I get what I want and need so no food gets thrown out. I reluctantly admit that we throw food out. I am embarrassed by that. Better organization with shopping/cooking will make positive changes for the earth, my wallet and my tummy!

Tuesday, October 30– Acupuncture appointment. *Pre-purchased visit

Wednesday, October 31– For our Halloween “party” today I allowed treats that were “as healthy and as waste free as possible”. None of the students brought in candy bags or juice boxes. We had a few homemade treats and the kids drank from their reusable water bottles. I am pleased with the student and parent support with this endeavour.

Homemade “Mummy” Pizzas!

October 31 was also the final day for our “WALK-tober: Walking School Bus”. Our goal was to encourage more students to walk to school instead of being dropped off when they live within walking distance. The best way to encourage the students was to join them! To celebrate one month of walking to school (we had about 15 regular walkers) we offered a snack of homemade muffins, oranges and bananas. Baking saved on packaging and homemade always taste better! The downfall…another reminder that we haven’t started a compost at school. One thing at a time I guess, but a school compost needs to become a priority at some point.

Thursday, November 1– Today was “Outdoor Classroom Day” at school. I purchased Starbucks for the two other teachers spending the whole day outside with the students. I brought ALL of us a reusable cup! At first I thought that this might be considered as weird or strange, but the staff knows me. They see me with my reusable cups all the time, so they accepted their hot drinks without complaint. AND if there was judgement, they kept it to themselves!!

During the Outdoor Classroom Day, one of the activities was a community walk. With the first group (grade 5/6) we walked down a street that was under construction. We noticed an ENORMOUS amount of garbage in that area. When we took the second group (grade 3/4) we brought bags to pick the garbage up. There were hundreds of pieces of garbage littered all over the street, sidewalk and area that had been dug up. The students were outraged at what we saw. Our neighbourhood is usually pretty clean and this area was looking like an actual dump. I Tweeted out a photograph and Take Pride Winnipeg (@TakePrideWpg) commented on our clean up! A few people came out of their home to thank us. We actually had to get two more garbage bags from one of the residents because we had filled ours up.

One of the big things that the students noticed/commented on (as we were treating this as a spontaneous mini inquiry project) was that there weren’t any garbage (or recycling) containers at this construction site. People would need to care enough to bring their trash home and dispose of it properly. Clearly, this was NOT happening. Another HUGE disappointment to the students was that there were so many coffee cups amongst the litter. “Adults should know better. They are always blaming the kids, but kids don’t drink coffee. I’m telling my parents to stop buying coffee and make it at home instead. If I see one more coffee cup on the ground I’m going to scream” (Grade 4 student). One of the most interesting things to me is: with all the advertising companies do on their products we know exactly where the litter is coming from. Tim Horton’s and McDonald’s were the brands of coffee that were being carelessly tossed. McDonald’s offers $1 drinks several times per year. Why not offer those deals to people bringing reusable cups?! Tim Horton’s has their “Roll Up The Rim” promotion (which isn’t evening happening now and there were still so many of their cups on our street). Even if you bring your own cup you have to get one of the their cups in order to have an opportunity to win a prize. Why are the people who want to do something environmental being forced to make a decision about whether or not they should go against their ideals to have a chance at a prize. Maybe you only have a chance at the prize when you use a reusable cup?! Why is consuming hot beverages from cups that are not recyclable so widely accepted in our society. It made me think of Tim Jackson (2006) and his focus on “what government agencies can do to facilitate a wider public shift towards reduced consumption. Governments need to create a policy framework that both encourages people to break their existing consumption habits and penalizes wasteful consumption…” (Mulligan p. 45-46).

Friday, November 2– I was not at school today because I had a conference to go to. I ended up at Starbucks again (after doing well with making my own coffee for Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday) but I brought my own cup AND an extra for my colleague just in case she forgot hers (which she did!). She appreciated my thoughtfulness and plans on making a change herself. *I would also like to point out that early in the week a different colleague commented on my $2.00 reusable Starbucks cup. I got one for her and she has used it each day since!! We went for lunch on Friday as well. We chose to go to a restaurant that prides themselves on using local ingredients.

Saturday, November 3– I had a “No Spend Saturday”. This was pretty easy because I was busy with schoolwork, but also since I was at home all day I was tempted to do some online shopping. I talked myself out of making any purchases because a) I wanted to have a day where I didn’t purchase anything AND b) I didn’t actually need anything. I ate leftover soup that I had made earlier in the week (which made for quick meals during the week and was healthy and tasty).

Sunday, November 4– The only purchase I made was a coffee on the way to the airport to meet a friend, and the cost to park at the airport. Overall I was pretty successful at not spending much and instead consuming what I already had at home this weekend!

Things of Note from Part 2 of journalling:

  • I had a lot of different thoughts and ideas this week. I thought I would choose one area to focus on, but instead there ended up being many different things to note and consider.
  • I was more open about my concerns and ideas and people were receptive and even willing to make changes themselves. I’m ready for my views on consumerism to be heard and my ideas to inspire others to make simple but effective changes.
  • I have work to do! Responsible grocery shopping is going to be a real focus for me. The choices I make for my household can/will impact “the hide costs of hyperconsumption” (Mulligan p. 36). Better planning and intent will result in less plastic in my purchases-which has to take priority.

FInal Thoughts: 

  1. I practice the 6Rs (Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Respect, Repeat) but also really like these 8Rs!
  2. I have some decisions to make about Christmas. If I want change to happen then it needs to start with me. Some ideas that have come up from this process are: keeping a spending journal, buying fewer material gifts and more experiences for gifts, using paper that can be recycled or cover gifts with things such as towels that can just be put back in the drawer (the fun part is the surprise, who cares what the wrapping looks), making an effort to buy local, considering the needs of others instead of the wants that I have (especially with my students. Last year two students bought gifts in my honour-a scarf for a homeless person and a donation made in my name for a local charity. They did this because they knew me well and knew how I would appreciate that as a gift. Maybe I let parents know that. It is always very awkward when students bring in teacher gifts at Christmas. They do it because they “should” and because they want to, but honestly I don’t need anything) and making the holidays about being together instead of gifts.
  3. I’ve really enjoyed this process. I spent a lot of time scrolling through Instagram finding posts that resonated with me and connected with the points I was trying to make. The required reading and supplemental material was helpful to make connections as well.
  4. We can all ask ourselves this question…

Until Next Time,

Danielle

Citations:

Mulligan, M. (2018) An Introduction to Sustainability: Environmental, Social and Personal Perspectives. 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge.

Bulk Barn: Reusable Container Program: http://www.bulkbarn.ca/Reusable-Container-Program/

Instagram Accounts:

@leafico

@least.waste

@woke.to.the.planet

Twitter Accounts:

@TakePrideWpg

@d_shrumm

 

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