Thursday, January 17, 2008

Embracing the moral dilemma

My dear friend Anne posted a comment yesterday that gave me some wonderful food for thought (thanks, babe). Anne wrote:
there's some good stuff in "the compact" but imho it's both way too vague and way too extreme all at once. anything that makes buying a notebook a moral dilemma is way too much work for me!!!! :) i'll just do my normal routine of not buying much stuff, period.

First off, I did get to chat with The Professor about journals after I wrote that post about them, and we are both in agreement. Journals are a necessary exception to the nothing new rule. We both feel very attached to our choices of journal, and while we happily economize on paper in every other way possible in our household, journals are one item on which we are unwilling to compromise.

Just to give you an idea, I'll tell you a little about our household paper habits. I should give credit here and mention that it was the poet Chrystos, reading at Giovanni's Room (oh, Rachel, don't look, it's a terrible web site) in Philadelphia, who first inspired me to use every bit of each piece of paper, out of respect for the gift that paper represents. Since 1993 or so when I heard her speak, I (and now we) print on both sides of all pieces of 8 1/2" x 11" paper, both at home and at work. After printing both sides, if a paper has even one bit with one side blank, it gets cut up to use as scrap paper for making notes (if we don't write it down, we forget it), which I've got little boxes of in nearly every room in the house. No sticky notes or cute notepads from Target for us. Junk mail gets evaluated for scrap usage on the back, as do all the little library tickets we bring home. The scrap paper thing we do at our workplaces, as well, and I've even gotten other people doing both of these things at a few places I've worked in the past. I am doing my part to reduce paper consumption on the planet, by golly. I'm splashing out with a new journal. It feels like a reasonable indulgence.

The joy we get from our journals is also worth the consumption of new resources to us. That half hour I spend every day filling my beloved college-ruled lines with black ink are my therapy, and I know The Professor delights in drawing possum limbs on the creamy paper in his journal. These aren't things that are going to wind up in landfill while we're alive, either. I've kept journals since high school and before, and the only way they're leaving this house is if disaster strikes and they go up in flames. The Professor's will some day wind up in a library, I'm sure, testament to his future Legendary Contribution to Science. In an effort to make my journal consumption less of a burden on the world's resources, I am going to at least find an alternative with some more recycled content and no plastic cover. I have got some contenders so far and will keep looking. I've got a couple months left on the one I'm using now. I'm also planning to buy in bulk so that the amount of carbon spent getting them to me is reduced, because a supply to last me a good few years will come all in one go.

But in response to Anne's comment (sorry, that was a heck of a digression), I don't agree that the Compact is vague. It might seem vague, but what I think the Compact is, is personal. I've been doing it all of two weeks, so I'm no expert, but this idea isn't some credo handed out by someone to which we've agreed. This experiment is about becoming conscious of our choices, not cruising along on auto-pilot like we have done. I like that we have to think of these things ourselves, talk about our choices, make up our minds, be actively engaged with the challenge of reducing our consumption. I mean, we've only got to have the journal sit-down once, and then we're done. It took about 3 minutes to hash out. Because we're new and coming up the curve, the number of conversations we'll need to have is higher these days, but it will level out, and then we'll just cruise along on a new improved auto-pilot, and that's part of why I want to do the Compact. I want the moral dilemma. It's there whether I want it or not, so to me, bringing it to the forefront and wrestling with it now is an investment in my future peace of mind.

And to put it in perspective, let's have a little run-down of what I purchased in 2007, before taking the pledge. New clothes: zero. New shoes: one pair construction boots, required for Home Design/Build class (and I needed them, more than once I would have lost a toe if I had just been wearing tennies). New electronics: zero. New music CDs: zero (although Andy got me one for my bday). About the only new thing I did buy last year was fabric and yarn, and I think we got some Stargate SG-1 DVDs. So I'm not some shop-a-holic swerving hard left into this new way of life. I was already pretty light on the consumption scale. But I want to go as far as I can. I want the extreme, too, but I guess that's not news to any of y'all who know me.

So, thanks, Annie-kins, for helping me to clarify why I am doing this experiment. Love ya, babe!

Whoops, another new fun blogging error, published this before it was done. I like making these newbie mistakes and getting them out of the way :)

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