Circle of Simplicity

There is a book which has impressed and inspired me by Cecile Andrews entitled “The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life.” Her perspective on living a more soulful and simple life is refreshing and thought provoking. After a trip yesterday to Lihue doing way too many errands, which included a stop at the dreaded Walmart, I returned to our beloved north shore with items which were not on my list and without some that were. I also returned with a renewed promise to myself to avoid these stores as much as possible and then reread the chapter in “Circle of Simplicity” about reducing our raging consumerism. Here is the part I wanted to share with you.

The Alternative Shopping List – Becoming a Caring Consumer

1. Do I really need this? Is there anything I can use instead? Here is where the joys of ingenuity come in. It’s fun to find substitutes.

2. How will this item affect the quality of my life? Will it help me engage in life more fully, like sheet music or gardening supplies or a swimsuit? Or will it just make me more passive–like another TV?

3. Is the cost of the item worth the amount of time it takes to earn the money? For instance, how many hours do you have to work to buy an espresso? Is it worth it? You might say yes, but at least you have thought about it.

4. Could you buy it used? Rent it? Borrow it? Share the purchase with someone else?

5. Where should you buy it? Consider these possibilities — a small locally owned business that keeps your money circulating in the community — a business you value, one that adds life to the community — a business that contributes to the community — a business that treats its employees well

6. How will this purchase affect the environment? Is it biodegradable? — can it be recycled or repaired? — will it use resources to maintain? — is it over packaged? — how far did you drive to buy it? — where is it made? — how much energy was used to import it?

The industrialized fourth of the world uses fifteen times more paper, ten times as much steel and twelve times more fuel as the rest of the world. American houses are twice as big as they were 50 years ago. We have more shopping centers than high schools. We drink more soft drinks than tap water.

Now there is some food for thought! Keep that in mind when you next go shopping, while you are anesthetized by the interior mood of the store you are in, the artificial lights, the neon colors, the overwhelming scents, the white noise– all screaming buy buy buy!

In this same vein, I just watched a documentary called “No Impact Man.” A young man and his wife and toddler launched themselves into a year-long experiment into living in New York City and attempting to have no impact on the environment. They went to lengths way outside my comfort zone, but it gave me pause. Featured prominently in the documentary is this family’s focus on their food and their dedication to shopping at farmer’s markets and buying their food locally. That is something we at North Country Farms can surely get behind and a purchase that totally meets Cecile Andrews alternative shopping list criteria!

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