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Where We Live: Buy Good Stuff

Look for quality, not quantity

Once again we come back to Reduce/Reuse/Recycle. It’s the mantra because it’s clear, concise, accurate, and prescriptive. Reduce looks easy enough. It’s like the diet advice where they don’t try to tell you what to eat, just to eat less of it. But when confronted with a pot full of your favorite stew there’s nothing easier than putting all you want in your bowl, and backing off- reducing your portion- can seem pretty hard.

Seattle just passed a plastic bag ban, following Portland, Edmonds, and Bellingham’s examples, so that reduces the city’s waste stream by a couple hundred million bags per year. This kind of legislation interrupts the mindless kind of waste, the kind that goes on almost invisibly, and forces us, individually and corporately, to find better ways to get stuff home from the store. Good start. We in Shoreline/LFP should, too.

A while back I wrote “”, talking about how a small change can lead to larger scale reduction. Add acoustic insulation to apartments and condos and the desire to buy bigger, single-family houses will be much lower. Then in “” I noted just how much more ecologically sound a smaller house is than a larger.  

Ah, but there’s the crux of it: Bigger Is Better. It’s the American way, don’t cha know? All the logic and reason and facts in the world break like a wave against the rocks of ideology, status, and unexamined assumptions. And besides, change is simply inconvenient.

We have our average 983 square-foot houses (1950), 1700 square-foot houses (1970), 2080 square-foot houses (1990), and our 2469 square-foot houses (2006) and we think that’s necessary, normal, minimum-requirement. As a rule, Americans have no idea just how good they have it, and how wildly skewed our perceptions really are.

But lately- 2009- there’s been a dip in the average house size. Maybe it just reflects the beginnings of the housing slump, but maybe a little rationality is entering the market along with it? I mean, really, if you get down to it ‘minimum-requirement’? That would be a thatch hut and a campfire.

Anyway, this isn’t just about houses, but everything else. Buy one really good pair of shoes- the kind that can be repaired instead of thrown out- instead of multiple pairs in faddish fashion and quirky colors that will seem old in only a few months. Buy good, long-lasting tires so you don’t have to spend all the time, money, and resources on two or three sets of low-quality tires. Just go down the list. Almost anything can be seen in this light.

If you insist, you can even do exactly the same thing without any consideration of our environment by just thinking of all the time, irritation, and money you’ll save not getting loads of garbage by buying good stuff instead.

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