“’Tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free,” so goes the familiar hymn.
I believe in reducing material consumption in everyday life. This not only keeps my cost of living under control in today’s challenging economy, but also allows me to exercise freedom, creativity and ethical responsibility as a consumer.
This simple belief has already been explained in many books and articles published by the brightest of our economists. I’ll add my modest part to this discourse with just one example: my decision over what to have for lunch the next day. Hmm, grilled chicken on rye, with a soup on the side, sounded good to me.
So I was at the grocery store, where so many of our foods today are over-packaged in ever smaller portions. A television monitor replayed an ad for deli meats from a major food brand. The product being promoted was a stack of lunchbox-sized, colorfully-printed and very durable plastic boxes, each containing about 5 or 6 thin slices of meat.
What about my soup? For a few spoonfuls, I could have tomato soup that came in a very sturdy plastic bowl, with a lid, that was both dishwasher and microwave safe – and the size of a teacup.
Were I to get these items for my lunch, without having even picked my bread, I’d be buying more plastic, more petro-chemicals, than the stuff I could actually put into my mouth. The prices reflected that very fact. On this very balmy February day in 2008, oil was over $100 a barrel, gasoline was over $3.50 a gallon, and I was about to pay $7 for two more reusable plastic food containers that happened to contain less than one meal’s worth of food.
With my $7, I bought 2 pounds of fresh tomatoes, fresh chicken breasts, and a full loaf of just-baked bread, amongst other things, all of which I brought home in my own tote bag. I made a pot of tomato soup from a friend’s recipe (mmm fresh basil), with enough to spare later for pasta sauce and salsa. My grilled chicken sandwich next day was delicious and fulfilling.
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