Years ago, when I worked my insidethebeltway job at a large public sector labor union, one of my colleagues read an article about a famine some place or another and decided to hold a bake sale to raise money to send to some feed the children or feed the adults charity. (I won’t even go into my entire rant about charities and NGOs, and how the main stream media covers events like famines.) I honestly thought it was a joke. Oh, how clever, I thought, a bake sale for starving people. What a riot! (It all reminds me of the line in Lily Tomlin’s play, “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” when Trudy the Bag Lady comes up with the idea of marketing snacks in developing countries, by saying something like, they don’t even have meals, and they’ve not even begun thinking of between meal snacks.) Of course, the bake sale was launched in all earnestness, and even included “diet” brownies, which just seemed to add another layer of Trudy irony to the entire event.
Moving forward: Yesterday, I was at a sweet little Green Fest-type event at a small, business-oriented local college. It was supposed to be outdoors, but the weather didn’t cooperate, so it was moved inside. The organizers wanted to make the event fun, so they had a large tent, where college students could get in and jump around. (I have no idea what this thing is called, and it does look like fun.) So this large, loud contraption was moved indoors, all the better to see just how much energy this big, plastic structure consumed. Not only that, but a campus club had a book out about how to eat sustainably and lose weight next to a tray of candy. I actually pointed out the juxtaposition to one of the organizers, who just shrugged. I pointed out the energy sucking thing in the corner to one of my fellow vendors, and he had that ah-ha, by George, you’re right look.
I didn’t think irony was that hard to see. But, apparently it is.
And, the irony continues with Earth Day sales. Someone who does get it, The Good Human, has a great post up, Earth Day Is Not a Holiday for Shopping And, yes, he’s absolutely correct. While a few of my fair trade and green colleagues are sending out their email blasts touting their sales, I won’t have one. In fact, although Three Stone Steps is in the business of selling ethically sourced imports that are good for people and the planet, I think Earth Day should be another Buy Nothing Day. When we sell locally, as an itinerant retailer, we often tell people that we’re about as close to guilt free shopping as you can get, since we’re local, green, and fair trade, but, really, we’re still about consumption. We know that. Part of our mission is to think about ethical consumption, but, even though you’re buying a piece of Haitian metal art, made from used oil drums, which is made without the use of electricity, so besides for the shipping, doesn’t add one once to a carbon footprint, it’s not a substitute for doing something for Earth Day. Take a walk in the park, plant a tree, clean the alley, but don’t make shopping your main Earth Day activity. Of course, should you want to buy a recycled key chain, ethically made by a women’s collective in the Philippines, please do, but just keep in mind that shopping’s no substitute for doing.