My new washing machine arrived today. It is a thing of beauty, and so quiet compared to my old one that I actually watched it for several minutes before I reluctantly came to believe that it was actually running correctly. The clothing came out free of soap residue without an extra rinse cycle and were spun so completely that they will probably dry overnight on my basement line. A huge improvement over the machine that I’ve been using for the last eight years, which was a second hand machine that had served a family of four for many years before we got it. The very nice delivery men took away our grubby old washer and the matching dryer we’ve never used, leaving behind a gleaming new machine with led lights and pleasant chiming noises.
Since writing about offerings to non-human deities, I’ve been meditating further on the concept of sacrificing consumption as a sacred offering. I am in a financial position where I can choose how to spend my money. I can afford organic cotton t-shirts and to shop local even if it costs a bit more than the multinational chain store. I do try to spend responsibly – locally owned businesses, for example – but there’s always room for improvement. One of the big places I am trying to improve is in the thoughtlessness of my spending.
A couple of months ago, I started a project of cleaning out drawers and cupboards that had gotten cluttered. As I created piles to throw out, donate, and keep, I realized how many things I have that I never use; how many things I have that I had forgotten I even owned. I cleaned my closet of two huge garbage bags of clothing that were ill-fitting or didn’t match anything else or just weren’t getting worn. It was embarrassing to realize how much money I had spent on things that I wasn’t using and how many resources – water, minerals, energy – had been spent on trinkets and gadgets that were gathering dust.
I’ll never be a minimalist or live in a home of clean white modern lines and bare shiny surfaces. I like my clutter and my overflowing bookshelves and my piles of craft supplies (though I don’t like how out-of-control my craft room has become). However, I want to bring fewer things into my home. Consume less, and consume more thoughtfully.
This has been on my mind for a while, but this post was prompted by learning that a favourite food company of mine is on the side of “Hobby Lobby” in the recent efforts to make companies into legal people and give them rights on the basis of their religious beliefs – specially, the right to deny women health insurance coverage for birth control. Though Eden Foods makes healthy organic foods and are known for pioneering BPA-free can linings, it appears that the owner has some strong beliefs that run counter to my own values.
The company I work for sells Eden Organics products. I don’t necessarily think we should stop – not everyone shares my values, and there is plenty to like about the products – but I won’t be buy them for myself anymore. I hope I can find and stock alternatives for those who agree with me.
Some things are easier to give up than others. I will miss Eden Pizza and Pasta Sauce, but most other things will be easy once I’ve found a new brand for organic diced tomatoes. When I decided to only eat fair trade bananas, it was no problem because I don’t eat that many bananas and I don’t eat foods that contain bananas. Trying to switch to only fair trade chocolate has been a lot tougher. Chocolate bars are OK, and I got through last Christmas without any “Pot of Gold”, but when I’m craving a cookie at the local coffee shop, I know those cookies aren’t made with fair trade chocolate chips. And as my laptop and cell phone get older and slower, it is harder to remind myself that buying new ones isn’t a spiritual or environmental priority; that having to wait an extra five minutes for the computer to boot up isn’t justification for the social costs of most electronics.
I needed a new washing machine. The new one is more water and energy efficient, even without accounting for the extra rinse cycles I was using to get things soap-free with the old machine. This one was an easy decision, but I’m trying to find the right question to ask myself before every purchase. Something that combines “Can this object’s purpose be served in any way that takes fewer resources?” with “Will the use of this object be worth the resources spent making and disposing of it?” with “Is this company aligned with my values?” with some sort of spiritual or sacred acknowledgement. Something simple that can be used equally well in the dollar store as in the electronics store or the car dealership. Something to remind me that I should be either making a thoughtful purchasing decision or making a deliberate conscious sacrifice by not buying. Something to add mind and spirit to consumption.