I’m Still Looking

I’m searching, but I can’t seem to find what I’m looking for…

A month ago I walked into the Rainbow Sandal Factory in San Clemente, California and felt my heart break and a deep resentment settle into the pit of my stomach.  Rainbow Sandals, forever made in my local burb of San Clemente, had finally completely sold their soul and began producing the bulk of their products abroad.  I couldn’t believe it.  As they moved their products onto boats we found their home grown customer service of friendly, casual, surf-reporting sandal sales people had also been shipped out and replaced with a haughty, arrogant, ill-informed, and generally distasteful bunch of hooligans who cared little for the vitality of life.  I declared I would no longer buy the simple home grown sandal ever again.

As Dan and I cycled through South East China this past August, we saw mills and factories that poured out water in colors you couldn’t imagine possible, we breathed in smoke and fumes from industries that we Americans buy from every day, and we suffered physical injuries from this degree of heavy environmental pollution. While I’ve long believed that a global marketplace is the only viable option to international peace, this imagery and sensation has provoked me to yearn to buy from manufacturers who produce goods which adhere to standards of not only quality, of which we experienced very little while abroad, but also of responsibility.

Buying American is all well and good, but often we find ourselves stuck in some trap of buying only gigantic vehicles or worthlessly regionalized nic-nacks.  Buying Responsibly can perhaps expand your options and massage your soul.  Further, we see tags and stickers on our products that proudly proclaim “Made in the USA.” However, we don’t know how deep that extends, and I would venture that it typically does not include the textile, the plastic, or the components, rather it includes the manufacture of the end product, the assembly, or simply the design. While this is supportive of the American economy and beneficial to many, pushing jobs here and there isn’t the pain that I experienced, it was pushing the pollution, pushing the problem.  I would like to seek out a collection of businesses whom derive all their parts, components, and pieces from places with environmental standards, believing that my dollars go to producers, companies, and firms that use prudence in manufacturing.  This, for me, is best done by evaluating the nations which maintain strict environmental policies and regulatory groups who are competent at reporting and enforcing those standards and policies.   I don’t support endeavors that pour paint down the drain in the US and I don’t support them abroad. I am challenging myself and others to consume little and consume responsibly.

More Information on the Subject:

*I am truly interested in finding outdoor companies who use appropriate materials in their goods and have found few that do.  Brands including Patagonia, Smart Wool, Black Diamond, Marmot, Mountain Hardware, and North Face typically manufacture their products abroad in countries with very loose environmental regulation, unfortunately.  I hope to find some good manufactures (or lists others have compiled) soon and then add them to this very short and incomplete list.

Consume Beer, That’s What I Do… But How Much?


Beer, Consumption, and Me.

After a wonderful Monday evening of eating Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies, Swiss Rolls, and Nabisco Golden Oreos and a watching three full movies, essentially doing nothing more than sitting in a chair for 5 hours eating garbage, I decided to evaluate consumption and my participation in the great American tradition.

So I’m sitting and I’ve written a very brief list of things I consume on a regular basis, then I asked myself some simple questions and tried to produce some equally simple answers. All this in an attempt to evaluate the how/why/etc. of my seemingly limited, but very real and exorbitant consumption.

The List:

Foods: Bread, Rice, Canned Food, Veggies, Fruits, Cheese, Soy Milk, Juice, …
Soaps: Cleaners, Toothpaste, detergents, …
Paper: Books, Notes, Art, Photos, Letters, Mailings, …
Bags: Grocer, Garbage (Plastic.Paper), …
Electricity:
Containers: Beer Bottles, Milk Cartons, Juice Bottles, Jelly/Dressing Containers, Steel Cans, …
Water: Drinking, Cleaning, Yard, Cooler, …
Wood: Building, Furnituer, Skateboards, …
Petrol: Gasoline, Motor Oil, …
Fabric: Clothes, Bags, Furniture, …
Metal: Pipes, Tools, Nails, Pots & Pans, This Pen, Electronics, …

This list is infinite. As you can see a list like this would be impossible to complete, however it’s a good start in thinking about consumption and the degree to which we consume and perhaps steering life into a spiral toward simplicity and Winnie the Pooh. Everything that I am surrounded by is being ‘consumed.’ The table I sit at uses and removed a resource from the earth, the pen in my hand, the coffee, the filter, the glass, the electricity, the tile, the ink on the cover of the metal spiral paper filled plastic wrapped notebook full of notes in graphite from my plastic mechanical pencil sold in a package of ink covered paper and plastic shrink wrap on a metal hanger attached to a plastic display set on top of carpeting glued to the concrete floor of the building built of bricks and mortar and metal from aluminum scaffolding transported by a Dodge truck on rubber tires fueled by diesel from a rubber hose out of a steel tank buried in the ground from where the coal and zinc and aluminum and iron and elements for our world came… if I sat long enough I could kill myself without even ending my sentence.
Further, by consuming any one resource I prevent someone else from consuming that particular unit and force them to search out and consume an alternative (whether identical or a substitute) increasing the overall level of consumption regionally, nationally, globally. Good, Bad, it just is… and that’s what I’m trying to explore. Further, I’d like to take the stance that there is such a thing as ‘over consumption.’ Consuming more than is necessary – not more than is needed, but necessary. In many cases I believe it is possible to maintain one’s ‘needs’ at a certain level while making efficient decisions on behavior which minimizes your consumption. Such decisions obviously incorporate the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) but also may include the application of basic economic ideas if R.R.R is just too liberal for you. So I posed these questions to the empty space approximately one half meeter above my head, right there in the vacancy and just far enough away so that if I turn and look up at it I can focus on the details.

I pose this method and these questions.

Identify. What do I consume (Macro: What did I buy today? Micro: What did I use today?)
Value. How much is what I consume worth?
Prioritize. What consumption is most important?
Budget. How much consumption can I afford?
Allocate. Where will I limit myself? Where do I delineate between superfluous and necessary?
Observe. In making changes, did I achieve the desired degree of consumption?

While this process may yield very simplistic results or a highly complex and never ending matrix of tables and understanding, I’ve got to offer a start, a beginning – with no beginning there can be no end – so let’s start thinking about consumption and then moving toward limiting it, or at least seeking insight, asking more questions, and exploring our current understanding, taking a second to look straight up and dissect that never ending sentence into bits. Into a size which is able to be consumed it’s self – for thoughts are infinitely renewable, individual, and valuable only when consumed.

Be provoked and explore life lived… Or… Drink More Beer, but bring your own mug next time.