Umbra’s second helpings: The ultimate guide to consuming wisely
Feeling frazzled? Wondering how to sort the important from the trivial from the non-recycable? ‘Tis the season. Umbra’s Consumption Manifesto is the perfect guide to slowing down, consuming wisely, and taking stock of what matters — and what really isn’t worth worrying so much about. It’s too lovely to not republish in its entirety:
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This brilliant triad says it all. Reduce: Avoid buying what you don’t need — and when you do get that dishwasher/lawnmower/toilet, spend the money up front for an efficient model. Reuse: Buy used stuff, and wring the last drop of usefulness out of most everything you own. Recycle: Do it, but know that it’s the last and least effective leg of the triad. (Ultimately, recycling simply results in the manufacture of more things.)
Stay close to home. Work close to home to shorten your commute; eat food grown nearby; patronize local businesses; join local organizations. All of these will improve the look, shape, smell, and feel of your community.
Internal combustion engines are polluting and their use should be minimized. Period.
Watch what you eat. Whenever possible, avoid food grown with pesticides, in feedlots, or by agribusiness. It’s an easy way to use your dollars to vote against the spread of toxins in our bodies, land, and water.
Private industries have very little incentive to improve their environmental practices. Our consumption choices must encourage and support good behavior; our political choices must support government regulation.
Support thoughtful innovations in manufacturing and production. Hint: Drilling for oil is no longer an innovation.
Prioritize. Think hardest when buying large objects; don’t drive yourself mad fretting over the small ones. It’s easy to be distracted by the paper bag puzzle, but an energy-sucking refrigerator is much more worthy of your attention. (Small electronics are an exception.)
Vote. Political engagement enables the spread of environmentally conscious policies. Without public action, thoughtful individuals are swimming upstream.
Don’t feel guilty. It only makes you sad.
Enjoy what you have — the things that are yours alone, and the things that belong to none of us. Both are nice, but the latter are precious. Those things that we cannot manufacture and should never own — water, air, birds, trees — are the foundation of life’s pleasures. Without them, we’re nothing. With us, there may be nothing left. It’s our choice.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of our Ask Umbra advice column, and to celebrate, we’re pulling a favorite gem of eco-advice out of the archives each week.
Send your green-living questions to Umbra.
Donate now to support our work.