Tag Archives: consumerism

Greening Back to School

This post is my contribution to the Green Moms Carnival.  This month’s carnival is hosted by Mindful Momma and the topic is “Back to School.”

Last night, a family friend asked me about what we teachers ask students to purchase for going back to school.  He had heard a radio story about people being asked to bring in rolls of toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer and other non-educational items.  Can I just say that this is ridiculous?

Now, I may have a different perspective because I teach high school and my only requirements are that each student covers his or her book, has a notebook of his or her choice, and brings some sort of writing utensil.  I’m easy to please.  If kids want highlighters, colored pencils, a fancy trapper keeper (do they still make those?) or a TI-86 calculator, good for them.  But those aren’t REQUIRED items in my classroom.

As an environmental educator and an environmentalist, I encourage kids to skip purchasing new items and use the ones they have at home that are perfectly good.  At the end of each year when kids clean out their lockers, I inevitably see them throwing out binders, notebooks, folders, etc.  I spend much of my time standing by the trash, asking them if they’d like to donate it to my classroom instead.  I’d much prefer that they’d save it for next year, and I’m sure their parents would like that, but teenagers don’t always think cost-effectively.  Fast-forward to the next school year and I offer students my “salvaged” binders on the first day, first-come-first-served, and explain that they’re reusing, an important part of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle.  Since I was on maternity leave at the end of last year, I have no binders to give away this year.  But I’ll encourage kids to check out what they have at home before buying new.

Some ideas: Do you have any idea how many partially used spiral notebooks there are? You probably have many in your house.  Why not cut out the paper and put it in a binder instead of buying new? Or simply rip out the used pages and you have a brand new notebook! Why not use scrap paper or junk mail instead of buying post-it notes or pads? Do you really need to buy new pens, pencils, crayons, rulers, calculators? Why not shop around at home before heading out to the store? It’ll save you some money and reduce your impact on the planet.

Finally, when it comes to buying toilet paper, paper towels and hand sanitizer (my school doesn’t do this),  I think it’s crazy, but I can understand wanting to use as much of the budget for education as possible.  However, as a taxpayer, I don’t want to have to go out and buy these things that the school should provide.  It would make much more sense for the school to buy these items in bulk, and thereby save money, packaging and a lot of aggravated parents.  If your child’s school is asking for these items, I’d encourage you to contact the teacher, principal, superintendent or Board of Education.  It just makes no sense for children to bring these items to school.  (It reminds me of a story my grandfather told about being required to bring wood for the wood stove to his one-room school house, and that the kids who brought the most wood got to sit closest to the fire.)  Maybe you can explain that your family chooses to use cloth wipes instead of toilet paper? That would be a fun way to introduce yourself to the new teacher!

Do you have any tips for going back to school without being a mega-consumer?


Filed under Sustainable Living

Is it Christmastime Already???

My mom and I took a trip to the mall today.  It poured rain today, so it was the perfect day for a shopping trip.  We walked around the mall and were surprised to see Santa there already.  We dodged the perfume and lotion people, since those smells give me a headache and make me sneeze.  Seriously? They smell like bug spray.  Why would you want to smell like bug spray?  We noticed that salespeople were especially pushy, asking if they could help find anything the moment we walked into the store and telling us about promotions.  Don’t they realize I’d like to just shop in peace? We even skipped a store after recognizing a particularly annoying sales girl that we got sick of on a previous trip over the summer.  We got lunch, and then… we were ready to leave.

The strange thing about this is that we didn’t buy anything.  Both of us left without making a purchase (except lunch).  I don’t think I’ve ever gone shopping with my mom without either of us buying something.  I left the mall feeling tired and kind of annoyed.  Is the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season here already? I hate the feeling of shopping and buying just because I’m obligated to buy people presents.  I try to make as many meaningful gifts as I can, but I only have so much time.

I’m not a “Humbug!” type of person by any means.  I love to decorate for Christmas with candles in the windows, a village and of course a Christmas tree and some wreathes.  I like the music and the cookies (of course!).  I like the movies, the idea of Santa and the reindeer.  I like spending time with the people I love.  But I HATE the feeling of rushing around at the last minute to get gifts, because I can only make so many.  So this year, I’m trying to shop online.  Lately, I’ve been looking at Lehman’s and have found a few gifts I really like.  And I’m going to try to not fall behind with shopping and wrapping, since we’ll be hosting Christmas with our immediate families at our house this year.  I want to be able to have the holiday without getting overwhelmed.  I know it will only get busier when we have children!

For me, the Christmas season doesn’t really begin until the Friday after Thanksgiving.  That’s when I get out the decorations and when we start selling Christmas trees at the farm market.  When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was the busiest holiday at the farm, with baking pies 24-hours a day and skipping school to work, which we kids loved.  It was a fun but tiring time, and there was no time to think about Christmas then.  After a few years off, my family has decided to remain open for pies this year, so again Thanksgiving will take precidence to Christmas, at least until that Friday.  But maybe I can still get some online shopping done.

How do you manage Christmas gifts?


Filed under Living from Scratch

Why I did not enjoy shopping for maternity clothes…

In my opinion, they were mostly ugly.  I was annoyed by the small selection of mostly strange prints.  We started at a maternity/children’s consignment shop that had almost no maternity clothes at all.  However, I did enjoy looking at the kid’s Halloween costumes.

Next, we went to Target.  I heard a rumor that Target had some nice maternity clothes.  It was a lie.  I complained rather loudly about the lack of selection.  They had ONE style of maternity jeans, which I didn’t like.  They had ONE style of polyester dress pants.  The shirts were hideous.  I’m a jeans and T-shirt kind of gal, and I was looking for some simple, plain tops.  It was pretty frustrating, since I need to buy clothes but hated pretty much everything there.  Then, my mom decided to take out her camera, and we had fun.  Here were some of the choices at Target.

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Who doesn’t like purple flannel? Or a black ruffled dress?

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I really need a practical, belly-showing faux leather motorcycle jacket.

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How about a crazy printed tunic?

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What maternity wardrobe would be complete without a mumu? Or perhaps the correct spelling is moo-moo.

I left Target feeling pretty ticked off, but my mom convinced me to go to Kohls.  As we were walking in, I said, “If they ask me if I want a Kohl’s charge card, I’m going to punch them in the face.”  Two seconds later, we walked through the door and a lady asked me if I wanted a Kohl’s charge card.  As you probably guessed, I didn’t punch her in the face.

Kohls had a small maternity section, with normal-looking clothes.  I ended up getting a pair of jeans, khakis, black pants, and three solid tops.  Everything was on sale, too.  My only concern is that I now have to wear pants with this kind of waist-band:

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My mom has told me that I should realize how lucky I am, since maternity clothes have come a long way since I was born.  However, I still don’t like feeling as if I have to buy something I hate, just because I will soon outgrow my old stand-bys.

Moms and moms-to-be out there, what’s been your experience? I’m thinking shopping online is going to be the way to go here.  Can you point me to a good website or store? My mom would appreciate it, since she told me I embarrassed her in the stores today.  At least I’m learning the motherly art of embarrassing people.


Filed under Home