Monday, September 24, 2007

Ugly Dolls (re)dux, or shopping to save the world

So, I really think the whole "ugly doll" phenomenon is silly. I really do. I mean, at first, it was really . . . different. But then, when everyone else started doing it, well, then it stopped being different . . . So this morning, as I was procrastinating working on some obviously very important things by googling random green life related keywords (what, you don't google stuff for fun??), I came across this really cute Etsy shop that recycles fabric to make dolls with hand-painted faces. I loved the face on this blue doll. It is so peaceful, so calm (um, or is it stoned??) Plus, instead of being made in CHINA like the actual Ugly Dolls, I have a hunch that they are made in someone's kitchen in California. Plus, they come from the creative brain of Chad Frick, a San Francisco cartoon-artist. Of course I bought it. I figure, hell, I am supporting someone's art, supporting my shopping habit and supporting the re-purposing of used fabric. I felt good. I felt peaceful.

Will I go to hell if I shop at Target?

The question has often been raised: “Will I go to hell if I shop at Target?” Granted, I am no theological scholar, so don’t bet any large sums of money on this (or your soul), but I would say that most likely, no, you will not go to hell if you shop at Target. . . unless . . . Well, unless, you buy ALL your things there, wear them for two months, then THROW THEM ALL OUT and go right back and buy more.

The thought I want to convey is that we should be aware of our place in the life cycle of our products. Ok, so that may be a very difficult idea for many people to get (“what the heck is a ‘life cycle’ anyway???”). How do you even know where something came from? How do you know what will happen when you give it away or throw it out? (Without a significant amount of research, that is.)

Maybe an easier idea for most people to understand is that things SHOULD LAST. Whether you buy them new, vintage or secondhand or, ahem, even at a large chain store, the intent should be for the purchase to be long-term. Danny Seo, the “green Martha Stewart” (he is SO cool, y’all!!) has said that he would rather buy one pair of $500 shoes that last 10 years than 10 pairs of eco-shoes that don’t last as long.

Why is this so hard for most people to do?? Maybe we all should consider that shopping for most of us has nothing to do with actually needing something. We shop because we’re bored, because we went off the diet, because we stayed on the diet, because we feel lonely, because that is what our mothers did, because Marie Claire magazine told us to, because we have an image to uphold . . . We think very little about the item because it is EMOTIONAL – we focus on the emotional fulfillment and not much on the product. Therefore, I venture that shopping, in and of itself, is not really the problem here, per se (I know a lot of you wanted to hear that!!).

The problem here is with our attitudes that things don’t have a before or an after – just the present - say, as our Saturday night outfit. We have been led to believe that things exist only in the form that we encounter them, in the moment that we need them. It is especially easy not to have an understanding of this when the item only costs $20!! That is not a hard day’s work . . . that is not a major trade off. It is just 20 bucks.

I mean, I love to shop. I really do. And, I shop for the same lame reasons many other people shop for. But, I have learned to be much more self-reflective about my (INCREDIBLY INFREQUENT) trips to Target. I keep these thoughts in mind:

1 – Do I need this or should I just go to the gym?
2 – Do I need this or should I look through my closet again for something that would work just as well – esp. if I go to the gym - for this _____ (event, interview, etc.)
3 – Is this a well-made, well-designed piece and will it last at least several years or is it a silly trend that I will be embarrassed about in 6 months? (Ultimately, this is a very important question as we are constantly lured by the “it” fashion trend. Fashion is fleeting. True STYLE is timeless. Ask yourself, "Do I have real style or am I a fashion victim??")

Sunday, September 2, 2007

To Fly or Not to Fly . . .

The irony is not lost on me that the first official entry for Righteous (re)Style is being written in the Fort Lauderdale airport as I finish up a week’s vacation here. As someone who plans to write about ways individuals can reduce their environmental impacts on the world, I start this blog lifting my foot out of a large - very sandy - - carbon footprint. So, let’s see, according to, on this trip, my roundtrip flight (BWI-FLL) was approximately 1,853 miles and emitted approximately 834 lbs of carbon.

I guess I could have driven to one of the Delaware beaches to vacation (only 166 lbs. of carbon roundtrip Washington, DCLewes, DE). Or I could have forsaken a vacation at all, I suppose. But, relaxation is so important to human well-being. And so is a good tan. (Okay, so maybe not necessarily a good tan . . .) Relaxation lets us self-reflect, which potentially allows us to identify ways that we can live a more conscious life – emotionally, environmentally, spiritually. Everyone gets caught up in the daily rigmarole of their busy lives (esp. in an urban environment where everyone and everything seems to scream “go go go go!”) Being in the ocean lets me stop, breathe, feel part of the natural world like I never do anywhere else.

In any case, we compensated by making other changes to our trip that reduced our impact. We stayed in a location that was within walking distance of a supermarket and other necessary stores. We rented a condo with a kitchen so that we could cook our own food. Although hardly anyone does not have a car in Fort Lauderdale, we rented a car for only two days, to visit a few sites my mother wanted to see. Other than that, we spent most of each day on the beach (usually 10AM to 5PM – yes, we pretended it was our JOB) using absolutely no electricity at all. Florida is just like that. Warm ocean and not much else to do.

Lastly, I decided to offset my trip – which was a much more complicated matter than I ever thought it would be. But that experience is for a future post.

So, there you go. Welcome to Righteous (re)Style. Stay awhile. Breathe. Relax. Get a nice tan (but please use at least an SPF of 30!).

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