By Linda Hunter
When my son was a baby and I had just graduated from college at the ripe age of 21, we moved to Latin America to fulfill a longing that I had to live on a desert island. We traveled through Panama and settled into a little village on the Guanacaste Coast of Costa Rica where we lived in a house on stilts with no running water or electricity no more than 100 yards from the coastline. The village was accessible only by bumpy dirt roads and the nearest store or pharmacy was more than 50 miles away.
Despite its remoteness, we managed to live quite well, cooking rice and beans and tortillas and fishing in the ocean or buying fruit and vegetables from the locals. In the mornings, we walked 2 miles to a local finca to buy milk for my son’s cocoa and my cafe con leche. One Christmas, so long ago, when my family lived so simply, my son was given the following gifts – one rubber ball, some seashells and a book. I was thankful he was so excited about his gifts, because he had not been exposed to the constant commercials on television telling him that he needed some expensive toy or gadget.
My son is now grown, but to this day, we keep our holiday and birthday gift exchanges simple and meaningful. We find value in sharing experiences, like a trip or a nice meal instead of finding value in stuff. I admit that we have more things in our lives now than we did when living in Latin America, but we try to only buy quality things. Items that will last and can be used for a long time and can be recycled, upcycled or disposed of in ways that are not detrimental to the health of humans or the planet. Over the years, I’ve found that the more thoughtful I am about my purchases, the more I appreciate what I have and don’t feel the need to buy as much stuff. Here’s a few easy ways I’ve been to think beyond the consumer paradigm:
- Always ask yourself, do I need this or is this merely something I want but may not want in a few days?
- Is this something that will last and is made of high quality material?
- Is this item I am buying made sustainably?
- Will this item contribute to the plastic scourge polluting our waterways and our ocean?
- Is the item delivered in packaging that is a waste of resources and contributes to the trash stream?
I am hoping to see you at one of our sites on Coastal Cleanup Day on September 21st where we will pick up tons of trash on our shoreline. I am also hoping that you will consider where and why this trash gets into our ocean and Bay in the first place. We can all help make trash extinct by purchasing less stuff so that it won’t end up in next year’s trash.