Simpler Living

September 07, 2010

Simplifying / Don't Buy Green! Buy Crunchy Instead


One of the things that irks me more than just about anything is the current "green" label that is being slapped onto everything.  Everything is saying "buy green!" "buy green!"  You might be surprised that as someone who likes gardening and simple living, I have no love whatsoever for the "go green" movement.

The green movement, to me, seems to be about buying consumer goods to save the planet.  I don't like either of those - buying consumer goods or saving the planet.  Our current spending spree is precisely our problem, and I'm sure that God made the planet good enough so that it will survive whatever we are doing to it.  I'm not pro-trashing-the-planet, but I don't go crazy about "saving" it, either.  We can save our community.  The planet is in God's hands.

My philosophy, instead, is to be "crunchy".  Crunchiness is about living simply.  It's about resurrecting many of the traditions of the farm home, modernizing them, and inventing new ones in the same vein.  Green is about buying green stuff.  Crunchy is about being wise and loving in your whole life.  It's about making investments rather than purchases, and about caring rather than carefree.

Let's take an example - diapers.  I have seen the "green" diapers.  I'm sure I've even used some on my children.  But, ultimately, "green" diapers are a disposable consumer good.  You buy them, you use them, you throw them away.  Sure, they did a good job making them a little more pleasant to the landfills and the groundwater, but nonetheless it is the same mentality that gave us pampers to begin with.  It's spend, spend, spend our way into living.

Crunchy families, instead, often go the cloth diaper route.  Cloth diapers are wonderful because they don't go in the landfill, ever.  Cloth diapers actually cost us more upfront, but they last forever.  We used many of the same diapers on all 5 of our children, and then handed them over to other friends and family!  In fact, not only that, my wife and her mom made some of the diapers we used on our children.  So, not only were they wearing diapers that would last longer than their shirts, they were wearing their mother's love, poured into making them wonderful diapers.

"Green" is about replacing still-good-items with new versions.  Think about the "Cash for clunkers" program.  That was a totally "green" phenomena.  They encourage people to spend-spend-spend their way into harmony with the world and each other.  I can't imagine a dumber approach.  A crunchy approach would be to learn to do without.  To learn to have fewer cars, use the bus more often, ride your bike more often, carpool with friends, and telecommute.  Buying new cars and trashing old ones just makes more junk.  A better (and crunchier!) approach is to keep what you have, learn to take care of it, and learn to use it less.  We probably don't have the car with the best mileage, but our wise use of our cars mean that we consume less fuel.  (I have to admit - on the car front, I'm not doing very good personally, but it's on my list of things to correct)

"Crunchy" isn't anti-purchasing.  It is about prudent purchasing.  It is about purchasing investments which produce more rather than purchasing consumable products which just get trashed after a single usage.

To give you an idea of what this looks like, let me tell you about a few of the crunchy purchases we've made in the last year:

  • an industrial-strength mixer, to make large batches of bread dough
  • a grain mill
  • a food dehydrator
  • a used sewing machine

All of these things add value to things that we purchase.  When I buy grain I can make flour.  When I buy or grow fruits and vegetables, I can dehydrate them and store them.  My wife can take cloth and turn it into clothing.  

What's interesting is that any of these could be a business if we wanted them to be.  We are adding real value to the world with the things we purchase.  Buying lots of items at Whole Foods (aka "Whole Paycheck") doesn't make your home one that adds value to the world.  Buying processing equipment, so that you can make your own snacks from raw materials, does.  In addition, we are doing so with the care that comes from being part of a family.  Even if we sell things as a business, we make them as a family, and that's a huge difference.

As far as consumables go, you can't sell used pampers or used packaging, but you can sell used cloth diapers and used mason jars.  

Buying "crunchy" isn't about the price, or the "green"-ness, or any other single-dimension analysis.  It is about wise purchases that transform your home from an endpoint of consumption to a building-point of provision, which stamps the character of your family on everything it creates.