Change Comes From Us

posted by Susan Stark

It will not be a happy holiday for the friends and relatives of Jdimytai Damour, who was trampled to death by shoppers at a Long Island Wal-Mart on Black Friday.

Unfortunately, this is what our culture has come to. People being sacrificed for the latest gadget while others in Haiti and Afghanistan wonder where their next meal will come from.

People bought the slogan of “Change” from Barack Obama, but the word “Change” was also the slogan of a one Bill Clinton back in 1992, and we didn’t get much change from him.

Ultimately, change comes from us, and us alone.

In this post, I’m going to list numerous ways we can change our our lives for the better, starting with our immediate surroundings. I did something similar on this blog soon after Earth Day, and it looks like I need to do it again. But this time, I’m going to add more information.

Let’s start by changing what and how we buy things:

1) Buy things that are USED, rather than new, as much as possible. For instance, the computer that I’m typing these words on is used. So is my TV, my fan, my lamp, my furniture, and many other objects in my room. Most of my clothing is used. To be fair, however, it is not always possible to buy used in all cases, but it’s worth a try.

2) When you have an item (or items) that you longer want or have use for, but can still be used by someone else, don’t throw it away. Sell it or give it to someone.

3) There is a website you can go to buy and sell used items. It’s called

http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites

At this site, there is also a “Free” column.

4) There’s another website that’s extremely useful in reducing waste:

http://www.freecycle.org/

At this site, you obtain or get rid of items for free.

5) If you have electronic appliances that are no longer working, you can recycle them:

http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/materials/ecycling/index.htm

You can also do a google search on recycling e-waste in your local area.

6) If buying something used doesn’t appeal to you, try to make sure that your consumption is Fair Trade. That is, that your obtained goods are environmentally friendly, with unionized or cooperative labor. I’m a hypocrite when it comes to this, because Fair Trade items are generally more expensive then items made in exploitive conditions. Which is why I go the used-item-route as much as possible. But for those of you who can afford it, there are these websites:

http://www.coopamerica.org/pubs/greenpages/
http://www.fairtradefederation.org/

7) In regards to Christmas shopping, everything that I mentioned above applies. Buy used gifts and/or Fair Trade gifts, and wrap them in recyclable paper (the comix section of newspapers makes great gift-wrapping). Buy a plastic Christmas tree (or even better, a used plastic Christmas tree) that you can use year after year. Same with Xmas decorations. And for godsake, don’t trample anyone to death. You don’t need that latest iPod, or whatever gadget Jdimytai Damour had to lose his life over.

8) A brilliant way to cut down on waste and and have fun at the same time is to go to a Really Really Free Market. If there is no such activity in your area, you can start one yourself. This is where you and others bring items that you don’t want anymore to a common space, and then take items out of that collection that one might want or need. It’s basically a big party dedicated to the concept of mutual gift-giving. Buying, selling, or bartering are forbidden at these events. It’s all gift-giving and gift-taking.

9) For the really adventurous, there is Dumpster Diving. Dumpster diving is rescuing what ends up in the garbage. You would be amazed how much other people throw things away. I have personally found many useful items, everything from stereos to bookshelves to bathtowels, in peoples’ trash.

Now we come to the section of Change Comes From Us dedicated to Reducing Energy Consumption And Saving Money On Your Energy Bill:

1) Make it a rule in your household that the last person leaving a room must turn off the lights before leaving.

2) Install night-lights in the hallways of your home so you don’t have to turn on the overhead lights. Night-lights use less energy.

3) Unplug all electrical appliances when they are not being directly used. Appliances use energy even when they aren’t on. The difference will show up on your electric bill, and you’ll be reducing your “carbon footprint”, that is, your oil, gas, and coal consumption.

4) Find out if there are any public transportation facilities (train or bus) where you live, and use them as much as possible. Even if you live out in the country, there is sometimes a county bus system you can use.

5) Start using a bicycle, scooter, or walking to anyplace nearby. You’ll keep in shape and save on gas.

6) If you have a gas-guzzling automobile, go online to see if you can’t get your car modified to use less gas per mile.

7) It is now wintertime, when we use a great deal of energy to heat our homes. Instead of jacking that thermostat up to kingdom come, dress in layers of clothing instead. I regularly dress in two layers of clothing during winter, minimum. I use more if it’s really cold. However, if you have an infant in your household, be careful when taking this advice.

8) When summertime comes around, use a fan instead of an air conditioner. Fans use a fraction of the energy that air conditioners use. Take cool showers instead of hot ones. And if you’re really hot, run your hair under cool water, then wring it out so that it’s merely damp. This should keep you cool for a couple of hours.

One last thing: While it seems a lot of effort to reduce energy consumption, you will, I repeat, will save money.

Now we come to the last section of Change Comes From Us. Presented here are miscellaneous things we can do to change things from the bottom up:

1) Do you by any chance have a lawn? If you do, turn it into a vegetable garden instead. It’s a better use of soil than simply growing grass.

2) Health care. Universal health care is pretty much a pipe dream here in the United States. No politician will touch it for fear of incurring the wrath of the health-industrial-complex (HMOs, drug companies, etc.). But you can get together with like-minded individuals and start or join what is called a Health Care Collective. That is, seeing what you can do to start a free clinic in your community, or finding health care professionals willing to provide free, reduced, or sliding-scale health care, or starting a community health insurance program. Here are some examples of this:

http://www.ithacahealth.org/
http://www.rockdovecollective.org/
http://www.cghc.org/
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=health+collective&btnG=Google+Search&aq=f&oq

3) Free schooling. You can get together with like-minded individuals in your community and set up a Free School, which Wikipedia defines thusly: A free school, sometimes intentionally spelled free skool, is a decentralized network in which skills, information, and knowledge are shared without hierarchy or the institutional environment of formal schooling. The open structure of a free school is intended to encourage self-reliance, critical consciousness, and personal development.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_school

4) See if you can set up a time-barter system in your community:

http://www.timebanks.org/

I don’t want this post to be too long, so I’ll stop here. Cut and paste this post and pass it on. It’s better than getting trampled to death.

Susan Stark

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40 Responses to “Change Comes From Us”

  1. Geoduck Says:

    Re: lawns. If gardening isn’t option, you can at least get a push-mower instead of a powered one. Again, you get some exercise, it’s less likely to break down, and doesn’t spew gas fumes and noise everywhere.

  2. Geoduck Says:

    Re: lawns. If gardening isn’t option, you can at least get a push-mower instead of a powered one. Again, you get some exercise, it’s less likely to break down, and doesn’t spew gas fumes and noise everywhere.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Who is this Susan Stark who’s taken to posting on Ted’s blog?

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Are you from Ithaca?

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Susan,
    I began to nod off with the second sentence. Do you think people really need a stranger lecturing on how lazy and stupid and wasteful we are? Please! We elected George W. Bush TWICE! Enough is enough! Holy Sarah Palinowsky, Batman!

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Susan,
    I began to nod off with the second sentence. Do you think people really need a stranger lecturing on how lazy and stupid and wasteful we are? Please! We elected George W. Bush TWICE! Enough is enough! Holy Sarah Palinowsky, Batman!

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Another tip:

    Sign up for real-time pricing with your utility, then use a thermostat that can be setback automatically while you’re out of the house. Electricity costs the most in the middle of the day, so program your thermostat to shut off the furnace (if electric) and A/C at that time. You can overheat/overcool prior to the shutdown so you don’t get too uncomfortable. I saved 30% on my electric bill by doing this.

  8. Susan Stark Says:

    Anonymous 1:13,

    The point isn’t to tell people how stupid and lazy we are. It’s to give people the idea of changing things for themselves rather than wait for someone else to do it for them. In other words, it’s a self-empowerment manual.

    I suggest you read the post again without nodding off, so that maybe, just maybe, you’ll apply some of these suggestions to your own life.

    To Anonymous 11:55,

    I can’t post on Ted’s blog without his permission.

    To Anonymous 12:38,

    Nope, I don’t live in Ithaca. I live in New York.

    To Geoduck,

    That’s a wonderful suggestion. Thanks.

  9. Maura Says:

    Susan,

    Great suggestions, although I have to question a school that uses the spelling “skool”. I’m particularly interested in a Health Care Collective. It seems like an almost impossible task, but crazier things have worked.

    We’ve cut down our utility bills considerably by hanging our clothes on a line in the yard. I still use the dryer long enough to fluff the clothes a little, but there’s a big difference between 10 minutes and 90 minutes. (My dryer sucks.) We also make our own laundry detergent, which saves us a little more money and cuts back on nasty chemicals going into our water, even if just a bit.

    Obviously, those specific ideas aren’t things everyone can do, but it’s not too hard to come up with ways to conserve energy.

    After living through the worst drought on record in North Carolina, I’ve become obsessive about saving water. Very little is wasted.

    I’m also seriously thinking about turning much of our yard into a vegetable and flower garden. Grass is useless, and my husband hates to mow.

    On one of the bigger issues, how fucked up is this country that people would trample someone to death in order to get into a Walmart? And complain about the store being closed because someone died? I don’t know if this is the first time someone has died as a result of the frenzy of greedy consumerism that is Black Friday, but the door crushing mobs are common. Geez, maybe everyone just needs to cut back on the amount of money they spend on presents.

    Who is this Susan Stark who’s taken to posting on Ted’s blog?

    Ted’s non-evil twin.

  10. Maura Says:

    Susan,

    Great suggestions, although I have to question a school that uses the spelling “skool”. I’m particularly interested in a Health Care Collective. It seems like an almost impossible task, but crazier things have worked.

    We’ve cut down our utility bills considerably by hanging our clothes on a line in the yard. I still use the dryer long enough to fluff the clothes a little, but there’s a big difference between 10 minutes and 90 minutes. (My dryer sucks.) We also make our own laundry detergent, which saves us a little more money and cuts back on nasty chemicals going into our water, even if just a bit.

    Obviously, those specific ideas aren’t things everyone can do, but it’s not too hard to come up with ways to conserve energy.

    After living through the worst drought on record in North Carolina, I’ve become obsessive about saving water. Very little is wasted.

    I’m also seriously thinking about turning much of our yard into a vegetable and flower garden. Grass is useless, and my husband hates to mow.

    On one of the bigger issues, how fucked up is this country that people would trample someone to death in order to get into a Walmart? And complain about the store being closed because someone died? I don’t know if this is the first time someone has died as a result of the frenzy of greedy consumerism that is Black Friday, but the door crushing mobs are common. Geez, maybe everyone just needs to cut back on the amount of money they spend on presents.

    Who is this Susan Stark who’s taken to posting on Ted’s blog?

    Ted’s non-evil twin.

  11. stampede major Says:

    Susan, you just don’t get it. Football looks awesome on the giant hi-def flat-screen TV I got on Black Friday at the Valley Stream Wal-Mart!

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Susan Clark:
    There you go again! Another suggestion! No thank you….MOM! I WON’T clean up my room! If I nodded off the first time, your lecture won’t be any less boring the second time. Even the First Coward, George W. Bush, who has sacrificed absolutely nothing in his pampered, entitled life, understands that in order to maintain our style of living, all we have to do is…nothing.
    However, your research is impeccable. zzzzzzzzzzz……

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Susan Clark:
    There you go again! Another suggestion! No thank you….MOM! I WON’T clean up my room! If I nodded off the first time, your lecture won’t be any less boring the second time. Even the First Coward, George W. Bush, who has sacrificed absolutely nothing in his pampered, entitled life, understands that in order to maintain our style of living, all we have to do is…nothing.
    However, your research is impeccable. zzzzzzzzzzz……

  14. Nancy Says:

    You left out the elephant, or rather the cow, in the room.

    Give up meat and choose a vegetarian diet. That, and giving up the car, are the two best things you can do for the planet.

    You can make delicious foods, get all the protein you need, reduce your ‘footprint–and also be kinder to animals, who have lives too.

    If you use the ‘hundred mile diet’ it is even better. Buy from local producers and farmers, and live better.

  15. Incitatus Says:

    How can it be a “really, really free” market if bartering is forbidden?
    Other than that, I’m all for like-minded collectives, er, I mean people, to join an have some socialist fun together. I strongly object to them trying to shove socialism down my unwilling throat, though.
    I’m sort of curious, Susan. What’s the stance of the free schooling folks on homeschooling?

  16. Incitatus Says:

    How can it be a “really, really free” market if bartering is forbidden?
    Other than that, I’m all for like-minded collectives, er, I mean people, to join an have some socialist fun together. I strongly object to them trying to shove socialism down my unwilling throat, though.
    I’m sort of curious, Susan. What’s the stance of the free schooling folks on homeschooling?

  17. Susan Stark Says:

    Anonymous 3:40,

    I’m sorry you were bored. Please read the post again, until it finally sinks in.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    I live about 40 minutes away from where this happened. For those of you that don’t know, Valley Stream is a town literally on the Nassau County/Queens border, and is incredibly urbanized and not all that well kept.

    Am I shocked this happened? Yes, but I’d be more surprised to see it happen nearer Suffolk than literally a five-minute walk from Queens.

  19. Susan Stark Says:

    Incitatus,

    Nobody would beat someone down for bartering at a Really Really Free Market, but it wouldn’t be worth the effort to barter when you can just take stuff or leave stuff. However, someone at one time did try to sell something, but nobody bought anything from him. And that’s because it’s a RRFM.

    As for homeschooling, well many kids that are homeschooled are better educated than at a government school, but at the same time, all you’re doing is replacing one type of authoritarian with another. Parents can be just as much dictators as teachers and principals if they are abusive whackjobs. I think you can see my point.

  20. Susan Stark Says:

    Anonymous 7:17,

    It doesn’t matter where a person gets trampled to death, only that he died. The people in Suffolk are generally more well-to-do and have their Christmas presents delivered to them, or can shop at better places than Wal-Mart.

  21. Susan Stark Says:

    Anonymous 7:17,

    It doesn’t matter where a person gets trampled to death, only that he died. The people in Suffolk are generally more well-to-do and have their Christmas presents delivered to them, or can shop at better places than Wal-Mart.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    FOr you Bush haters:

    Only your dispassionate Canadian correspondent could write this without colour or favour, but is it possible that George Bush is a secret Green? Evidently his Crawford Winter White House has 25,000 gallons of rainwater storage, gray water collection from sinks and showers for irrigation, passive solar, geothermal heating and cooling. “By marketplace standards, the house is startlingly small,” says David Heymann, the architect of the 4,000-square-foot home. “Clients of similar ilk are building 16-to-20,000-square-foot houses.” Furthermore for thermal mass the walls are clad in “discards of a local stone called Leuders limestone, which is quarried in the area. The 12-to-18-inch-thick stone has a mix of colors on the top and bottom, with a cream- colored center that most people want. “They cut the top and bottom of it off because nobody really wants it,” Heymann says. “So we bought all this throwaway stone. It’s fabulous. It’s got great color and it is relatively inexpensive.

    Compared to Al Gore:

    A 20-room mansion (not including 8 bathrooms) heated by natural gas. Add on a pool (and a pool house) and a separate guest house all heated by gas. In ONE MONTH ALONE this mansion consumes more energy than the average American household in an ENTIRE YEAR. The average bill for electricity and
    natural gas runs over $2,400.00 per month. In natural gas alone (which last time we checked was a fossil fuel), this property consumes more than 20 times the national average for an American home. This house is not in a northern or Midwestern “snow belt,” either. It’s in the South.

  23. Angelo Says:

    …or just move to Europe.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    Stark:
    Ain’t going to happen. You assume it begins and ends with your sermon. Nah. Lots of people BEFORE you got smart kept the planet clean, and did it during a horrible Depression. So, please, Susan, pick up some rocks at the reservation and say a prayer to the wind. Your lecture is still boring from the beginning, where the natural warning, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz oh, sorry, just talking about your zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz sermon puts a person to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  25. Anonymous Says:

    Stark:
    Ain’t going to happen. You assume it begins and ends with your sermon. Nah. Lots of people BEFORE you got smart kept the planet clean, and did it during a horrible Depression. So, please, Susan, pick up some rocks at the reservation and say a prayer to the wind. Your lecture is still boring from the beginning, where the natural warning, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz oh, sorry, just talking about your zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz sermon puts a person to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  26. Maura Says:

    Susan, maybe you should have used “I” words.

  27. Aggie Dude Says:

    Personally, I failed on ‘buy nothing day.’ I bought a sub from Blimpy’s, and an LCD monitor for my computer, I’ve been waiting for the price to drop since June.

    But I do think ‘buy nothing day’ is hilarious, because our economy is based on consumer spending. It’s really quite malicious.

    From the forest itself, comes the handle for the axe.

    The structure of our economy, and therefore our very way of life, depends upon hedonistic waste and an orgy of thoughtless greed. Prudence is destructive. If we cut back from our overconsumption, the economy collapses and we all suffer.

    They’ve got us all by the proverbial balls, here. Fantastic!

  28. Angelo Says:

    “The structure of our economy, and therefore our very way of life, depends upon hedonistic waste and an orgy of thoughtless greed. Prudence is destructive.”

    but aggie, the ONLY other alternative is Stalin.

  29. Angelo Says:

    anonymous said:
    “Bush has an eco friendly house!!”

    yeah, cause someones house is the cause of the climate problem.

  30. Susan Stark Says:

    To Anonymous 10:57,

    Yes, I am well aware that Al Gore is a hypocrite. But my post had nothing to do with Al Gore; it’s meant for the self-help and self-empowerment of the ordinary person. Please read it again.

  31. Susan Stark Says:

    Hi, Aggie Dude. I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

    You have a very good point about our economy being run by overconsumption. But much of the reason for this Catch-22 situation may be that we have moved from a manufacturing economy to a service sector economy. A “service” economy seems more dependent on consumption than a “production” economy. I have no proof of this assertion though.

    But it’s given that somebody who lives on less doesn’t need to work as much, or at least has a job that doesn’t require a lot of commitment. I have that kind of job, but at the same time I don’t get to travel when I want to. Travel’s expensive. All depends on what you want to sacrifice and what you don’t.

  32. Susan Stark Says:

    Hi, Aggie Dude. I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

    You have a very good point about our economy being run by overconsumption. But much of the reason for this Catch-22 situation may be that we have moved from a manufacturing economy to a service sector economy. A “service” economy seems more dependent on consumption than a “production” economy. I have no proof of this assertion though.

    But it’s given that somebody who lives on less doesn’t need to work as much, or at least has a job that doesn’t require a lot of commitment. I have that kind of job, but at the same time I don’t get to travel when I want to. Travel’s expensive. All depends on what you want to sacrifice and what you don’t.

  33. Sean C. Ledig Says:

    Hey Susan,

    Great post. I already do a number of those things, including buying used whenever possible.

    Except for clothes and food most of what I buy is used. Used books. Used CD’s. Used VHS tapes which I’ve been converting to DVD. Used DVD’s. Used sporting goods.

    I’d like to add something to your suggestions for change. Instead of bringing another life into an already overpopulated, resource-stressed world, why not adopt? I did and it’s made me the happiest man on Earth.

    My Ukrainian-born son is the most important person in the world to me.

  34. Incitatus Says:

    Susan,

    I see your point about parent “authoritarianism”. I still prefer the temporary tyranny of those two that begot the child (or adopted it!) to the eternal tyranny of the burocratical-educational complex. On you last post, you sound almost like an Austrian-school economist on the so-called “service economy”, or Peter Schiff, for crying out loud. Great!

    Angelo, you seem to live under the impression that Europe is wholy populated by sophisticated and frugal intellectual socialists who sip coffee and eat organic meals while they discuss Adorno. An afternoon at the stadium with the Internazionale fans or an evening at a rave party. It might also be fun.

  35. Angelo Says:

    incitatus,

    By american standards, everyone in europe is a total socialist. And you can’t tell me they don’t all sip coffee and eat organic food (don’t forget the cigarettes).

    here are the facts:

    1)The US spends more on health care and gets less

    2)The US spends more on education and gets less

    3)The US is consistently ranks below comparable european countries in quality of life surveys

  36. Anonymous Says:

    Angelo,
    When are you moving to Europe?

  37. Anonymous Says:

    Angelo,
    When are you moving to Europe?

  38. Aggie Dude Says:

    Susan:

    “But it’s given that somebody who lives on less doesn’t need to work as much, or at least has a job that doesn’t require a lot of commitment. I have that kind of job, but at the same time I don’t get to travel when I want to. Travel’s expensive. All depends on what you want to sacrifice and what you don’t.”

    The whole concept of the factory (from manufacture) was not necessarily to automate, but to organize. As long as people sat at home and made products and got paid by the piece, they did as much work as satisfied them financially and then spend the rest of their time however they wanted.

    Likewise, most hunter-gatherer cultures involve people working roughly two hours a day. Henry Ford actually believed that automation and technological innovation would lead to people working less. The whole point of the way human society has ‘progressed,’ however, has been for managers/owners to squeeze as much excess labor out of people as possible, paying them as low a wage as possible, in order to maximize their own profits, which are funneled to the top.

    If one sufficiently separates themselves from the assumption that all of this is ‘normal,’ one realizes that it is absolutely absurd.

    It is NOT true that in today’s society you can easily work a professional job, getting paid a professional salary, and exchange fewer work hours for less pay. Very few industries allow for that. Furthermore, every “choice” pushed on people from the business class is designed to prevent them from reducing their productivity, because the ONLY source of profit for the rich is the productivity of the people they buy.

    So we’re not entirely slaves? So we have rights as citizens (though increasingly fewer, if you notice), all of this is an appeasement to stave off full scale revolt, while we’re all still locked in a system that prevents us from structuring our lives the way we really would like to.

    All of this is so freakin’ simple a caveman could get it, and yet I’ll bet you at least 3 or 4 people on this very blog will go through elaborate contortions to reject it outright, or say it doesn’t matter (dismiss it out of hand).

    This is fundamentally why anyone who believes we all exist “in the service of the Lord” should be disqualified from having authority over others. At heart, they believe in a Feudal power structure, with them as vassal and everyone else as serf. This is fundamentally how American conservatives and the business elite operate.

  39. Angelo Says:

    When are you moving to Europe?

    Next October. You?

  40. Angelo Says:

    aggie said:
    “…all of this is an appeasement to stave off full scale revolt, while we’re all still locked in a system that prevents us from structuring our lives the way we really would like to.”

    yes, appeasement. That is the word I am looking for to describe the “liberal”, “black” president.

    See!? anyone can make it to the top.

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