Made in the USA = Awesome
Made with sustainable resources and practices = Phenomenal
Made locally = Homesteading happiness
All of the above together in one product = Stand back so you don’t get hurt and enjoy the celebratory dancing- or join in, whichever you choose is fine by me.
As a young homesteader of a budding brood I have made it one of my life missions to tread lightly, show love and respect to the world around me, learn ways to reduce our impact inside and out, and spread the good word – and if I had a report card I think it would say: Above Average – Needs improvement in certain areas, but overall steady progress.
My main motivation? My child . It is him and his little comrades who will inherit the earth one day – whatever I do to it, they have to deal with. And I may not pass on much in the way of money or riches, but I want him to have and learn something he can be proud of – proud to frolic barefoot on, proud to produce rich harvests in, proud to eventually pass on to his wee ones.
Back to the original purpose of this post.
As a family, we have made the conscious decision and goal to remove products from our purchases that do not reflect our values and beliefs of our land and resources. Simply put – if the process or materials used to make said product have been acquired irresponsibly or inhumanely (including the labor), we no longer bring it into our home. Even more simply put – we try our best not to shop at a particular big box store that rhymes with MalWart (isn’t that an interesting twist of letters?).
So how is it possible to know the innards of everything we consume? Well, it’s not. We have to do our research, trust the manufacturer’s label and mission, and hope that they aren’t misleading us intentionally.
A few things to watch for on labels to help make a decision:
- Made in China – Just put it back and walk away. You probably don’t even want to know.
- Animal Testing – It likely contains something historically harmful to some degree if it’s being tested in the first place.
- Organic – Obviously an overall good choice, but check to see the country of origin. Just because it’s “organic” doesn’t mean it didn’t travel 674,587 miles to your store. On average in America, food travels 2,000+ miles to your plate. There may be a more viable, closer to home option you weren’t aware of that chooses not to slap “organic” on the label – and you’d be supporting local economy.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup – Processed. Processed. Processed. Your arteries will thank you later.
- Natural – The definition of this word varies. Keep reading the small print to make sure your definition matches with theirs. This one is a lot like “organic” – it might be good in theory, but there may be a better option.
I am not suggesting (and we are not doing) that everyone should throw out the products in their homes that reflect these things – that would be silly and wasteful. Making an effort to reduce your consumerism from this point on is an all around sigh of relief for mother nature.
I read somewhere that there aren’t just three “R’s”, instead there are five – Reconsider and Refuse. Check the label and ask yourself if you really need it – if you do, check for local/sustainable options – if you don’t, leave it on the shelf. Every purchase you make is a vote of what you expect and demand from suppliers.
A few things to try instead:
- Make it yourself – cleaning products, clothing, accessories, compost, food, etc.
- Try out your local Farmers’ Market or Community Supported Agriculture farms – they typically have way more than just food – clothing, art, jewelry, candles, soaps, music, etc.
- Check out Etsy – this place is overflowing with handmade goodness.
- Research – find out what’s close to you and your home and get involved.
- Take a class – educate yourself. Knowledge is (em)power.
- Visit your local natural foods store. EarthFare has freebies all the time and a program where you can swap out all of your not-so-healthy products for more wholesome choices for free.
I will be the first to say that these healthier options are sometimes more cumbersome to find and not always the most affordable – and it is challenging at times to put forth the extra effort or fork over the extra cash. If this is your conundrum, don’t beat yourself up over it. Make the choice the reflects your family’s needs the most and go with it. Sometimes you realize that you don’t really need that fourth bag of potato chips – organic or not – and now you are a few bucks richer. Save that few bucks for next time when you splurge on the locally-farmed honey. It’s all about balance and good choices…
So here’s the challenge: For the next month, starting February 1 (shortest month, aren’t I a gem?) “reconsider and refuse” anything that doesn’t reflect your family’s needs, values, and beliefs. Look for a more sustainable or local option and give it a try, you may be pleasantly surprised. Let me know how it goes – leave a comment detailing your surprises, shocks, or realizations – there may be something in it for you.
Bonus challenge: Count the number of items in the smallest room in your house (for us, the bathroom) that are made in China. I got to the double digits, discouraged, and quit when I saw that Noah’s rubber ducks were MIC. Bummer. Leave the number and most shocking MIC item in a comment – there may be something in it for you.
Stay tuned for details on the “somethings in it for you”…