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The Next Step

March 12, 2014

For several years, I have been doing my best to become a more responsible consumer.  Like most people, I am good at this in some areas and horrendous in others.  We don’t shop at that W-store because I believe that the people making and selling the products should be paid a living wage and if I’m buying a tee shirt for $2.99, then someone for sure isn’t getting their share.  (Also, for a place that paints itself up to look so patriotic and AMERICAN, it would be nice if they took the time to sell more American-made products.)

Okay, there are lots of arguments out there about this.  As long as labor is cheaper overseas, why would a business owner looking to make money -that is what businesses do- want to pay for labor here? As long as people keep buying things on the cheap, and refusing to pay what something is worth (anybody checked the price of gasoline in England or Norway lately?), there is no reason for that W-store or anywhere else to change.  They are doing exactly what they’re demanded to do.

But this isn’t about the American economy or fair labor or living wages.  This is about one consumer trying to make different decisions for many different reasons.  This is not about condemning the choices of others or declaring that my way is the only and best way.  It is simply the way I am living, the path I am on.

We don’t use paper towels or paper napkins.  We try to recycle and reuse, but aren’t very good at the reduce part.  We’ve begun to buy most of our vegetables from a locally sourced organic grocery.  I spend $38 a week for our produce basket.  We’ve planned a garden this year.  Safely grown, safely processed, environmentally sound.  I want to move in that direction.

(As an aside, I don’t care what you think about climate change and whether or not humans actually have the ability to destroy the planet.  Treating something well, keeping it clean, not making your home into a cesspool all seem like things we should be doing because they are the right things to do.  Not because guilt, not because science.  Because I want to teach my children to leave something better than they found it and this is a huge way to model that.)

I’ve been thinking for a long time about next steps.  I’ve been stalled for a long time thinking about next steps.

Today I read this article from the New York Times, written by Dan Barry.  I hope you take the time to read it too.

Now, my initial reaction was to think of my friends who have children like these men.  Children who think and feel and speak, but whose bodies and brains didn’t quite keep up with everyone around them.  Children who will be adults very, very soon.  My heart broke with the knowledge that this story didn’t end decades ago, but five years ago.  These things are happening now.  And so you would think that my next reaction would be to find a way to donate time or money to safe places for people who just didn’t get the chances I had.  That might happen, but it wasn’t the strongest reaction.

The strongest reaction is the disgust at knowing I am a part of the process that allowed this to happen.  I do not know where my food comes from, who handles it, who grows it, who pulls the crops out of the turkeys.  I go to the grocery, I fill my cart, I pay, and go home.  This is the next step.  Some people move away from mega-food industry because of animal rights.  Some people move away from it because of bacterial illness scares.  It took the story of twenty-one humans to wake me up.

We are not wealthy.  There will be no whole grass-fed, locally raised side of beef in my freezer.  But there are some things we can change.  Step by step. And I’m ready.

(On a lighter note – if you’ve given up big box stores and your seamstress-ing skills aren’t superb yet, where does one buy unmentionables??)

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