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ELCA World Hunger

Individual choice, or system?

Hello from your new blogger: Anne Basye, who wrote the hunger resource Sustaining Simplicity: A Journal.

 I wrote this book in 2005 and 2006, and it came out in 2007. Those of you who have read it or used it in study groups know that it shared one person’s story of living life simply in hopes of prompting more ELCA members to start reflecting on their lifestyles. (And boy, does this blog look at lifestyle! Thank you, Hunger colleagues.)

Since then, Al Gore’s movie has brought global warming into everyday life, and the economy has gone haywire. If global warming and the economy were on everyone’s minds, I started to wonder, why wasn’t everybody moving towards simple living? I got impatient and crabby—at home, in my congregation, and especially at work, where we were taking the first frustrating steps towards figuring out how to be a little greener.

During my crabby phase I realized something that relates to Nancy’s last post about the challenge of selecting the “best” product when your criteria include justice and the environment. Living an intentional life requires systems. I may not have a car, but I don’t wake up every morning wondering how to get to work, because I’ve set up a system of alternative transportation that includes a bike, public transit, car sharing, and friends with cars. Living within that system, I can be confident that I’ll get where I need to go with a pretty small carbon footprint (and no car payment, insurance, or gas!)

But in general, trying to make choices that are easier on the earth, lighter on the pocketbook, and less demeaning of others takes a lot of time, because there’s no system. Every choice is individual. How much easier it would be if we could be reasonably sure that the energy we used, the goods we purchased or made to feed, clothe and shelter one another, and the vehicles we chose to move around the world in all fell within green, just parameters!

Perhaps naively, I’ve always believed that the choices I make widen the path for others seeking lifestyle alternatives. Now, how can we work together to transform the tedious “this product yes, that product no” of individual choice into something that changes the whole system we live in?

That’s what I’ll be blogging about in the weeks to come. See you soon!

Anne Basye

Green is the New Black

For the first time the other day I heard this phrase “Green is the New Black”. At first I thought this statement was in reference to the actual color green, but no, this statement refers to the fashion industry becoming more environmentally “green”. So as a proclaimed fashionista, I had to check this out! How could I miss such a trend?
At first chance, I googled the statement “Green is the New Black” and the amount of websites choices I had was phenomenal! There were t-shirts with this phrase printed on them, information detailing that the quote dates back to Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter (via 2006), a book literally called “Green is the New Black: How to Change the World with Style”, and much more. As I was reading the list, I thought, could my clothing and my pension for fashion be ruining the world?
My answer to both questions was yes.
The truth hurts. But I surely can’t be that much of an earth destroyer! Come to find out, I am and I am not. So, where could I make changes?
I found this article on, called: “How to Use Your Purchasing Power to Help the Earth”. The article is excerpted from the 2008 book “Big Green Purse” written by Diane MacEachern. In the article, MacEachern provides seven ways individuals through their shopping and spending habits can contribute to making the world better, they are:

1. Spend less. When we use less it reduces the impact of manufacturing needs to produce products, prevents pollution, and curtails global warming. More importantly, there is more money in your pocket to either save or pursue activities to enrich your life!

2. Read the labels. Because the US government does not regulate a company’s use of words like “green”, “natural”, or “biodegradable”. Read the label of the product, and it will be a give away to the truth. You can also check out the website to check if the company’s “green” statements are true.

3. Support sustainability. Look for brands that use the words “SMART Certified” because these companies have “Adopted comprehensive standards guaranteeing that their products protected the public’s health and the environment throughout their entire commercial ‘life cycle’”.

4. Look for third party verification. When a company says they are producing “green” products ensure that are and look for these third party labels to support their claims: Green Seal, The LEED Green Building Rating System, Energy Star, VeriFlora, Fair Trade Certified, and USDA Organic.

5. Choose fewer ingredients. The fewer the ingredients in a product usually translates to the less chemical are within the product.

6. Pick less packaging. Get this, 1 out of every 11 dollars we spend at a store pays for packaging! Whoa! In order to get more bang for your buck, you should consider: buying in bulk, purchasing “refills”, recycle packing as much as possible, bring your own bag, choose concentrated items (i.e. laundry detergents- I promise, they work the same!), and avoid Styrofoam.

7. Buy local. I didn’t need to author to tell me this! I swear by buying local. Not only does it ensure your community’s economic viability, but it has environmental and health benefits. Also, local food growers are usually more stringent about following US environmental and health laws and regulations.

I was glad to find out I was doing “pretty well” on MacEachern’s list, but there are some areas I can definitely improve on, especially numbers 2, 3, 4, and 6.
I guess for me, this leads me to ask the question, when are people around the world going to have the “green” epiphany? And though MacEachern’s article offers people a feel good approach to creating a more sustainable environment (through their pocket); what does it take to make people catch on? I know for me, if it wasn’t through my Public Health program or my environmentally conscious friends I would not have successfully accomplished numbers 1, 5, and 7. And now spending the summer working on anti-hunger and anti-poverty initiatives, I know it is my responsibility to help sustain the world and work on making numbers 2, 3, 4, and 6 a part of life. Even if it means that I might not be able to be the fashionista I want to be (I am okay with that!).
But perhaps this is the best part of going “green”: the fashion and beauty industries can stimulate people not just to be aware of what being “green” is, but they can provide ways for people to use their buying power to apply green living to their lifestyles. Although I think the industries are far from adopting all of the “green” principles, recognition is the first step. And for an industry where one thing is “in” one day and “out” the next, I just hope “green”, like black, will always be in style. Well, because, it has to be.