2017 Endeavors

The first week of January is long gone already!  While my actual 2017 goals still remain a bit elusive, I want to share a few things that I’m going to endeavor this year.  First, I am doing whatever I can to make sure that the things that I do and the items that I buy do not harm anyone.  There are a lot of clickable links in this post – if any topic piques your curiosity, I encourage you to go deeper and learn more about it.

Eat Less Beef

When I was a kid, our beef was raised in our own barn, along with chickens, ducks, and pigs.  It wasn’t always easy to see an animal go from baby to the processor (it was pretty easy, however, when that chicken took a chunk out of your leg when you were walking the path from the school bus to the house, or when that steer gave you a swift kick in the stomach for no good reason), but we knew what the animals ate, the conditions in which they lived, and the quality of life they experienced.  While there’s a growing movement of small farms going back to sustainable and humane methods of raising animals, billions of animals are now raised in CAFOs or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. If you’re not familiar with CAFOs, please click CAFOs above.  Warning: There are extremely disturbing images and information on this site. 

This year I’ll be eating less beef as raising it has the most dramatic negative impact on the environment.  There’s still a little in the freezer and if I dine at someone’s home I will thankfully eat what has been prepared, but as much as possible, I will eat less.  Hopefully we will eventually be able to raise our own pigs and chickens on the farm, but if not, I will obtain them from a local farmer that I know.

Buy Fair Trade Whenever Possible

Perhaps it’s just me, but I honestly had no idea that so many things I consume and enjoy have the potential to cause a great deal of harm to others.  Awhile back I wrote For The Love Of Chocolate but unfortunately, that’s just one industry that enslaves men, women, and children.  There is also cotton and sugar and tobacco and coffee and rice and fruit and vegetables and seafood (shrimp and tuna) and clothes and shoes and bricks and iron and gold and diamonds – you can read more here and here.  January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month so a quick Internet search will give you lots of additional information.

When I buy any of these food or clothing items, I look for local, fair trade, and organic in the hope that no one suffered so I could eat a meal or dress myself.  I use the Better World Shopping Guide if I need to purchase something, making sure that I patronize companies that have a good track record for supporting human rights. Though I’m not in the market to buy diamonds or gold, if I were, I would go to a locally owned jewelry store that sells vintage or estate jewelry. 

Purchase Used Items Instead of New

In 2006 a group of people in San Francisco started a group called The Compact.  Their goal was to go for twelve months without buying anything new.  You can read all the details here.  My favorite proponent of The Compact is Katy Wolk-Stanley, who blogs at www.thenonconsumeradvocate.com. Katy consistently shares Five Frugal Things that she’s done or articles she’s written for Clark Howard’s money saving website. Katy promotes the New England adage “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”  This saying was popular during World War II, but post war prosperity made it obsolete.  In fact, we replace things when we get tired of them with little thought to the environmental cost.

When I was working, some of the dresses and sweaters I wore were purchased at thrift stores.  If anyone noticed, they didn’t say anything about it. Maybe because no one really notices or <gasp!> cares?  Since my retirement, I’ve purchased several winter clothing items at my local thrift store and also raided my Mom’s donation box (thanks for the hat, Mom, it’s perfect!) Sure, they aren’t necessarily in my favorite color or the most attractive, but I’ve found that Hannah and the chickens aren’t really that concerned about how fashionable I look and my main concern is avoiding frostbite.

As much as possible, I will buy from thrift and antique stores.  Yes, it can be time consuming and it’s rare that I find everything I want or need exactly when I want or need it.  Yes, sometimes I have to scrounge through a lot of sketchy stuff to find a gem.  It seems a small concession as I work toward my last endeavor, which is reducing waste.

Reduce Waste

It’s virtually possible to purchase anything that isn’t packaged with scads of non-reusable or non-recyclable materials. Yes, I take my cloth bags along to the grocery store and use little cloth bags when I’m purchasing bulk produce or beans and nuts.  I also take my bags into thrift stores and other retailers so I don’t have to take home yet another plastic bag, which is good, but it only scratches the surface of the problem. There are some products that come in recyclable containers, but the truth is that not everything that is recyclable actually gets recycled, even when someone takes the time to put it into the recycle bin.  The impact of all this waste on the planet is pretty frightening.  You can read more about the zero waste movement here and here.  

It’s little weird, but I made a to go kit that I keep in my car so that if I need to take home leftovers, or if I need to get a drink when I’m out, I have a container or glass to use, avoiding styrofoam or cardboard containers and plastic water bottles. It’s also possible that I take along a freshly laundered pillowcase when I go to Tecumseh Bread & Pastry so I can use it to put bread, bagels, and other baked goods inside.

There are a lot of ways to reduce waste and I’m just getting started on putting things into practice.  Eating less beef, which is typically packaged in styrofoam and plastic, and purchasing used instead of new are also steps in the right direction. 

Lastly, I want to leave you with a song that I enjoy listening to on New Year’s Day, This  Year, by JJ Heller.  You can listen to the official version of This Year or the version I like best here.  I hope you’ll click the link and listen.  My favorite part is the last verse where it says “I plan on thinking less of I and me and resolve to think of us and we.” 

If you’ve already got your goals all lined up for the year, please leave a comment on www.nakedonthetundra.com at the top of the post or on Facebook so I will be inspired to get mine wrapped up!

Collectables

Even though I’ve written before about the lunacy of rewards cards and programs, a few months ago I signed up to get rewards at one of the chains where I buy Hannah’s dog food.  It seemed like a good idea since I buy dog food at least every six weeks and it stands to reason that at some point I might earn some type of reward to offset what I spend on food. 

Naturally, that meant I had to provide an email address so they could tell me about all the fabulous deals that were available and that’s when things got a little weird. It wasn’t a surprise to start getting emails every day, urging me to sign up for home delivery – strictly for my convenience, of course – and I knew they would send me lots of special offers.

What I didn’t expect was this . . .

Star Wars Collectables for Pets

Followed a week later by this . . .

Bobo Fett Dog Toy

This is what Hannah does to stuffed animals . . .

Hannah and Duck

It’s a duck, okay?

Duck Remains

This was a ‘stuffie’ I’d made out of a plastic bottle and an orphaned sock.  If there is a squeaker in the toy, it’s done for in a matter of moments.  Even toys labeled indestructible last only a matter of minutes before they are ripped to shreds, their stuffing tossed around the room.

It’s not that I’m not a fan of Star Wars – I’ve seen all the old ones and will likely see the new one at some point.  No doubt there are other dogs out there that don’t destroy their toys the same way that Hannah does, but I still can’t fathom purchasing a collectable toy or other movie tie in items for my pet.  Would I have to tell her it’s just to look at and not to touch?  Would she understand the significance of it being a collectable toy and treat it differently?  It seems unlikely.

There are days when I can barely wrap my brain around the things we value and the things we bring into our homes and lives. There is a place for well curated items that are beautiful and items that are practical and useful. Here’s the question to ask yourself – how many favorite things can you truly have?  Is it possible to love every piece in your Kewpie doll collection?  Every shot glass you acquired as you traveled across the country?  Every turtle someone gave you over the years because you once mentioned you liked them and everyone jumped on the bandwagon at gift giving occasions? 

Often times people will say that certain items bring back memories and while I believe that it’s true that an item can jog a memory, that memory remains independent of the object. There is also comfort in having familiar things, things that make a house feel like home, but isn’t it the presence of the people there that truly make it a home?   

The opportunity to purchase these fabulous items has likely passed – after all, supplies were very limited and those emails came a couple of weeks ago. Let’s hope that Hannah doesn’t hold it against me and will be satisfied with having a plain non-collectable tennis ball.Hannah and Tennis Ball

Plans

While typically I plan in advance what I’m going to write about and post regularly, you may have noticed that things have been rather quiet here lately at Naked on the Tundra.  It wasn’t an intentional hiatus, rather, it was a series of events that resulted in me spending time doing a lot of things other than writing.

My plan was to write about:

Thanksgiving and everything for which I am grateful

The amount of money we spend on our Thanksgiving meal

The amount of money we spend on Christmas

The reasons that I don’t shop on Black Friday

Instead, I had the opportunity while driving from Nashville to Michigan to experience firsthand the first big snow storm of the season, the opportunity to visit my twelve-year-old niece who was spending time in DeVos Children’s Hospital along with my younger sister, brother-in-law and fourteen-year-old niece, the opportunity to see my parents and older sister who were also visiting my niece, watch my grandkids while their parents took one of them to urgent care to get a stitch, have my email account hacked, my credit card number stolen, and catch a cold.

First Snow November 2015

Even though it wasn’t fun to drive in, it sure was pretty!

For the past week, being a conscious consumer has gone completely out the window.  When I needed gas, I didn’t care that Speedway has a D+ rating because it was on my way to the hospital and I chose convenience over conscience.  When my niece, who’d barely eaten for four days, said she wanted a turkey on Italian with mayo from Subway, I didn’t say, gosh, you know Subway has a C- rating and I’m really trying to stick with places with a B+ or better rating could you pick something else?  No, I drove straight there, ordered it up with no hesitation, and happily plunked down my cash.  When I couldn’t get all my Thanksgiving items purchased prior to the big day, I went to D rated Meijer on Thanksgiving morning and picked them up. 

Plans are great, but they don’t always line up with reality. In truth, I can’t really say that anything for the past week has turned out quite like I anticipated. If I’ve learned anything in the past fifty odd years, it’s that I can get upset and flip out about things, or I can take them in stride and try to find something positive in all of it.

I’m grateful that I was able to drive through eight to twelve inches of snow in southeastern Michigan without incident despite less than ideal conditions.  It’s very distressing that my niece was so sick, but I’m grateful I was able in a few small ways to help her and my sister out during their unexpected stay in Grand Rapids. I’m grateful my parents and sister drove over so I could see them before the holiday.  I’m grateful that I was here to watch the grandkids so they all didn’t have to go to urgent care when one needed a stitch.  The email and credit card issues are a hassle, but are insignificant in the grand scheme of life.  I’m grateful that there are so many people in my life praying for me and my family – I’m not sure how people get through things without that kind of support.

I’m still trying to find the silver lining in getting a cold, but so far I’m coming up with nothing.  If you can find one, be sure to let me know by leaving a comment.  What do you do when life doesn’t go as you plan? 

Man plans and God laughs.

Yiddish Proverb