Pollution Agency Tells Minnesotans to Stop Buying Stuff

If there were such a thing as environmental justice, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency would cease and desist from distributing the taxpayer-funded Living Green 365 monthly newsletterlist

Did you make a resolution for the New Year? Was it to buy lots of new stuff, online or otherwise? (Didn’t think so.)

We’ve got a hunch, dear Living Green 365 reader, that your hopes for 2017 include keeping our air and water clean, and not using up finite natural resources. Those are big goals. Psychologists suggest that people keep the big ideas of their resolutions in mind, but break them down into manageable steps they can tackle through the year.

It’s a tip sheet on how to reduce your environmental footprint and culpability as a participant in the economy. Bottom line: If you’re considering buying something, anything – DON’T! Even power tools and kids’ toys come under the state agency’s scrutiny.

Let’s start with reusing a little more. According to one poll, 91% of Americans think the way we live produces too much waste. Even the greenest among us have room to improve when it comes to our consumption patterns.

The idea here is easy – keep what we have longer, get what we need by borrowing or buying secondhand, and not end up burdened with the kind of stuff that makes us feel both cluttered and empty.

Fortunately the Living Green 365 team understands it’s tough to break the consumption habit, especially with on-line shopping just a click away. So there’s a handy list of ways to help you change into the un-consumer they want you to be. The team comes across as a little preachy, but what do you expect from the nanny state?

Practice gratitude for what you have. The first step to keeping things longer is to value them. Be mindful and grateful for an item, and you will find it easier to treasure. (The science of happiness says that happy people are grateful for what they have, and don’t compare themselves to others.)

Treasure meaningful things. Do you remember that mug from your grandfather’s workshop? That’s meaningful. Why get a generic new mug to replace the one that reminds you of your grandpa?

Try something simple, like sticking a post-it that says “nature is here” on a closet door.  Everything in that closet is a little bit of nature – it’s mined out of a mountain, or grown from a plant or animal, made with energy from oil, sun, or wind, and with the labor of a real person somewhere.If you can envision the mountain, the plant, the animal, the person, you might find yourself holding onto that sweater fondly and not feeling the pull for another.

Use it often. The more you use something, the more it becomes deeply yours. Me? I’ve been using the same glass, mug, bowl, and plate at work for 8 years. Each has a story. Don’t need any others, I reuse these every day.logo

My favorite tip is the behavior modification technique to tame the “buy it new, buy it now” urges of more impulsive Minnesotans.

Take a photo instead of buying.  We are hard-wired to respond to novelty. But that buzz of having a new thing wears off after just a few days and we often regret we spent the money. Next time you’re tempted, try taking a photo of the thing that caught your eye. Look at the photo enough times and the novelty might wear off. You may find you no longer “have to have” it.

Come to think of it, readers may reach the same conclusion about the Living Green 365 newsletter. As the Living Green 365 team says, look at something “enough times and the novelty might wear off. You may find you no longer ‘have to have it.'”