Hot on the heels of a post about minimalism, I am posting about the benefits of ethical shopping. Aren’t the two mutually exclusive? I don’ think so.
We have so many problems globally and nationally that are a direct result of addiction to consumption. We are literally spending ourselves into a deeper, darker hole every year. Deciding to go minimalist is a wonderful step in combating this issue because it allows us to take a time out and evaluate what our values are. Once we see that “things” do not bring us happiness we can concentrate on our families, our hobbies, and all the activities and pastimes that truly add to the enjoyment of our lives… things which cannot be packaged in paper or plastic. With less consumption comes less stress about money and keeping up with a lifestyle that advertisements tell you should be your goal. Getting out of that consumer trap is very liberating and brings a sense of true freedom.
But I liken this tactic to going into a restaurant and being very dissatisfied with the way they do business so you simply decide to avoid eating out any more. The eatery will lose many customers but there will always be some who decide that what this particular place offers is the best their gonna get and keep going there. The eatery will also open up a few other locations under different names so that unhappy customers will think they are taking their business elsewhere but in actuality they are still supporting the same bad company. Nothing much changes. You could decide though that you will eat out on special occasions but only at places you have thoroughly vetted and that meet your demands for ethical business practices. You could also encourage your friends to eat at the winning places you have found. The bad business will start to notice that they are losing customers to these other businesses and will be none to happy. Even after extensive ad campaigns they see their competition getting an increasingly greater share of the market. They have no choice but to change the way they do business or become obsolete. By being picky about where you spend your hard earned dollars and by being vocal about your choices, you have made a difference in the mammoth job of changing the current economic system. Minimalism didn’t do that, conscious, ethical shopping did that.
In my mind minimalism and reducing our overall consumption are necessary steps in curbing our consumption addiction. But it will also be advantageous for us to be cognizant of the rest of our spending so that we make sure we get the most bang for our buck. We need to use both of these philosophies to create real change. This is more important than ever because we do not live in a capitalist society anymore. What we have here in the US is corporate socialism. Mega corporations have an unfair advantage in the market because they have people firmly entrenched in the fifth arm of the government. As Annie Leonard stated in The Story of Stuff…
In the United States there are about 900 advisory committees that provide peer review of scientific research, develop policy recommendations, and serve other functions to support good governance.
These committees influence legislation and policy in this country and corporations have a presence in all of them. There is no free market or open competition, not when the deck is stacked that way. We need to become activists for change in making sure corporations are not directing important policy, especially when it comes to the environment and human health. This can be done in large part by backing good legislation and making lots of noise about bad products and practices. The other thing we can do is funnel our money to companies who make ethical choices and who use their profits to better the world. It will not go unnoticed!
Even people who don’t have the time to volunteer, petition, picket, etc. can support ethical companies and causes by using their dollars as a voting mechanism. It is the easiest form of activism and frankly it drives me a little batty that more people don’t step up and USE the leverage that we all have. Why is the average mom okay with buying some Stouffer’s stuffing boxes and Nestle chocolate bars knowing that those dollars will go towards pushing formula in third world countries and to enslaving older children in labor? Would they feel the same if the boxes had pictures of malnourished babies and 12 year olds forced to work on cocoa plantations for 8 hours a day? We need to stop believing in the marketing and the pretty packaging and start finding out where our money is going and what it supports. Then we can decide who is worthy of our money and who is not.
A wonderful book that addresses this issue is Big Green Purse – Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World by Diane MacEachern. I have known Diane from green listservs and the blogging community for awhile and she is one incredibly smart cookie… plus her book ROCKS. It doesn’t encourage senseless spending or rampant consumerism but it does address the fact that everyone is still going to spend money on the products that matter to them. If money talks then we need to be aware of what our money is saying. It is all about using the power of our purses to affect change.
In the beginning chapters there are some great examples of how people influenced large companies to change their policies and/or product formulations to meet the demand of more ethical and aware consumers. It shows us that change is possible. I also like that is has a very measurable action plan in the book to decide to shift $1000 of your annual spending to green products. Its all about taking the products you already buy and will continue to buy and finding a better alternative. The first chapter goes over eco problems that can be addressed by reducing what you consume in the first place. The second chapter shows you how to evaluate companies and avoid greenwashing so you can narrow in on the best companies and products. Chapters 3-12 go through all the areas where you can shift your spending… cars, clothing, food, cosmetics, personal care products, cleaners, etc and shows you what to look for and what to avoid so you can make the best choice.
It is an important subject and an important book. I highly recommend it!
Pictured above: My fave Shopping cart baskets.
Nowadays you hear everyone talking about stress, how much they have to accomplish, how little time they have, and how much clutter is in their homes and lives. It is no wonder that a big trend in books and media has been getting back to a simplistic, minimal lifestyle. Many want to have a life that is free of complications; a life that has been pared down to its most basic and fundamental needs. If this sounds good to you then you may be interested in looking into a minimalist lifestyle as well.
What is a Minimalist Lifestyle?
Being a minimalist is a way of living that is built around those things in life; those core values and beliefs that are the most important to you. Of course this requires that you know what exactly those things are, and for many, especially in consumer-driven western societies, discovering these core values and beliefs only becomes clear once you begin to strip away the layers of societal conditioning and extraneous clutter that fill up most of our lives. A green living journey actually does wonders to strip these things away as luck would have it.
Of course how you determine a life to be free of complications, or what you see as your most basic and fundamental needs is going to change from person to person, and from society to society, but it is the ability of the minimalist lifestyle to be able to adapt itself to each person and their own particular view that makes the concept so appealing to so many people.
How to Become a Minimalist
Divesting your life of clutter and its resulting complications is the first (and biggest) step to living a minimalist lifestyle. This can be clutter in the physical sense (as in things that you have collected that you do not actually need, want or use) but it can also be clutter in the emotional and psychological sense, as in relationships and outmoded beliefs.
While clutter can be obvious; like having too many books, clothes or knickknacks; it can also be found in things like cable packages, telephone plans and credit cards. For many living a minimalist lifestyle will mean cutting down to the most basic of cable packages or (revolutionary thought) getting rid of the TV altogether. It really is amazing how much time we devote to television; time that we could be spending on more productive ventures. But what about telephones – we need them, right? In today’s society, of course we do, but do you need all the bells and whistles? Do you need a house phone AND a cell phone or could you make do with just one or the other?
Which brings us to credit cards; revolving credit may be great for the economy, but it ties you down to payments for things that you probably didn’t actually need or even want but rather felt that you had to have. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for credit (think mortgages or school loans) but why are you purchasing consumable items with a promise of payment in the future? You are just extending your headaches over your accumulated possessions into the future. Paying off your credit cards is another big step on the road to living a minimalist lifestyle, and it is a step that the credit card companies will fight tooth and nail, even going so far as to penalize your credit record for closing an account. But the freedom that comes from not being tied to a financial obligation for your stuff is worth it in the long run.
You Can Get There
Living a minimalist lifestyle is not an instantaneous process. It takes courage and commitment and a deep desire to create a more meaningful life for yourself and your family. But no matter how cluttered and confused your life is right now, you can get there; you can live a minimalist lifestyle if you simply have the courage to take the first step. Here are a few ways to get back to basics and live with simplicity:
* Stop shopping at large chain groceries and instead buy a CSA share and make small weekly trips to the farmer’s market. Simple food, good food, less hassle.
* Stop buying books and start going to the library.
* Skip the gym one day a week and take a walk or hike outside.
* Use what you have instead of buying new.
* Get rid of the stuff you don’t really need.
* Prioritize the things that energize you and make you passionate about life.
*Take advantage of Frugal Luxuries.
* Pare down your wardrobe (or that of family members) to the basics and you’ll have less laundry to do.
* Read my article on Raising Minimalist Children in a Society of Excess.
It is so easy to just walk into a grocery store and fill your cart with foods that look delicious. Today’s grocery stores even have ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ foods for you to choose from. For many the label makes it easy for them to feel that they are getting the best foods available, while still maintaining the convenience of purchasing all their food in one place.
But just because you can purchase all of your foods in one place does not necessarily mean that you should, and it is a fact that even the ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ foods in most grocery stores are not locally grown foods. While they may be natural or organic, the benefits may be countermanded by the distance they had to travel. Besides that, there is more to eating locally than simple freshness.
Six Benefits of Eating Locally
Local Foods Are Fresh and In Season. It’s a fact, if you purchase locally grown foods you know that they are in season. They have to be in order to be grown and harvested. And fresher, in-season foods just taste better and they are better for you as well. Many nutritionists believe that eating with the seasons is the best way to keep our bodies healthy because nature has cycles and it knows exactly what we need to eat.
Locally Grown Foods Have Less Impact on the Environment. Shipping foods across country – even foods labeled organic – can have a negative impact on the environment. By eating locally grown foods you are significantly lessening the carbon footprint you would otherwise leave by eating foods grown out of state or in another country. Most times you won’t even need to sacrifice organic standards either. More and more small farmers grow their food without chemicals, they just cannot afford expensive certification. Get to know your farmer and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Locally Grown Foods Maintain Farmland. Buying locally grown foods ensures not only that you keep the carbon footprint of your foods as small as possible, but ensures that there is plenty of green space and farmland maintained in your local community in order to sustain the locally grown market. This is good for everyone who appreciates fresh air and a view of more than city streets and sidewalks.
Locally Grown Foods are Safer. By cutting out the middlemen; those individuals who process and package and ship the food, you cut down on the chance of your food getting contaminated – even inadvertently. Knowing where your food is grown and who grew it tells you something about the food itself, and knowledge, as they say, is power.
Buying Locally Grown Foods Boosts the Local Economy. You were going to buy the lettuce (or spinach or apples) anyway, why give your money to some big chain store or huge agri-business company? Why not keep that money in the neighborhood where you know it will do some good? If I have a choice between padding the pockets of a big corporation that may use my money to lobby against environmental issues or giving my money directly to a family that needs it.. I know which I would prefer. Purchasing food locally also cuts down on the amount of taxes and red tape involved in purchasing the food; money that would probably come out of your pocket anyway due to price hikes.
Purchasing Locally Grown Foods Create a Sense of Community. When you purchase food from a local grower it connects you to that person; through their land and the attention they have given to their produce, and how many of us want a connection to some big uncaring chain store? Making local connections instills a feeling of belonging and of community. People get talking, they share themselves with you, and with others, and everyone is better off.
If you are interested in more healthful living, in sustainability for your local farms, and in creating a sense of true community between yourself and those with whom you share your area, eating locally grown produce is definitely the right decision to make.
Recommends Reads for Local Eating:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (My Review)
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (My Review)
The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating
You wouldn’t think that such a delicate looking thing as the butterfly-shaped Thyroid gland would play such an important part in the regulation of the body’s healthy functioning, but it truly does.
The Thyroid’s role may seem like a simple one; to stimulate the metabolism and (along with the parathyroid glands) control the body’s circulating calcium levels, but when the Thyroid is not functioning properly, things can get very nasty very quickly, which is why the very earliest signs of a malfunctioning Thyroid should not be overlooked.
As I wrote about earlier I made a very big mistake in March 2011 when I started consuming soy. The end result was that my thyroid went wacko. I had no idea that something was amiss with my thyroid until my hair started falling out. A blood test confirmed the problem.
Symptoms of a Malfunctioning Thyroid
The symptoms of a malfunctioning Thyroid include things like cold hands and feet, sensitivity to cold, headaches, sleeplessness, coarse skin, swollen eyes, fragile nails, joint aches, constipation, fatigue, hair loss, a croaky voice and dizziness and none of these things are ever associated with a major disorder and are in fact overlooked by many medical professionals.
What Can Be Done?
Regardless of whether you have been medically diagnosed with a malfunctioning Thyroid or whether you simply suspect that this may be your problem, there are plenty of natural remedies that you can employ that can right the wrongs that have been done to this delicate system.
For starters, a good diet can do wonders to keeping not only correcting outstanding thyroid problems, but in maintaining a healthy Thyroid. To this end you should avoid foods and liquids that have been treated with chemicals or been exposed to chemical pollutants because many chemicals can interrupt the delicate balance of the Thyroid. But simply eliminating chemicals and chemical pollutants is not always enough.
You should also replace any expeller-processed or solvent-extracted oils in your diet since these kinds of oils (polyunsaturated oils) can block the production of thyroid hormones. Coconut oil is recommended to act as a replacement for polyunsaturated oils and many also believe that it actually helps stimulate healthy thyroid function.
The lack of iodine plays a major part in the malfunctioning of the Thyroid and no, simply using iodized salt is not enough. In fact, you should be replacing your table salt with unprocessed sea salt as natural sea salt contains larger amounts of iodine. You need to be able to significantly increase the amount of iodine in your diet, this includes adding foods such as seafoods, vegetable juices and kelp or seaweed based products.
Another helpful hint when considering your diet is that there are some foods that are considered to be natural gotrogens which means that they can affect and even inhibit effective Thyroid functioning. Some of these foods include brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, turnips, rutabaga, radishes, cabbage, kale, rapeseed, broccoli, sweet potatoes and soy. It also helps to cut back on processed flour-based products such as cookies, crackers, breads and other products as they can slow the Thyroid functioning down significantly. I happen to eat lots of the above mentioned greens and veggies (minus soy) and have never had an issue. Soy was the only one that caused a problem.
In addition to keeping an eye on your diet, there are some herbs and mineral supplements that can be taken that help improve the efficiency of the Thyroid gland. These include: Shilajeet-Asphaltum Puniabiunum, an Indian wonder drug that contains over 85 different minerals in different forms; Kanchanara-Bauhinia Veriegata (purple mountain ebony), an herb that has a reputation for keeping the Thyroid functioning effectively and, finally, licorice. This is not the candy, but the herb and is used to maintain a healthy balance between glands and energy building.
None of these things guarantee a ‘cure’ for your Thyroid problem but with the proper application these steps can help you to keep your Thyroid in prime condition. Personally I opted to do nothing different after my diagnosis except stop eating the soy of course (which I already had) and continue my normal healthy eating patterns. I had my blood tested 1.5 months after I stopped consuming the soy and my levels are now only “slightly” outside of normal. Woot! Now I plan to start eating kelp and seaweed flakes to see if I can totally reverse the problem. Might try some of the herbs I mentioned to.
In other news I also had another issue the soy caused that I didn’t mention in my original post because I wanted to see how it would play out. The first symptom that something was awry was not the thyroid issue. It was my detection of a painful mass just under my left breast. The first month it popped up a few days prior to my menstrual cycle and this was only a few weeks after I started the soy. It went away after 2-3 days and I ignored it. The next month it came back and was even more painful. I was out of town at the time so I didn’t go to see a doctor. That was most likely me just making excuses though… in my mind I was thinking lump = breast cancer and since I have already saddled that pony and ridden it before (colon cancer) I was not anxious to get a diagnosis.
Anyway it came back a third time and I went to see a doctor. It was gone by the time my appointment rolled around but they gave me prescriptions for an ultrasound and a mammogram.. which I ignored because it was at this appointment that I found out about my thyroid. I had discovered the soy in the protein bars I was eating 2 weeks before and was fairly certain they were what had caused this breast lump business and now with the thyroid information I was 100% convinced.
When my next cycle came around 1.5 months after I stopped eating the soy I was actually surprised by it. The painful lump had preceded my last 3 periods so it was kind of a shocker to have it sneak up on me with nary a symptom. The mass still appeared but it was smaller and not painful at all. I had a breast exam and thyroid levels check that same day and the doctor is in agreement that soy is probably what caused it and that it is most likely just a cyst that developed due to hormones (phytoestrogens in soy). My doc is a vegetarian so he was totally familiar with soy and the issues it can cause and doesn’t think I need to get a mammogram or U/S. He advised me to stay away from soy based faux meat products, LOL. NOT a problem! I am wondering if my lump issue will end up going away completely… only time will tell. For now I need to concentrate on fixing the thyroid issue and I am glad I am having success with that already.
Update: As of summer 2014 My thyroid levels are now 100% normal!!!!