This is a public issue of Enthusiastic Encouragement & Dubious Advice. Feel free to share it!
Hi friends! One of the most exciting things in my life right now is that we got a breadmaker. It’s not so much that we got a breadmaker, which is really fucking exciting, but more exciting is how we got a breadmaker. Nicole has wanted a breadmaker for years but they’re really expensive, especially the really good quality ones that we have been looking at. Earlier this week, we went to the thrift shop to donate some items that we were unable to give away (more on that below) and on the way out, Nicole stopped at a table that was full of appliances. I was halfway to the door when I heard her gasp-whisper, “Is this a breadmaker???” I went over and saw that it was a Zojirushi breadmaker, some of the highest quality (and most costly) ones and it was really clean. I looked at the price tag.
It is at least $400 new as it’s the older version of this one. We purchased it immediately because getting a breadmaker is exciting but getting a breadmaker at over 96% off is absolutely thrilling to me.
This actually leads nicely into today’s resources!
Wallet Activism: How to Use Every Dollar You Spend, Earn, and Save as a Force for Change by Tanja Hester (Bookshop | Amazon | Libro) has been on my TBR for a while and I finally read it earlier this year. For folks who are socially- and/or environmentally- minded, trying to “do the right thing” is a never ending battle and it is really easy to fall into despair from overwhelm and hopelessness. While major changes need to be made via policies and business practices, this book gives readers some insight as to how we can each be consumers more mindfully and in ways that do the least amount of harm.
Fair warning, this book may tell you a lot of things that you don’t want to hear, like how much of what you put into your recycling bins doesn’t actually get recycled and goes into landfills. This is also true for items that are donated to thrift shops. While the primary advice is to consume less, that is, to buy fewer disposable items and to reuse what you already own, the author recognizes that it is impossible for most if not all of us to live a zero-waste lifestyle. Such a lifestyle is not what the author is promoting anyway and that’s what I appreciate about this book. We are in a capitalist society and so, how do we make decisions that do the least amount of harm while also remaining realistic for us to do as individuals.
The answers to how we consume are going to be different for each of us and this book offers resources for us to make the most informed choices. Is being vegan actually better for the environment? What if I can’t avoid fast fashion? Is buying organic important in the grand scheme of things? Am I causing harm by buying things from large department stores or multi-billion dollar websites like Amazon? Is the bank I use evil? This book helps readers tease out the often complicated answers to these questions and more while giving us additional questions to ask ourselves when we make decisions about how we spend (or give) our money.
While so many folks are very heavy-handed and “black and white” about these things, this book does an excellent job of exploring the grey areas to help us each make decisions that we can feel good about.
This resource is definitely related to the one above and I recognize that I am very late to this party and I may be telling a lot of you something you already know. A big portion of Wallet Activism is in consuming less and using and wearing what you already own.
There is not much good to come from Facebook but after reactivating my account when my mom got sick, my mentee told me about “Buy Nothing Groups.” These are hyper-local Facebook groups at the neighborhood level where you post items that you are letting go for free of to see if any of your neighbors want to give it a new home. The important part is that things are given freely. No buying, no selling. I joined this group after reading Wallet Activism and coming to terms with the fact that a lot of items donated to thrift shops end up in landfills.
Buy Nothing Groups are nothing short of magical, in my opinion. We had some rocks glasses that Nicole had gotten as a gift. They had gold world maps on them. I offered them up and a person said she’d take them. When she stopped by, she told me that her husband is a history teacher and they have all kinds of map-themed items in their home and he will absolutely love the glasses. I got more joy out of knowing that they are going to someone who will appreciate them than I ever got having them take up shelf-space in our homes.
People also give away food. We had some pasta sauces we were no longer interested in and they were unopened and didn’t expire for another few months. A neighbor said she’d take them and we walked down to her place five minutes away and left them on her porch. I also ended up getting to know our immediate next door neighbor better because she wanted an unused water bottle we were getting rid of. Apparently, she works at the same university that I work at!
Members can also post what they are in search of to see if anyone in the group is letting go of anything or can loan things. The other day someone posted that they need one lemon and immediately someone else said their lemon tree is loaded with lemons and they could come on over and take what they need.
We have had a practically new hospital bed sitting in our home for quite a while and having it in the back room (formerly mom’s room) has been a repeated blow to my feelings. I posted the bed on our Buy Nothing group and someone responded that their own mother could use it, as she had a stroke and her caregiver asked that they get her a hospital bed. The family had been paying for healthcare out of pocket for a while and a hospital bed can be an overwhelming amount of money. My mother was a veteran and the VA gave us this bed at no monetary cost to Mom nor us. Since I have a truck, Nicole and I offered to take the bed apart and deliver it, along with the special sheets and covers we had purchased for it.
When I joined the Buy Nothing group, I had expected to have a place to responsibly give away some things. I had not expected, however, to get to know my neighbors, to actually feel really good about being deliberate about where items go, and to glean a sense of peace through the gifting. It was many shades of the community care I wrote about last week.
You can find your Facebook Buy Nothing group (if your neighborhood has one) by searching “buy nothing” and your neighborhood or city through the Facebook search function.
Confession time: I hoard candles. I acquire candles at a rate much higher than I burn them. The irony is that I’m really anxious about burning candles in our home because of our extensive library as well as my asthma. The open flame makes me really nervous about our hundreds of books and some of the smokier candles make me wheeze.
But friends, I’m absolutely drowning in candles. We have two shelves that could be used for books that are instead filled with candles. Thankfully, my friend Kelly told me about candle warmers. They are heat lamps that you can use with the candles you already own. You set the unlit candle underneath and the lamp melts the wax and you get the lovely scent without the smoke or open flame. The bonus for me is that I can use candles I already own and not be limited to buying wax melts for some wax melt doohickey. This thing has been a total game changer for me. I bought this one, which is also dimmable so you can control the strength of the heat.
Did I engage in more capitalism to buy something new? Yes. Is this something new going to be better for my health both physically and mentally? Yes. Is this something new going to help me in using what I own, which is a thing I often struggle with? Also yes!
That’s it for this week! You can shop any books I’ve mentioned in this newsletter at my affiliate shop, The Infophile’s Bookshop, and support independent bookstores. If you want to send me some snail mail, you can find me at P.O. Box 21481, Oakland, CA 94620-1481. If you are a subscriber and would like for me to send you some happy mail, feel free to give me your address.
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