Search Results for 'Juliet Schor'

Unclothing The Horse and Juliet Schor

My husband Thor and I went to the Illahee lecture last night here in Portland. Juliet Schor spoke, a sociologist and economist from Harvard University. She was excellent, and one of the most salient takeaways for me was on clothes. (It’s only fair to report Thor has sometimes termed me ‘a bit of a clothes horse’.)

Ms. Schor reported that in 1991 we in the U.S. bought an average of 34 garments per year (not counting socks or hose). In 2001 that number increased to 52. That’s an average of a new garment every week, when we can’t even wear more than three or four at one time. Moreover, the millions of tons of surplus discarded clothing we have been shipping out to other countries has been climbing even faster. And fashion cycles have escalated, spurring an artificial need to buy.

Where am I in all this excess consumption that drains the earth’s resources? Well, even though my household income has become high, my shopping habits have changed little from my starving-artist days, i.e. I still shop mostly at Goodwill. But I shop too much (at least I did until my long commute kicked in two weeks ago) and I’m frequently needing to give little-used clothes away. And nobody even needs those clothes!

Used clothes in large quantities doesn’t equal less consumption. I’m part of that absurd statistic. This clothes horse needs some unclothing.

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Sex And The City, Portland style

Sex and the City

Here is my Portland, Oregon response to Sex And The City: The Movie. It is Green Girls Take On CRAG. Read it to see what I mean. My Green Girls social circle has more fun and is more joyful, I suggest, than the characters in the hit HBO series.

Why do I think that? We green women of the West are bonding with the land as well as each other, and a sensible lifestyle that flows from love of the land. The women in SATC have no connection to the earth, and are consuming at a rate that 50 planets could not support. Research, including that of Juliet Schor (a brilliant woman of the East Coast, Harvard to be exact) is clear that more consumption does not lead to more happiness.

Even given the fantasy nature of entertainment, I think the women in SATC are irresponsible. I don’t know anyone who wants to be like them. But Portland is, after all, a green enclave, a city-state of its own. Please post a comment to broaden my earthy-wonky perspective.

photo courtesy of hagit_.

Death of Retail & Naked Ladies

Short post this morning on the deaths of many retail stores recently in the U.S. First, I really feel for the people who are losing their jobs, and in many cases, their retail businesses. This is painful and scary for them, and I wish stability for all the people affected.

In the bigger picture, the retail industry has simply got to get smaller. It (with help from all of us) consumes way too much of the earth’s limited resources. We in the U.S. are 4% of the earth’s population, consuming 25% of what the earth has to offer. And the research by Juliet Schor and many others is clear that added layers of consumption after our normal needs are met brings very little additional happiness.

That said, I’m keenly aware we have to consume things in order to live. And I admit I struggle with my own addiction to used — isn’t the euphemism ‘pre-worn’– clothes (see Unclothing the Horse and Juliet Schor). I played this out with more fun than usual yesterday when I bicycled to a Naked Lady Party. We all brought clothes we no longer needed, tried things on and brought new-to-us outfits home. I’m wearing one now, it’s beautiful. My point is that we need economic transformation, including an emphasis on community and sharing resources. We don’t need a return to how the retail industry used to be.

And to cover my biggest retail experience of this or any decade, I’ll write later this week about the new car Thor and I are actually buying and bringing home, after all our extended debate. (Want to purchase a pre-used 1993 Nissan Sentra)

Driving A Prius In The Wild West

My job in transportation options has taken me, in a new Prius, to the high desert town of Bend, Oregon (recently named by American Cowboy magazine in its Top Ten list of wild-west towns). The Prius, mud-splattered from the Santiam Pass, is now dusted with snow as well, so it reminds me of an Appaloosa pony.

Appaloosa mare running
photo by emokidsdontcryx3

Oh, don’t I wish. Horses are cool.

So my Prius (actually my employer’s, not mine) informs me it is getting 46 miles per gallon on this trip. Excellent mileage compared to SUV’s, and of course with every gallon of gas we burn creating 20 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, I’m saving a few hundred pounds of emissions over driving an average car. Also, this hybrid handles and performs beautifully, front-wheel drive and all. The Prius is so popular in our motor-pool that I couldn’t extend my use of it to a third day.

The downside of not just the Prius, other hybrids and actually all gas and energy conservation measures is that if we don’t stay conscious of the reality of peak oil, we can easily offset our conservation measures to some degree by then driving or consuming more carelessly. The irony of our nation’s overconsumption is that it does not make us happier. Juliet Schor, the Harvard economist, shows this clearly in her body of research.

Bearing that in mind, I am parking my Appaloosa-colored Prius this afternoon and taking a vanpool with about ten colleagues over to Redmond, saving a few hundred more pounds of emissions. Kind of like taking a stagecoach in the days of the old West. I wish.

Seeking A Diamond-Cut Life

I’m back after a break! Pulitzer prize winner Jared Diamond points out in the New York Times today that we in the U.S. are consuming 32 times more than the citizens of developing countries, and that that has to change because the earth’s resources are running out.

A little more surprisingly, he also says something I have been maintaining for years: our quality of life is not directly tied to our consumption. In other words, as research by Juliet Schor and others has shown, more stuff doesn’t make us happier. Much of the time, it’s just waste that doesn’t add value — although it hurts the planet.

All of us want to be happy. And probably we’d like to ‘do the right things’ in the process if we can. So, if you and I are average U.S. citizens, what’s the best route to consuming less? If happiness can be symbolized by a diamond that gets cut from surrounding rock, which things cut from our lives can best craft the diamond?

Here are my Top Five high-impact suggestions.

  1. Put ourselves on air-travel diets. Flying represents enormous fossil-fuel consumption. Buying carbon offsets for it, while not as good, at least brings us closer to paying the real cost of flying.
  2. Downsize our living space and make better use of what we’ve got. This doesn’t just apply to moving; we can shut off little-used rooms in winter and conserve heating fuel.
  3. Get a smaller vehicle or get rid of one vehicle altogether. Naturally this is only a viable option when public transit or carshare programs are available.
  4. Get a housemate (not necessarily a lover). Single-person households are a new fad in human history, and very resource-consumptive. This is also the best way for many single people to start saving for retirement.
  5. Put ourselves on car-mileage diets. Before grabbing the keys, think: How much is this trip really adding to our well-being?

I plan to write again on the diamond-cut life later this week. FYI, the best website I know of with good practical advice on consuming less is Wa$ted!.