Sunday, July 27, 2008

Conscientious Consumer - Part 2

I've added two new lists to my sidebar to track the number of things I buy. One tracks the number of new products I buy versus the number of things I get used. The second tallies the manufacture location of the new products that I do buy. As some of you may have guessed, I'm looking forward to getting a good sample of information so I can start adding the percentages. A graph or chart won't be far behind.

Part of the reason I'm doing it is to remind myself to get things used whenever possible. Buying used has several advantages: 1) There usually isn't any packaging to throw away. 2) It's usually cheaper. 3) An item that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill gets an extension of it's useful life. Yesterday Michelle and I were out and about and I found a used pair of golf shoes for $25 at Play-it-Again Sports. Then we found a baseball glove for $5 at Goodwill. Goodwill also had two pairs of size 12 (my size) golf shoes for like 5$ each. They looked pretty ratty though, so I stuck with the more expensive ones I already had.

A little off-topic, but none-the-less interesting, Michelle and I won $5 in Sports Bucks from Play-it-Again Sports for getting a trivia question right. The question was "How many sports teams in the NHL, NFL, NBA, and MLB have names that DON'T end in 's'?". The choices are 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12. We got that one wrong, but we got the bonus question right, which was "Which league has the least team names that DON'T end in 's'?" I know your first instinct is to head for Google, but you shouldn't. Try naming the teams you know. You should stop reading and make a list, because I'm about to give you the answers we got.

Michelle and I got the Utah Jazz, Colorado Avalanche, Tampa Bay Lightning, Chicago White Sox (Michelle), Boston Red Sox (Michelle), Minnesota Wild, and I just thought of one we missed, the Miami Heat. I know there's one more that I can't remember now (that we got when we were standing there). So how did you do?

The new product I purchased today was a firewire cable for transferring the video of our Bowron Lake trip from the Camcorder to the computer. Made in China, of course. I'm gonna try to find out if they know under what conditions it was made. So far no response from the email I sent to Memorex. Well, I shouldn't say that. They forwarded my questions on to the research department, and they haven't gotten back to me. We'll see.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Conscientious Consumer

Today I was driving my mom up to the Abbotsford airport (she was visiting Michelle while the boys were canoing and camping) and we got to talking about The Story of Stuff and consumerism and where our products are made and various other things. After I dropped her off I continued thinking about it, and I had a few ideas. I'm going to try and keep track of the products I buy new and the countries where they're manufactured as well as the products I buy used. I'm also going to start sending specific questions to the companies who make the products I purchase, such as:

1) How much do you know about the working conditions under which your products are made? How do they compare to North American standards?

2) Are you certain no children are employed in the manufacturing or distribution of your products?

3) I noticed a significant amount of packaging came with your product. Have you considered ways to reduce the packaging in your products? Could more recyclable packaging be used?

4) How familiar are you with the environmental impacts of your manufacturing processes? Are you sure the raw materials you use are produced or harvested ethically?

5) What are you doing to improve the living conditions in the areas where your products are produced?

What other questions should I be asking? What do you think about my idea? Could I phrase these questions in a more effective way? It occurred to me that someone has probably done this and collected up the responses into a book. Have you heard of any books like this? It's kind of cool because it finally makes me feel like I'm able to do something about this issue. I'll post the responses I get from my inquiries, if I do get any responses.

Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit - July 14 - 21, 2008

We got back yesterday from our Bowron Lake Canoe trip. I'm pretty sure everyone who went had a blast; I know I did. My absolute favorite parts were the moments of stillness. The wind wasn't blowing, the water was flat as glass, and the only sound was the rhythmic gurgle of canoes slicing through the water. The scenery was beautiful and we saw some really cool wildlife, including numerous eagles and osprey, 2 moose, a black bear and her cub (from a distance), among other things. Day one we stayed in campsite 6, day two in campsite 16, day three in 26, day four in 37, and day five in 48. I may post in more detail a little later, especially when I get Mike's and Jeremiah's pictures in the mail.

Right now I have another post on my mind...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit

Today's the day! I'll be leaving any minute for Wells, BC and the start of our 5 or 6 day canoe trip. All my gear is packed, mostly in one pack thanks to Michelle's Kelty hiking backpack. My dad, my brother, and Mike are meeting us there, and Dave will be here to pick me up any minute. (If this post ends abruptly, he came a few minutes early.)

I've been meaning to post about Maus, the graphic novel by Art Spiegelman I started reading a couple weeks ago. It recounts the story of how Mr. Speigleman's father survived World War II as a Jew originally living in Poland. The author uses anthropomorphic representation, with each nationality symbolized by a different animal. Jews are mice, Nazis are cats, Americans are dogs, etc. The book won a special Pullitzer prize, I think because they don't have a comic book category. So far it's been excellent. I highly recommend it.

Maus has gotten me thinking about pacifism. In one sense I like that pacifism is a radical example of principled living. When you take everything away from an organism, nature dictates that it will do anything to survive. Humans are no exception - when you back us into a corner, threaten our loved ones, etc, we will often do whatever is necessary to survive. I like that pacifism is a distinct choice to be set aside from the natural order - no matter the circumstances or the situation, violence is not to be engaged in. It sets us apart.

On the other hand, if everyone were a pacifist, wouldn't violent men rule the world in short order? What are your thoughts on Pacifism?