I recently interviewed Beth Terry, author of Plastic Free and blogger at My Plastic-Free Life. I’ll be sharing that interview in an upcoming episode of the Strocel.com Podcast. There was something she said during our discussion, though, that I wanted to expand on. As we talked about her journey towards a plastic-free life she said (and I’m paraphrasing) that she just wanted to encourage people to be more mindful about their consumption. She’s not saying that we all need to go completely plastic-free. She’s saying that she wants us to think about what we’re doing, and what the impact of our actions will be.
I’m inclined to believe that more mindfulness is always a good thing. So often in life we kind of run on auto-pilot, making choices for no good reason other than we’ve always done it this way or that’s pretty! I’m not casting stones here – I’m the same way. The result of mindlessly wandering through life, though, is that we’re not fully aware of what’s happening around us. This leads us to waste time and energy, and it also leads us to less than stellar choices. Inevitably, some of those choices will carry a negative environmental impact.
I recently had a call to mindfulness while buying a birthday card for one of my daughter’s friends (you may recall that gifts for my kids to give their friends were one of the exceptions to my month of not buying any “stuff”). I normally get those cards that come with the little plastic button showing the age of the birthday child. I buy these because I think they’re cute. I first saw one when Hannah received a button card for her first birthday. You can see her wearing the button on the left in this photo:
Now let me back things up a little bit for you. You know those cards that play music when you open them? I have been known to go on an enviro-mama rant over those cards. My point (other than the fact that the music can be grating) is that electronics are an unnecessary addition to greeting cards. Each one of those musical cards comes with a little circuit board, which will probably end up in the trash. It just seems wasteful for something that’s effectively a disposable item. And yet, I was consistently buying greeting cards that come with a plastic button that will undoubtedly end up in the trash. That seems every bit as wasteful.
It honestly never occurred to me that the birthday buttons were wasteful because I wasn’t being mindful about my decision to buy them. I was just spending the extra money for the cards out of habit, and my love of novelty. I’m not even sure the recipients of the buttons really appreciated or wore them. As I think about it, I bet they didn’t. If you ever had a birthday party as a child, you know that cards aren’t exactly the highlight of the gift opening for kids. If you really want to wow a child, you should probably invest your money elsewhere.
I’m sure there are countless examples of ways that I mindlessly consume. I’m not beating myself up over it, and I’m not saying you should beat yourself up over it, either. What I am saying is that by deliberately cultivating mindfulness, we can bring greater awareness to our actions. When we see them more clearly, we can make more informed choices. In the process, we reduce our environmental impact and make real, tangible changes. Maybe it won’t happen all at once, and that’s fine. But I believe that each little step we take makes a difference. So I’m choosing to be more mindful about my choices – and I’m not buying any more birthday buttons.
What do you think? Do you feel that greater mindfulness can help you make more sustainable choices? Have you ever found yourself mindlessly buying something and then later realizing it didn’t conform with your values? I’d love to hear your thoughts!