To keep me company last weekend while driving to and from Mendocino alone, I picked up a book on tape at my local library. I wasn’t terrible excited about it but had heard of the book and decided to take the risk.
The book, No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process, follows one man’s (and his wife and child’s) efforts to live without a negative biological footprint for one year. I’ve largely stopped reading books like this. I’ve become tired of the whole one-year experiment, get a book-deal thing. But…it’s what was available at the library.
The book turned out to be really well researched and thought out. It was a bit sappy at times, but it took an honest look the planet and the actions we take for granted on a daily basis. What struck me the most, however, was how hard it is to live this way. And not how you think. It’s not difficult to stop using plastic, to compost, to ride your bicycle everywhere. No. That can be managed. What’s difficult is living outside of society’s norm. This is something that I’ve been struggling with and listening to this book helped me put a finger on it.
You see…for the last couple of months I’ve been researching opening a fabric shop. I love fabric. I’ve always wanted to run a business. And I’ve been wanting to find a role for myself besides mom and wife (see previous post).
So…fabric store. Our favorite, local store just closed, and I thought, “Hmmm…I could do this.” The thing is, opening a store totally doesn’t mesh with how we want to live right now. Margie I and value locally and seasonally-based home cooked meals eaten together; spending time out of doors; being with our children; fostering creativity; living without too much waste. We also try to limit our spending. We have to think before we make our purchases and decide what else we won’t be buying.
It would be one thing if both of my kids were in school full-time and I had a bit more time to spend at a store, as well as cooking meals, cleaning the house, and being home with the kids when they weren’t in school. Or if Margie was no longer on furlough pay. But my kids aren’t in school full-time and they won’t be for another 3-4 years…and we can’t afford to be mass consumers.
This fabric store idea followed closely on the heels of my last great idea, which was to turn our backyard into a little homestead (see this post). Yeah…a store doesn’t really jive with running a homestead, either. So, why this store? Why now? Why not be content with my previous, awesome, value-supporting plan?
A fabric store—a business—is mainstream. I’m putting money in the bank (well…after a few years, hopefully). It’s not granola. It’s not counter-culture. It’s economy-enriching. It’s material based (literally and figuratively).
Turning my yard into a homestead with a flourishing and productive garden, chickens, fruit trees, composting, water saving, and the like isn’t mainstream. It’s doesn’t pump money into the economy. It doesn’t support industry. It places me more in the fringe.
Listening to this book made me realize that I have some unresolved issues with this. I don’t know why. But now that I’ve identified the real motivation behind the store—not to be different—I’m at peace with not opening the store and focusing on my homestead. I’m okay (at least tonight…sigh…I won’t always be) with being granola. With living frugally and sustainably.
I grew up at a time when our society didn’t understand the ramifications of waste and over-consumption. That was also a time of economic growth and relative wealth. Things are different now. We know that there’s too much plastic in the world and that way too much petroleum and coal is being pulled from the earth—from both resource depletion and climate change perspectives. We also know that middle class families like ours can’t spend money with abandon. Not if we want to keep roof over our heads and send our kids to college. And my kids need to know and understand these things.
My actions and my families’ economic decisions may be only one drop in a very large bucket. But…I don’t care. I feel better about myself for living this way. And that’s all that matters.
For now, I’m going to try to be content with not being a consumer. And with not encouraging other people to be consumers (by opening a shop). Some days this will be easy. Other days—when I really want some new fabric or a great pair of shoes (which, umm…is right now…I have a couple of dress-up functions coming up)—it won’t be. And one day this may all change, and I’ll open the store. But, for now, homestead, here I come!
I could go on in this post to discuss the negative impacts of commercialism, media, and industry. At some point I might. But for now, this is enough.