A Shopping Moratorium
Regular readers will remember that a little over six months ago, I wrote a post declaring that I was going to embark on a six month moratorium on buying any clothing, shoes, or jewellery for myself.
The reason I am concerned about shopping is that our North American materialistic lifestyle is not sustainable for the Earth. Every item of consumer goods that we purchase has a high carbon cost, which comes from obtaining the raw materials for the item (mining, logging, growing cotton, etc.), deforestation that ensues from activities like mining, logging, or growing cotton, the manufacturing process which uses energy and often environmentally toxic chemicals, the non-reusable packaging of the goods (often in plastic), and the transportation of the item to the end user, often from the far side of the world (burning fossil fuels).
When people buy things, they're often replacing items that are still serviceable (if no longer fashionable), or repairable (but who knows how to darn socks anymore? And what about the built-in obsolescence of iPhone batteries which can't be replaced?). The unwanted items typically end up in landfills. The carbon footprint from unnecessary consumption contributes to climate change.
So how did I do in these past six months?
Well, I'm not a really big shopper in general. But I do have a lot of clothes, which are mostly office wear left over from my work life before I retired. So I thought I wouldn't have much difficulty cutting myself off from shopping for clothes, shoes, and jewellery.
I announced my shopping moratorium on June 28, which meant it would be in effect until the end of December, 2019. In fact, I posted the blog article in the airport, as my daughter and I were waiting to board a flight to Crete. We were heading off together to a yoga retreat!
And wouldn't you know it -- the airline lost our luggage. We were going to spend a week-long retreat at a remote location on the edge of the Libyan Sea and we had nothing to wear but what we wore on the plane. So, only two days after stating my intention to not shop for six months, I was running around Heraklion buying clothes. You can read about it here.
It was a truly wonderful holiday. More pictures here.
And so, I thought I would just shift the end date of my moratorium from December 29 to December 31 to complete six months of no shopping. (Note: I still allowed myself to buy clothes for others -- e.g., souvenir T-shirts for the grandkids).
But on the second-last day of our Cretan holiday, after we finished the yoga retreat, the whole group did a shopping trip to Rethymno. Then, my daughter and I spent one more day in the city of Heraklion on our own. Sad to say, in Rethymno, my will power wavered, and I bought myself a slender handmade silver bracelet as a memento of the trip.
|Exploring Rethymno With My Daughter|
|Street Art in Rethymno|
|All the Retreat Group (Except Theo)|
|Restaurant Where We had our Last Dinner Together|
Carbon OffsetsAll my life, I have wanted to travel to see other parts of the world. Yet, throughout most of my adulthood, my travel has been quite limited. Although I did travel for work, it was rarely to places that I would have chosen as a destination, and my time in each place was mostly spent working, not sight-seeing. Finances, parenting, and the time demands of full-time work limited my opportunities to travel.
So one of the top goals I had for retirement was to travel.
But, since I have begun learning more about the climate crisis, I have realized that flying causes a lot of CO2 to be released into the air.
It is important to reduce material consumption, shift from a high meat diet to a more plant-based diet, avoid wasting food, divest one's portfolio of petroleum stocks, burn less fossil fuel (in cars and in home heating/cooling), waste less water, garden organically, use less toxic household products, vote for environmentally focused political parties, speak out about climate concerns, and refuse plastic packaging. These are all lifestyle changes that I am trying hard to incorporate into my life.
But I undermine my own efforts to be a good climate steward when I do a lot of air travel. One solution is to fly less.
As much as I can, I have eliminated taking domestic flights. For example, I live on an island. There are two main ways to get off the island -- by air, or by ferry. So I have been choosing the ferry. I was excited to read that a local small airline hopes to put an electric airplane into service within the next two years for short trips from the Island to the mainland.
This summer, Rob and I vacationed close to home, camping nearby on Vancouver Island. That way, we didn't have to fly anywhere, or burn a lot of gas on a long road trip.
But I haven't yet eliminated all air travel from my life. Although I feel guilty about flying, I also am not ready to give up my lifelong goal of travelling to other parts of the world.
So along with flying less, my solution is to purchase carbon offsets for every flight that I do take. Although there are a number of organizations one can use to do this, I use Gold Standard. A video from their website explains the concept of joint action on climate change, and how purchasing carbon offsets makes a difference.
The first step is to calculate your emissions. Gold Standard provides a way to calculate your annual emissions. However, for calculating flight emissions, I prefer to use the calculator provided by myclimate.
As an example, I calculated that my return flight to Crete created 3.4 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions, and an upcoming trip will create 1.6 tonnes of emissions, so 5 tonnes in total for the two trips. I purchased carbon credits equivalent to my flight emissions, and chose to apply those credits to a project that provides clean water to Cambodian communities. It cost me $81 CAD.
Maybe some day I will go that extra step and stop all air travel. But, not yet.