Monday, September 22, 2008

Is It Really Worth It?

I'm feeling pretty frustrated by my attempts to be a more ethical consumer these days. I think a big, unmentioned factor when people talk about poor consumer practices is location. Here's a few examples of my frustration living in a smallish, isolated community:

1. Organic Food is rotten by the time it gets here. Seriously, by the time that more expensive, organic produce is shipped from California to Central Saskatchewan, it has travelled for serveral days. Because it does not have all the chemicals and waxes on it, its often already moldy or too soft or otherwise decomposing when it gets here. Or on the other hand, it was picked so early to prevent this from happening that you can't get it to ripen when you get it home. So I have given up buying organic produce.

2. Thrifting for wool is too expensive. I haven't done the math, but its pretty much just as cheap to order wool felt online as it is to drive an hour to Value Village to find sweaters to felt. The local store only has acrylic sweaters, usually and . .

3. Going to a thrift store is equated with being white trash. Yard sales are a socially acceptable place to find something, but the thrift store is frowned upon. Not only do thift strore finds meet with uncomfortable silence at playgroup, but the volunteers chronically treat me with disdain. It really doesn't encourage me to shop there -- if I can find anything.

4. Finding good used furniture is difficult. I get so frustrated when I look at Canadian Home and Country's Flea Market issue every year and they show these amazing things people have picked up at Flea Markets or just off the street corner. In Ontario and Quebec, where the country is older, it is really easy to find old, good, solid wood furniture. But here, its hard to find anything thats not pasteboard. We have second hand drawers and one of the drawers is broken. Our cheap wardrobes - a door hinge already fell off after two months. Our solid wood table and shelves we brought from British Columbia are a total rarity among people our age. Everyone buys their furniture from The Brick or Extra Foods.

The boys are fussy, so I won't even mention the lack of store options -- I hate going to the dollar store, but its the only place you can get some things in town. Presently, unless you have $50 to spend on kids shoes, you're stuck with the Bargain Shop or Extra Food for a pair of $12 Made In China specials. Unless I were to make everything myself with things ordered online and shipped here (thus totally undercutting the local economy) I would not be able to boycott poorly, inethically made products. And if this isn't all bad enough, I can no longer support my local bookstore, because it closed this month.

I don't know. I start to understand why people think my non-Walmart-in-the-city shopping and attempts to buy second hand or organic are crazy. Its because they kind of are. I'm feeling like maybe I should just give up until I get to a bigger center where I could join a fresh organic food co-op or actually have more than one thrift / used store to go to, and a flea market that happens more than twice a year. Ug.


Anna & Andrew Mayo said...

I agree !!!!!!

Kristin said...

Oh, I SO understand. We have a couple of stores here that are local, carrying nicer children's clothes...but then they cost and arm and a leg. Our thrift stores carry the worst junk - stained clothes and falling apart shoes - nice. I never planned to shop at WalMart for things, but when you can get it all in once place, it sure does start to be more inviting. Shopping in the city is great, it's just not always possible. Sigh

Anna Michelle Irish said...

I found it difficult to buy any decent produce in Spiritwood, let alone organic (I should have grown my own, but I'm just not into the effort!). I'm not sure organic veggies from California really make more sense than non-organic more local (as if local were really an option there either) anyway. I always felt uncomfortable about the amount of meat we ate, but there wasn't much of a viable option. I think when you're so isolated, you sometimes just have to go with the flow. I can't say we really bought anything but food locally, but then our options were even more limited, so I certainly didn't worry about supporting the local economy...