EXPANDING CONSUMER AWARENESS

by Rosanna Ferrera


Living a truly simple, sustainable and balanced life is one of the most critical achievements we can come to for our own sense of personal integrity and well being, as well as for all humanity and life on the planet.  Doing this in our Western culture is an enormous challenge considering that just about everywhere we turn there is an opportunity and invitation to act which furthers degeneration, imbalance and disharmony with the planet, our ecosystems and therefor all life. This index has been created as an environmental and ethical tool designed to enable us to achieve balance and harmony by focusing on our purchasing power and our ability to make a difference with those choices.

Here in the West we have been greatly conditioned to a consumer lifestyle.  The amount of resources one individual uses daily is excessive and out of balance.  This mounting collective cultural consumption will destroy life on earth if it is allowed to continue at this rate!   Each time we purchase something we have an impact. If we begin to consider all aspects of the impact our decisions are making, it can be a bit overwhelming, yet it can also better inform our choices and serve our sense of personal integrity as well as the world at large. This index will decrease the overwhelm and give you a starting place to help you to effect change in smaller amounts and increase it as you're ready.

Beginning with manufacturing, regard the longevity of the product as well as the environmental & socioeconomic impact of it.  Was it made in the U.S.?  What were the labor practices of the employers and conditions of the laborers? What do the shareholders invest in? Was it made with non-toxic, biodegradable substances or highly toxic, enormously pollutive and dangerous ones? How much energy was required to create it?  (When I refer to energy I mean, electrical energy, fossil fuels, environmental resources, human labor etc..)  Regarding distribution, did it have to travel overseas and then for hundreds of miles by truck to arrive here before me, how much energy did that require? Is it packaged in plastic, cardboard and styrofoam that will end up in the landfills? How much energy went into the packaging?  Regarding the design and structural integrity of the item, is it well made?  Will it last for a proportionately balanced amount of time considering the resources that went into its making? Is it something which will benefit my health and wellbeing or diminish it, even if mildly?  Considering the cost of the item, is it money well spent? Is it marked up ridiculously or is it amazingly cheap?  Be aware generally speaking, the cheaper the item the more use of resources and fowl business practices!

These are to be avoided!

Of course, certain required lively-hood products (cars, computers…) are in conflict with sustainable values and it is important to ask if the benefits we receive and generate as a result of their use are able to fully restore balance to our sense of integrity and balance to the ecosystem.  Most of us are still out of balance, and wish it were different, so let us look to resolve this by contributing to environmental/humanitarian agencies and being more vigilant about how we apply our purchasing power and incorporating more sustainable practices into our daily life. It is paramount that we as individuals take immediate and deliberate action to choose differently and wisely.  I recommend that you encourage & educate those in your nucleus to do the same.  This is my effort to educate. I dearly hope it will serve to have you employ sustainable practices more easily and efficiently.

 Please review this list again & again.  As you read the index, check the box of those practices which you fully and regularly employ, circle the practices which you partially employ and leave blank those you've yet to incorporate into your life. Following the index are 4 sheets with a “top ten” & “top five” action list - 1 sheet for the next 4 months. Share these with a friend and ask to be supported in your goals.  Do this as a household or collective and review it each month.  It is by no means a complete index, so add to it accordingly!  Any updates are welcome.

Foods/Household Practices

  1. Avoid big chain stores: Costco, Target, Safeway, Bell Market etc.
  2. Shop locally –at mom & pop stores
  3. Shop primarily at health-food stores
  4. Buy only organic produce, dry-goods, hygiene products.
  5. Buy directly from farmers; find out when and where the Farmers market in your area is.
  6. Buy from wholesalers - in bulk - avoid packaging.
  7. Use refillable containers for bulk items, it costs less and wastes less.
  8. Buy natural cosmetics - non-animal tested, organic shampoo, make-up, natural toothpaste.
  9. Avoid aerosol hairspray –- use natural, spritz on varieties
  10. Avoid department store perfumes - use essential oils
  11. Avoid nail polish, removers, acrylic or plastic nails
  12. Avoid toxic big brand name cleaning supplies & detergents - use non toxic alternatives
  13. Bring your own bags to the market (baggies and bulk containers too!).
  14. Buy foods without additives and preservatives.
  15. Avoid Plastic wrap for foods, reuse plastic food bags, aluminum foil & Tupperware.
  16. Buy milk in glass bottles, eggs in paper cartons, juice in glass jars or frozen (cartons & styrofoam aren't recyclable).
  17. Ask your grocer to stock these items and any others you find missing.
  18. Reuse more than recycling!
  19. Recycle glass, aluminum, newspaper, paper scraps, plastic #1 &#2, and tin.
  20. Buy energy efficient light bulbs (full spectrum or fluorescent)
  21. Avoid disposable plates, napkins, and plastic utensils!
  22. Use rags instead of paper towels and cloth napkins instead of paper.
  23. Avoid paper towels.  Use paper bags instead to drain grease.
  24. Be responsible and creative with leftover food.
  25. Use water from cooking vegetables for soup stocks.
  26. Eat foods low on the food chain; reduce your meat intake.
  27. Buy free range chicken and beef.
  28. Buy organic baby food or make your own - Fresh! Start a home garden grow your own foods, use drip irrigation.
  29. Support or start a food co-op.

Office Practices

  1. Tear plastic windows out of envelopes and recycle the rest. Don't buy those!
  2. Separate your paper waste from other unrecyclable waste
  3. Buy only recycled paper (the higher the % of “post consumer waste” content the better)
  4. Avoid fax machines with paper rolls that are not recyclable
  5. Buy refillable pens.
  6. Print on both sides of paper whenever possible
  7. Use the back of discardable paper for scratch paper.
  8. Avoid the consumer seduction to upgrade to the latest models of technological devices.

Clothing Practices

  1. Buy natural fiber clothing and shoes or hand made items
  2. Buy organic cotton, hemp & green cotton clothing, sheets and fabric.
  3. Mend and repair rather than discard and replace.
  4. Sponsor a neighborhood clothes swap.
  5. Shop at consignment stores and second hand or vintage boutiques.
  6. Donate your unwanted garments and misc. items to shelters and charities.
  7. Avoid garments that require dry-cleaning,

Pet Care Practices

  1. Nuter and spay your animals.
  2. Buy health-food brand kibbles and canned food
  3. Buy them non-toxic shampoos and flea controls
  4. Ask your vet to carry these items

Dining Out Practices

  1. Avoid Styrofoam in any form!
  2. Bring your own to go containers to restaurants.
  3. Bring your own Chop sticks
  4. Avoid little soy, mustard, ketchup packets & plastic utensils
  5. Bring your own Coffee cup!
  6. Avoid big chain restaurants
  7. Ask your favorite places to serve organic produce and meats

Parenting Practices

  1. Use cloth diapers and heavily absorbent paper inserts.
  2. Avoid plastic, synthetic toys and media hype
  3. Avoid TV - children's videos, video games, gameboys & computer games
  4. Encourage art and imaginative play! 
  5. Buy natural and “old-fashioned” toys or make them together.
  6. Start a toy co-op.
  7. Feed your children organic and whole foods!!!!
  8. Avoid fast foods, processed foods, additives, preservatives, refined flours and sugars
  9. Start carpools for school runs, games etc.
  10. Get neighborhood children together especially at festival times for fun or special events!
  11. Teach your children ecological wisdom.
  12. Look into home schooling & alternative education - Waldorf, Montessori, & Reggio Emillia.
  13. Practice responsible family planning.
  14. Consider not having children or adopting - the planet is already over populated!

Transportation Practices

  1. Drive less, carpool more
  2. Walk, ride public transit & bike ride to get where you need to go.
  3. Purchase a fuel-efficient vehicle.
  4. Recycle motor oil.

Botanical Practices

  1. Plant native flora, those, which encourage endangered birds and butterflies.
  2. Get your neighborhood involved, start a communal garden!
  3. Oppose the use of roadside defoliants in your area.
  4. Oppose the use of gas leaf blowers and gas lawn mowers, they are highly pollutive!!!!
  5. Plant trees in your community.
  6. Don't buy Redwood anything!!!
  7. Buy living Christmas trees or cut your own boughs and buy wreaths and garlands instead.
  8. Learn about the plants and animals of your region.
  9. Irradicate alien, invasive plants when you see them!

Water & Energy Conservation Practices

  1. Discover your watershed and work to protect it. Learn where your waste and sewage goes
  2. Put in a water conserving showerhead, & toilet, take shorter showers!
  3. Put in a water filter showerhead (more toxins enter our skin in hot showers than in drinking)
  4. Turn down your hot water heater.
  5. Turn off water while you brush your teeth and wash dishes just rinse in running water.
  6. Collect rainwater & create gray water systems.
  7. Use non-toxic solutions for pool and hot tub cleaning: saline, ozone…
  8. Hang your clothes out to dry.
  9. Support your local utility's conservation program.
  10. Heat your home responsibly, with renewable energy.
  11. Solarize your home.
  12. Learn where the energy for your home comes from.
  13. Be sure your home is well insulated.
  14. Weather-seal your home thoroughly.
  15. Lower your thermostat and wear warmer clothes.
  16. Put a catalytic converter on your wood stove.
  17. Buy a pellet stove, they're the most efficient and burn the cleanest!
  18. Don't burn green wood!  Duroflames are actually the cleanest burning next to pellets!
  19. Buy energy efficient electrical appliances.
  20. Use rechargeable batteries - solar chargers!
  21. Unplug appliances when not in use. (They drain energy you pay for!)

Waste Management Practices

  1. Pick up litter along roadsides & trails.
  2. Keep hazardous chemicals in spill-proof containers.
  3. Find out when hazardous waste disposal days are.
  4. Find out how to properly wash paint brushes, buckets and how to dispose of waste water.
  5. Locate and deposit dead batteries at local drop off points don't place in garbage.

Construction Practices

  1. Use nontoxic building materials, paint, sealant, insulation etc.
  2. Avoid redwood construction!!!!
  3. Build in alternative energy systems
  4. Learn about and incorporate permaculture methods
  5. Build with strawbale, cobb, rammed earth and other energy conserving methods
  6. Install natural fiber carpets without toxic adhesives

Responsible Community Practices

  1. Research socially responsible investments!
  2. Speak out about your values in community groups!
  3. Be an active voter and attend town meetings.
  4. Learn how your representatives and senators vote. 
  5. Write them letters.
  6. Work to understand people with different views.
  7. Work to unlearn sexism, ageism and racism.

Explore ways to reduce stress in your life.

  1. Practice preventative healthcare. Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Bodywork etc...
  2. Exercise regularly!
  3. Learn about the allopathic medications you put into your body and their side effects.
  4. Take time to play, relax, and go into Nature.
  5. Know your enemies: fear, greed, selfishness, violence, ignorance, compulsive likes...
  6. Know your alternatives, educate yourself, and seek out what’s not immediately apparent.
  7. Detox from and eliminateTV and other Media; give your mind a chance to come alive.
  8. Learn to discriminate and immunize yourself from advertising.
  9. Decide what you need in life: make these decisions out of your deepest needs.
  10. Establish the concept of enough - Don't be tyrannized by the slogan "More is Better".
  11. Scrutinize the results of your attitudes and actions.
  12. Make death an ally - be mindful of your mortality
  13. Cultivate sensitivity to others.
  14. Learn how to love: Love is a skill!
  15. Seek out real experiences rather than pretend/virtual ones.
  16. Think in long term consequences, not just short-term satisfactions.
  17. Base your life on ethics: Universal laws, which you cannot break without incurring woe!
  18. Investigate the spiritual dimension of life.
  19. Keep in mind that growth is an ongoing process, not an instantaneous proposition.
  20. Don't be too hard on yourself and keep shooting for the highest ideal.

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Below is a section in which to list the practices you circled - those you partially employ. Prioritize the top ten according to those you are now willing to add further emphasis and attention to in order to bring them up a level and make them standard practice.

1                                                                                                                     

2                                                                                                                     

3                                                                                                                     

4                                                                                                                     

5                                                                                                                     

6                                                                                                                     

7                                                                                                                     

8                                                                                                                     

9                                                                                                                     

10                                                                                                                    

In this section list the practices you left blank - those you've not yet employed. Prioritize the top five according to those you are now willing to add further emphasis and attention to in order to bring them up a level and make them either a partial practice or take the leap into standard practice.

1                                                                                                                     

2                                                                                                                     

3                                                                                                                     

4                                                                                                                     

5                                                                                                                     

THANK YOU FOR MAKING THE CHOICES TO LIVE WITH EVEN MORE INTEGRITY AND BALANCE.  YOU HAVE JUST MADE AN ENORMOUS CONTRIBUTION, BENEFITING US ALL!

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