Less 'stuff' lessens our carbon footprint

Opinion: Columns

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By Gina Orlando

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Part 5 of 6

Most Americans love to buy and have lots of "stuff." Yet our possessions carry a huge carbon footprint in the extraction of raw materials to make the products, in their production, in their excessive packaging and shipping. Imagine the carbon footprint of something made in China, some plastic cheap thing or poorly made clothes that we don't even need. Those products are often made in sweat shops and are taking business away from the U.S. Our buying patterns have a profound ethical, spiritual, environmental, political and financial impact.

Pope Francis, one of the world's foremost spiritual leaders, reminds us to reduce our consumption of "stuff" and to do that in a mindful way to care for the earth and others. More and more people are going lean, local and minimalist.

Please watch the excellent 21-minute video, "The Story of Stuff" with Annie Leonard on YouTube. It's very enlightening and even entertaining for the whole family. Let your kids create new ways to buy less and use fewer things, do holidays and birthdays differently, and learn to differentiate between true "need" vs. a marketed "want." Creating a healthy boundary with commercials and advertising is key to stopping the obsessive indoctrination to consume. 


Reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose 

We have such great local resources like the Economy Shop, other resale shops, the Repair Café, as well as neighbors sharing tools, families sharing kids' clothes, etc. It's a mindset that is flourishing. Let it grow! As we say no to excess, we foster the belief that we have enough and we are enough. Stuff can never fill any inner void, make us safe, or heal anxiety and fears. Go for what is real rather than hyped illusion. What satisfies are "real" life experiences, sharing "real" foods, meaningful conversations, connection to nature, and others.

You may wish to officially adopt the "buying less" ethic as a family value to reduce your carbon footprint and care for others on the other side of the world. And as you look at Ascension Parish's Lenten Carbon Fast Calendar (http://tinyurl.com/gw8r8c8), you'll get some other great ideas, too. Share your successes in doing a spring carbon fast in the paper, online and with others. 

Together we can live more simply so others may simply live.

Gina Orlando is an Oak Park resident and an environmental advocate with the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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