Thursday, May 1, 2008

Would you rather...

Eliminate hunger and disease, or be able to bring lasting world peace? OK, this is just a mental exercise, but it hopefully makes you think (and the rules of the game say you're not allowed to say "both"). I had a page-a-day calendar like this one year, and I find myself going through “would you rather” scenarios almost daily lately.

Would I rather…drive to the store and buy canning supplies to can the three bunches of asparagus about to rot in my fridge, or save the car trip, not spend any money or purchase anything, and toss the veggies?

Would I rather…buy a can of spray paint to re-finish the pink wooden chest I got for free, and use it as a tv stand, or buy environmentally friendly paint, convince myself that I’d do the additional work of sanding before painting, but run the likely risk that I’d never get around to actually doing the project and end up purchasing a new piece of furniture?

Would I rather…buy the organic bananas at Whole Foods that have plastic wrapped around the top, or the conventional bananas with no extra wrapping?

Would I rather…get my milk in a plastic bottle at the store that I can walk to, or drive to the store that is too far away to walk to, but has milk in reusable glass bottles?

The point is that this stuff isn’t always easy, and the right choice isn’t always a no-brainer. Sure, there are some things that are obvious…would I rather get junk mail that I can recycle or get none? Obviously, I’d rather get none. Most choices, however, once we’ve figured out the easy stuff, are not so clear, and require a careful analysis of what we think might be best for the planet, our wallets, and our lifestyles.

I hate throwing away food, so I bought the canning supplies. The packaging was minimal and recyclable, and I’ll be able to get many uses out of each of the jars. I also bought the spray paint. Probably not a great choice, but I hate painting projects and knew I would never actually get around to using the eco-friendly paint, so I made the choice that worked for me. Sometimes we’ll find a third option, like with the bananas…I did without, and bought pears and apples instead. The milk is a draw for me: if it’s the only thing I need, I walk, but if I’m out doing errands anyway, I’ll go to the store with the glass bottles.

I know these aren’t probably all the right choices, from a strict waste or carbon analysis, but just like my decision to go flexitarian, they’re choices that I can work into my lifestyle without making me feel so overwhelmed that I throw up my hands and say “forget all this” – because for me, the wrong choice is the one that I can’t maintain.


Verde said...

I think the point is that you are making considered choices and not just going about business as usual with blinders on as so many do.

I applaude you for getting the canning set-up. I started with that when first married and it has been an enduring purchase to this day (20 years later)

Heather said...

I agree. So many of our decisions are tough. You might find a product that's better for the environment because of how it was made but doesn't come in recyclable packing (you'd think the companies would try harder, but alas). I just keep reminding myself that it's not about being perfect. It's about doing what you can and we've already taken the first step by being aware (the fact that we're even having an ethical dillema when we purchase products).

Keep up the good work!

arduous said...

I have had many, many of these moments. Once I was in the cheese aisle and I literally stared at the cheese for two minutes wondering whether or not to go with the local cheese or the organic cheese or the lowfat cheese?

But yeah. Verde is right. It's not so much about the decision you actually take, as just the fact that you are considering it.

Debbie said...

Excellent post, as usual! As you know, doing the right thing isn't always the easy thing, such as taking the time to can. It would have been easier to throw the asparagus away BUT you would have felt miserable. I can't wait to hear about your canning experience - I pray it goes better than your lentil/pressure cooking experience ;)