Waste Not!

Happy New Year my friends!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve set some New Years resolutions for myself, the primary of which is to reduce household waste.

How I see it, there are four main areas in which household waste manifests itself:

1) Reusable waste – such as containers, plastic food bags, tins, jars, etc.
2) Recyclable waste – (many of the same things as reusable waste) such as recyclable plastic containers, cardboard, paper, etc.
3) Garbage – the stuff you can’t really reuse or recycle, such as plastic packaging.
4) Food waste – uneaten goodies and scraps.

I am aiming to reduce all of these types of waste.

Reusing and recycling are both very important, and it’s far better to commit to those two Rs than not to. However, if you all remember your three Rs, reduce is the first and most important of these. It’s better to limit the amount of stuff you bring into your home in the first place, then reuse it, and then recycle it.

To add to this, my friends at the Plastic Pollution Coalition offer a fourth R: Refuse. It’s better to just say “NO” to single-use, throwaway items, especially plastics. Being the type of person who has a difficult time throwing away anything that could be useful, this is an important step for me (I have a container full of plastic cutlery, straws and chopsticks). It’s better to not even have it in the first place, than to reuse it for something else. Recycling, while wonderful and vital to our world, still takes energy. And plastics that are recycled decline in quality. It’s better to not even have it in the first place, than to recycle it.

Here is my bag drying rack, my bees wrap, silicone muffin liners, my lunch tin and a metal, insulated water bottle.

Here is my bag drying rack, my bees wrap, silicone muffin liners, my lunch tin and a metal, insulated water bottle.

Over the years, I’ve adopted various strategies for refusing and reducing waste. There are the classics such as cloth shopping bags and reusable water bottles. I also wash all reusable food bags such as bread bags or the zippered bags frozen berries are packaged in (who needs to buy Ziploc bags when you get free ones with your food??). I recently bought some bees wrap to use instead of plastic cling wrap. There are so many ways to improve and I’m barely hitting the tip of the iceberg!

Join me as I try to wrestle with this issue (among all the others I seem to wrestle with). Do you have any suggestions for refusing and reducing waste for 2015?

And remember, friends, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! The more of us who do this, the more a part of our culture it becomes!

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Well friends, it’s almost upon us: a new year. Tis the season of Groupon gym memberships and intro month yoga passes. Of dieting and self-improvement and all manner of best intentions for a new year.


January 2015 marks 6 months beyond my consumption sabbatical. I think some habits have changed (I’m baking my own bread and I certainly get fewer new clothes). However, in many ways I’ve reverted to my pre-sabbatical ways. I have also not pushed myself further than I did last year and I believe it is now time.

So here are my To Be and Not To Buy resolutions for 2015:

1) Waste not, want not:
My husband and I have decided to make a more concerted effort to reduce our household waste. Our plastic fast of last spring gave us a taste for a reduced waste lifestyle, and we want to get back on that train, and hopefully travel it further. We also want to work on reducing our water use and find some innovative ways we can show greater respect for one of our most vital natural resources.

2) Make or make do:
I actually have some pretty mad skills, and instead of buying something new, I want to get better at making the things I want or need (mainly, getting better at making the time to make the things I want or need). When I make a shelf or a bench, I appreciate (criticize?) it more. When I sew my own dress, I am more able to appreciate what I have, and to recognize the injustices of fast, disposable fashion.

Only two resolutions, but I hope they will prove to be habit forming (or perhaps, habit breaking). Waste not, want not. Make or make do.

Stay tuned for further adventures of muddling through this messy world.

What are your New Years resolutions?


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Fall is an interesting time for the topics I explore on this here little blog of mine. In October, I wear the same dress for a month, celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving and mark World Food Day. In November, I have a birthday, witness American Thanksgiving and suffer through that horrible day that has spread around the world known as Black Friday (if “black” is referring to dark and doom, then it’s very aptly named. However, I believe it’s about economics, and going into the “black” from the “red”).

This is gluttony.

This fall, my faith community went through a series on the “Seven Deadly Sins” and I was asked to speak on the subject of gluttony. Rather perfect, don’t you think?

Even more perfect, the day I shared was the Sunday after Canadian Thanksgiving and World Food Day – what a time to talk about gluttony! I meant to share this with you all way back then, but I got busy and neglected my poor little blog. Now that we’ve suffered through American Thanksgiving and Black Friday, I thought it was time to share. So if you have a mo, take a look at my views on gluttony:


Ah, Gluttony.

A rather timely topic. In one week we experience both Canadian Thanksgiving, and World Food Day. On one hand, thankfulness for blessings and abundant feasting to the point of overeating (don’t deny it) and on the other, a day established by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization to “increase awareness of world hunger and poverty and to inspire solutions for world change”. An interesting juxtaposition that happens to us every year.

Of course, traditionally, gluttony refers primarily to the excessive consumption of food, or, “making your belly your god.”

Pope Gregory I, coming from the ascetic tradition, really took this concept and ran with it. He broke down this idolatry of the belly much further than I had originally imagined possible, and described five ways in which the sin of gluttony is committed:

  1. by eating before the proper time of meals
  2. by eating particularly luxurious, exotic or costly food
  3. by eating food that is particularly dainty or elaborate to prepare
  4. by eating an excessive amount of food
  5. and by eating too eagerly

I don’t know about you, but I am certainly guilty of all of these versions of gluttony. In fact, I may have committed all five this week alone. Let’s call it research.

Pope Gregory’s definition of gluttony is based primarily in the evils of pleasure. He notes that the fifth form of gluttony, eagerness, is the worst of them all because it most clearly shows attachment to pleasure. Eager and excessive eating shows a base, animal behaviour abhorred by early Christian ascetics, and was considered by some to be more even primordial than lust. Gluttony represented all of the “sins of the flesh”.

Throughout different times and cultures, pleasure in food has been seen as a “gateway” to other sinful behaviour. Even Gandhi’s community had rather harsh restrictions on food, because it was thought that indulging in spicey or particularly flavourful food would lead people into indulgences in other areas, primarily in sexual misconduct.

Jesus did like to party.

While the Christian bible is rather contradictory about eating, or taking pleasure in food, it seems to me that the overarching biblical message on gluttony is to enjoy food, to eat, drink and be merry! But just not too much. The key here is enough, a fine balance between needs and pleasures. Food is one of the most essential things for life, and naturally it can and should be enjoyed. The sin is, in fact, excess rather than pleasure.

A more modern definition of gluttony has moved almost entirely from the sinfulness of pleasure. It has also moved beyond involving mainly eating – perhaps as a result of the western world’s removal from regular hunger and food insecurity. Gluttony, today, is defined as the over-indulgence and over consumption of food, drink or wealth items to the point of extravagance or waste, a misplaced desire of food or wealth, or withholding from those in need.

In a world where there are over 800 million people who are malnourished, but 1.5 billion are considered overweight, a world where 32 percent of all food produced is lost or wasted, a world where human activity is causing climate change and reducing the abilities of many people to feed themselves, a world of rampant and growing inequality, this is a very apt definition.

Our world is defined by excess on one side and need on the other. And as a globe, we certainly do not have the balancing act figured out. As an individual, I do not have this balancing act figured out!

Yes, my little friend, that is exactly what I’m telling you.

I am a privileged North American, and in my opinion, Gluttony is the trademark sin of privileged North America. (ahem, Thanksgiving and Black Friday together forever.) As a group, we consume more in almost all respects than anywhere else on the planet. We are the birthplace of convenience, of fast food, plastic packaging, and huge cars. We consume more food, water, land, fossil fuels, clothing, and nearly everything than anyone else, ever. We’re gluttons for entertainment and leisure activities, for vacations and other creature comforts. We are a culture of instant gratification as well as a culture obsessed with appearance. Gluttony comes to us in the form of not only excessive eating, but also of excessive dieting, obsessive exercise, food fads and disposable fashion. We are the “treat yourself” people! We are excess personified, gluttony personified. And I am no different.

Simply because I am North American, I eat more (of everything) than anyone else on the planet. I have what I honestly consider the luxury of food allergies (which I’m sure Pope Gregory would file under gluttony)! I take up more space. I use more oil. I produce more garbage. I have more clothes and God knows, more shoes. My life, though perhaps not quite as excessive as others, is filled with over-indulgence and over consumption.

The reason gluttony, this life of excess, is a sin, is that when we consume excessively, it is always at the expense of someone else. Gluttony is also interpreted as selfishness; placing concern with one’s own interests above the well-being or interests of others. Excessive consumption of food exploits farm labourers and certainly the planet. It produces more greenhouse gases and therefore harms us all, most notably the people already suffering the effects of climate change. Consumerism exploits the people who make the stuff we buy. Sweatshops are not limited to clothing manufacturers. And again, the planet and therefore all of humanity takes a hit with each useless plastic thing made, bought and thrown away.

This is a reality I have struggled with for much of my life.

As a personal experiment, and a way of combatting, or at least trying to deal with the reality of my gluttonous life, I embarked on a “consumption sabbatical”. Beginning in July of 2013, I attempted to take a year-long break from gluttony. This year was meant to be a time for me to focus on living and not consuming.

In some ways it was a success. I stopped buying things I didn’t need. I did more mending. I did more canning. I wore the same thing for a month. I stopped using most “cosmetic” products that I used to think I needed. For Lent, Dan and I gave up consuming plastic, which was not as difficult as I had expected and greatly impacted our gluttonous food consumption. I did without many things that I soon forgot I ever thought I needed, and I have not returned to them. All in all, this sabbatical was a good exercise in understanding what enough just might mean. It was an attempt at finding that elusive balance between needs and pleasures.

Only some of the stuff I've bought...

Only some of the stuff I’ve bought…

However, now that this sabbatical year is over, I find myself easily slipping back into the same patterns of over indulgence. I told myself that I would be better at using less plastic, but I don’t think I am. I told myself I would only buy fairly made, non-sweatshop clothing and shoes, but I certainly haven’t. I told myself I would be better at moderation, but I really don’t think I have got that under control. My consumption sabbatical really taught me that mindful consumption and balance is possible, but gluttony is easier, and avoiding it requires constant vigilance.

Perhaps gluttony really is the gateway to a myriad of other sins.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have another Thanksgiving dinner to attend. (or deals to find and stuff to buy.)


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October Update

Well folks, it’s October. and I’ve neglected you horribly. Please forgive me. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind last several weeks, some of which I promise to tell you about shortly. But first things first. For those of you who remember, October is a very special month! October Dress Project month! Which means, of course, that I’ve been sporting the same dress for the last 16 days. Like last year, no one has noticed so far (or at least not mentioned it if they have). I’ve told a few people, but for the most part I’m just chugging along in simplicity of dress.

Kiki and her trusty cat Jiji

Choosing a dress this year was a bit different than last year. I tend to think about my Halloween costume for at least ten months of the year, usually coming up with 4 or 5 ideas before deciding on something by January. Upon finding a childhood treasure earlier this year (a 6-inch red hair bow that I adored as a 7-year-old), I’ve decided to dress as Kiki, from Hayao Miyazaki‘s famous (and absolutely delightful) film Kiki’s Delivery Service. So a simple, long-sleeved black dress was in order. I found said dress on my excursion to Portland in the summer. And realizing that Halloween is of course the end of the October Dress Project, I thought I’d wear my “costume” all month.

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This may not have been the best idea, as I find I’m already terribly sick of it. You’d think that the second time around of doing this project would be easier, but I guess not. I must admit, I do miss my last year’s dress (I hope you’re keeping it safe, Anilee!). Check out the October Dress Project blog page, Facebook page, and even Pinterest for more information and some inspiration. Consider joining in, even late! Or do it in November, or any month for that matter. And you can always get creative, and choose another article of clothing to commit to for the month. For example, my husband is wearing the same button-up shirt for the month! What a champ.

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Guest Post: Nearly Ruined

This post is from my dear friend, Angelika. Check out her great blog, Thrift Shopper for Peace.

. . . . . .

Angelika and me many moons ago.

Angelika and Anna-Marie many moons ago.

I’m not sure if it’s an honour or a punishment to be doing a guest blog post for Anna-Marie.

It’s an honour because she is my friend and thrift-shopping-soul-mate. I am always happy when I find someone who gets me.

It’s an honour because I also share Anna-Marie’s concerns around consumption, our responsibility in the global market place, and care for the earth. It’s why my blog is called Thriftshopper for Peace – my blog is as much about sharing my thrift scores as it is about my desire to be a peacemaker. Being at peace with my fellow human beings and with the earth is as important to me as being a good steward of my resources.

Both Anna and I come by our love of thrift honestly. We both have parents and grandparents who are thrift minded. Honestly, I think it’s part of my DNA. When I think of poverty on a global scale, I know that my parents were not poor. But we weren’t wealthy either. My mom scrimped and saved and turned every penny over twice before spending it. She embodies the phrase “get blood from a stone.” Thrift shopping was just what we did, always. So now, when I think of purchasing something, I just naturally turn to a thrift shop first and when I’m tired of something, I always try to either donate it to a thrift shop or repurpose it to give it another life.

So why does doing a guest blog here feel like punishment, then? For a whole year I’ve followed Anna’s blog and journeyed with her through a year of non-consumption. Here I was feeling all smug and virtuous about being a thrift shopper and then Anna made me think, dammit. She made me think about a whole host of things, not the least of which is whether or not my penchant for shopping thrift is enough.

Angelika and Anna-Marie at Anna-Marie's wedding.

Angelika and Anna-Marie at Anna-Marie’s wedding.

Certainly, buying a pair of jeans at a thrift shop is better than buying retail, right? I’m spending less money, I’m not supporting a third-world sweat-shop, I’m keeping the item out of a landfill and supporting a charity. How can that be bad?

Ever since I started reading Anna’s blog, I’ve felt her sitting on my shoulder as I’ve gone about my thrift routine. “Sure that looks great, but do you really need another top?” “Yes that’s a great deal but you can’t fit another beer glass in your cupboard – do you really need it?” Anna-Marie’s journey of non-consumption has truly impacted me because, just as my mom turned over every penny twice, I now look at every thrift purchase twice and ask myself whether or not I need to buy it. Just because it’s a deal, doesn’t mean I need to own it. I think I’ve actually shopped less because of her blog. She hasn’t quite ruined my love for thrift shopping… but she has certainly made me think more deeply about my responsibility as a consumer, even a thrift- minded consumer.

In the end, I guess that’s not a punishment after all… it’s simply a challenge to be more thoughtful. How have you been challenged as you’ve followed Anna’s journey?

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Up And At ‘Em

Hey there friends, it’s been a long while.

I’ve been back at the shops for a month and a half now (well, not straight, that would be insane. I’d probably have died), and I think it’s time to update you all on my consumption!

Oh, yes, my consumption.

July 6th came in all its glory and I was able to celebrate the end of my year-long sabbatical from shopping by exploring the wonders of Portland, Oregon. If you know anything about Portland, you could probably imagine that it would be a top-notch place to find some quality goods of the local/used/ethical nature.

And you would be right.

My stack of new (and used) books

My stack of new (and used) books.

While my closet had dwindled considerably and I was in rather dire need of things such as pants (the American and British versions), my first real stop was Powell’s City of Books. The name itself inspires one to new heights of rapid consumption. And consume I did. Powell’s is a great place (I could probably spend three days there, no sleep, and maybe make it through the whole store), and it boasts an impressive variety of both new and used books. On the first day, I walked away with more new (and used) volumes for my shelves than I care to admit. On the second trip, I gathered a few more. Oh the glory of being back with my dear friends, the books.

I also found myself some new and used clothing (some much-needed and some definitely not needed). I hit up my favourite clothing company, PrAna, for some new pants, and discovered the wonders of Buffalo Exchange, a large consignment store. Laden with new things I could honestly feel good about, I travelled north to Vancouver (another great city to find some quality goods of the local/used/ethical nature). Here I returned to my favourite local shop, Devil May Wear, and added to my collection.

On top of all this, I ordered goodies from my new favourite underwear place, PACT apparel (check it out. Fair trade, organic cotton, oh-so-soft and very comfortable. I’ve never met with better gitchies), and made a hefty order from Amazon (for what I amazingly could not find at Powell’s). I also finally got a few goods from a vendor I’ve been admiring for two years, UK’s Annie Greenabelle.

I may have got a little carried away.

Stack o' new clothes! Yikes!

Stack o’ new clothes! Yikes!

I know I did practically a year’s worth of shopping in one go, but I remained under my budget. Almost everything was second-hand, locally made, or ethically made (much of it fully fair trade), and I have a hard time feeling bad about buying books.

My drawers are full again, my bookshelves are bursting, and I love everything I bought. I certainly did not need most of the things I’ve purchased over the last month, and after a year of being (relatively) happy with what I had, I am ready to go forward to consume mindfully. The year-long practice of reflection and deeper understanding of consumerism, especially my consumerism, has left me slower to buy and far less swayed by changing fashions.

I know it’ll take willpower to remain in the mindset of the last year. Hopefully I’ve learned and changed enough for it to be more natural as time goes on.

What my next steps are, I don’t yet know. If you have any ideas, leave me a comment!

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That’s It, That’s (not) All

Me, one year ago today. I now have more hair (which I’m not sure I like) and less stuff (which I like very much).

That’s it! Today is the official end-day of my year-long consumption sabbatical.

I am facing this day with both pleasure and with trepidation. Certainly, my experience to clothing (and to stuff in general) has changed. There’s no way I could communicate all the things I’ve learned, and I’m probably still figuring out what most of those things are. But anyway, here are a few highlights:

1) Having fewer items of clothing really is easier and more enjoyable than having a lot.

2) Today’s fast-fashion clothes are not meant to last a year. This I know for absolute certain and have proof. However, these clothes can be made to last longer than they’re meant to, and can be re-purposed to extend their useful life on this planet.

One of my new favourite books. Inspiring and hilarious. What more could you want?

3) I have lots of books. I will always have lots of books and I will always want more. However, expanding my bookshelves by borrowing, and expanding others’ bookshelves by lending is fun and strengthens friendships. I was introduced to some new favourites this way.

4) Using less plastic is easier than it seems. It takes some more work, creativity, and the willingness to appear a bit silly (read, counter-cultural). Every effort is worth it.

5) I still love clothes. I need a few new things, and I want a few new things. Now, however, instead of simply wanting and buying the clothes I covet from friends and peers, I want well-made, versatile items that will last years (of my hard wearing), rather than clothes I will wear out or get bored with right away. The point is not to have a large donation pile along with a large closet (which has been my strategy for years), but to have things so good and loved that I will not want to give them away.

So now I go back into the world of purchasing. I will now be working on the commitment to buy ethically-made goods. I am willing to spend the extra money on something I believe in. (Also, if I just buy fewer items, I can afford to spend the extra money). I want to buy better and smarter. I want to maintain a focus on needs rather than wants.

I still want to be, rather than buy.

But on that note, I’m going shopping.

P.S. Even though this sabbatical is over (for now, who knows what’s next), I’ll be keeping up this blog with my further adventures in (or out of) this crazy world of consumption. I will also be featuring some amazing guest bloggers who also care about these issues. If you are interested in contributing, send me a message!


Filed under clothing, consumerism, contentment