Recession Values, Green Values?
The New York Times is in recession overdrive, focusing on all the things we are doing to cut back on our spending, including this story that covers the resurgence of thrift stores for shoppers. Another article focuses on people downsizing and eating in more in an effort to save money. (Addendum) And the San Francisco Chronicle gets into the mix with an article on the impact of the falling dollar on U.S. consumers.
The articles focus on the sacrifices, and I'm not sure they are all valid from a green point of view. Nor am I sure they are sacrifices. For instance, one example was a man who was downgrading from the Hilton to the Hampton Inn. It may be cheaper, but is it more green. One of my favorite pens that I acquired a few years ago came from Paddington Hilton in London (yes, the Paddington of Paddington Bear fame and in a frivoulous purchase or which some part went to charity I did buy a Paddington Bear with the intent of gifting it, an event that never happened. But the bear does keep watch at home and remains in mint condition tag and all ready for a second life). That Hilton had dedicated tremendous energy to being green, including entry key lighting, the option to not receive new towels, and the pens they gave were made of recycled paper not plastics. I'm not sure cheaper places will take the same effort.
It still amazes me that almost uniformly around the world, the lights in hotel rooms are master switched by your room key. When you leave the room, you take the key card and your lights are turned off. They have other plugs that are constant for charging etc. I saw this in China in 1999, yet I rarely see rooms with this set up in the U.S.
The other thing that troubles me with sacrifice chic is that it assumes the secondary market is used. We've become so conditioned to sales that we often buy what we don't want or need, so that many goods remain unopened. Thrift store shopping can sometimes be smarter shopping from a green perspective and fiscal point of view too. It doesn't always happen. I bought my heart rate monitor from a garage sale for $4, when it was going for $50 on ebay. It was an older model, but it was brand new. Exercise equipment purchases often show more hope than usage.
With improved technologies, and services such as Amazon's "Sell your feature" we can look forward to an efficient secondary market where thrift is looked on with positive connotations and the planet benefits. And economy is a flow of transactions, it's not about spending less, it's about spending within your means in a sustainable manner. It's about spending differently, it's about consuming smartly.