Feb 25, 2007

iPod Again

I got a lot of feedback on my iPod panic attack, so here's a response to some of those comments. We got some references for some articles on the subject. So google "Michael Bull, iconic designs" and "Ferguson, "anti ipod" for some perspectives that aren't mine.

I'm fortunate enough to be exposed to a lot of fabulous music (my best friend/housemate is a musician and SF has a great music scene. NOISE POP starts tonight!). Music is important to me, it's art. It's an aspect of our culture that I'm relishing as a Compactor. It also offers a way to relate to cultures that are not my own.

iSolation is a definite issue w/ the iPod. During 4 years of bus riding, I never used headphones b/c I thought it detracted from the experience, isolated me from other folks. I see nothing more isolating than the majority of our society piling into personal vehicles every day to get to work and school. And while my friends and family hate that I use my iPod while cycling, that's mostly when I use it. And I can still talk to the cyclists I pass or meet at lights. (If you want to go off on me about this, then you should consider whether you drive while on your cellphone or eating, or whatever. If you cycle, bus it, or hoof it, you can scold me if you must.)

We have a boombox at home that we found on the street, but it doesn't even play cds. We use it to connect to our laptops for dvd watching as we have no TV, no DVD player. We use an iPod through our 8 year old computer speakers as our in home stereo system. I relay this in response to the "you own your stuff, your stuff doesn't own you" concept. It's a great discussion point. I avoid the latter paradigm, in part, by not personifying inanimate objects. ;)

Personally, I appreciate that I can download music and not buy cd's w/ all that packaging. I don't appreciate the massive marketing campaign that Apple has sustained to promote the iPod. It's annoying and wasteful, but I find that the device itself is probably a good tool for reduction in the environmental respect. Planned obsolesence is disgusting as well. But with enough pressure from consumers, Apple is now selling refurbished iPods and replacing the batteries for a flat fee. Yep, the waste is still high, but they're moving in the right direction.

Buying a used iPod does not necessitate that someone else buys a new one. By that logic, we shouldn't ever buy anything used. If there's a point in my lifetime that I can't live so modernly on used goods, then so be it. However, we're not even close to that scenario. And if that is somehow desireable -not sure that it is- I don't think we'll get there by living in denial of technology and modernity. That scares people, it doesn't make reducing your consumption look easy. It makes it seem scary and impractical (to most folks).

My iPod is 3 1/2 years old. If it died or disappeared, you'd find me with one refurbished or used from Craigslist within days. I'm moving to London for a year and I'm not taking a cd collection. I am taking about 40 GB of music on a 10 GB iPod and an external hard drive (which I got used on Craigslist last year, perfect condition).

Feb 20, 2007

This Saturday is the Really Really Free Market

If you're in the Bay Area, this Saturday is the monthly Really Really Free Market (sf_rrfm.org). Bring some stuff to give away, even food is ok. We'll be at the park at City Hall between Larkin and Polk, McAllister and Grove from 12-4. It's a great way to meet like minded folks, get rid of some stuff, find something you need.

Feb 19, 2007

Article of the Week!

So I gave you all more than a week, mostly because I loaned that Ropke article to a friend who's getting a Master's in Econ. But the "willingness to consume" article was super interesting, kinda hard to recap w/o it in front of me, but here's a bit:
The article breaks the analysis of consumerism into three spheres: economic, social, and historical. The societal discussion focuses on the micro issues and is probably most interesting to Compactors.

One interesting question posed was this: "Why have we used increased income to pursue materials intensive goods rather than leisure time or service intensive goods?" One of a few answers includes that culturally we've taken to individualism. We rarely live with extended families, each child has his/her own room. Houses are larger now and holding fewer people. And we want to express our individuality through stuff. (I loathe this aspect of consumerism. Tell me how a mass produced t shirt w/ an ironic saying on it is individuality.) Household gadgets have made things easier to get clean, but our standard of cleanliness has shot through the roof so we spend just as much time cleaning as ever.
Really interesting stuff. Again, hard to recap w/o it in front of me.

Next article is "Affecting Durable Change: A Team Approach to Improve Environmental Behavior in the Household". This is by Staats, Harland, and Wilke in Environment and Behavior, Vol 36, No. 3, May 2004. I'm almost finished w/ it and it's very relevant to the Compact.

And check out our new links for Iceland, Vancouver, Sydney, and Nashville to the right!

Feb 14, 2007

Impacts of Shipping

This question was put through on one of the comments and it's a great one. "Is getting an item shipped to you (used from eBay, possibly from far away) more environmentally friendly than buying a new one from nearby?"

My guess is that in many cases it is, but in some it's not. Some things to consider would be, the distance the package goes and its weight/bulk. Also consider the life expectancy of the product: How long will you use it. Can you find it used locally? (I'm assuming no, in this question.)

I'll admit, I've never bought anything from Ebay. But I did by textbooks from Half.com one semester. I was totally annoyed with all of the packaging I had to throw away afterwards. For regular used books, definitely go to a local used bookstore, when possible.

But, there are some benefits that come with not buying it new, even if you have to ship it.
1. The item didn't go to landfill.
2. You did not incite the production of a replacement item for store shelves.
3. Which also means you did not incite the extraction of whatever resources go into it or the shipping of those resources to a manufacturing plant.
4. Or the packaging of the item for sale.
5. Or the shipping of the item from the manufactorer to the store.
6. You did not support the advertising and marketing of this item or the store from which you bought it. (most important for the big box corporations)

So consider the item. I wouldn't buy a used bike on Ebay. I could, but I'd rather buy one (used) locally, even if it meant I had to buy a new component or two to make it work for me. Better choice based on weight/bulk. Buy any new components from a local shop or try to acquire used as well.
But my roommate bought some odd electronic device that was super light weight from mid-America. Minimal packaging. Seemed like a good decision over CompUSA.
And I think you can contact the shippers, ask them to re-use packaging to minimize the impact, when possible.

Feb 11, 2007

Compacting Companion Animals

Ok, you've figured it out, I'm an animal lover and this is a common theme. I realize that it might not apply to everyone and some folks may find it redundant, but it's really important to me.
Dog breeding and buying is not Compact friendly.
Yeah, we all make our own rules, but geeze! Dog breeding, really? I won't go into all the resources that requires. Instead, just consider all of the resources it requires to capture, house, and euthanize 8-10 million U.S. dogs annually. Consider that 30% of shelter dogs are purebred and that there are breed specific rescues if you're set on some specific type of dog.
As dog guardianship has exploded in popularity in cities like San Francisco, this has become an issue of importance for dog handlers and folks who do not have dogs. Local governments spend over $2 billion each year on this problem.
Consumerism around this "market" of companion animal guardians is rampant. It's a billion dollar industry with Louis Vitton collars, squeaky toys shaped like George Bush, the Jumbone (a candy bar for dogs), Icy Paws (ice cream for dogs), Miracle Wipes (single use wipes for your dog), fashion t-shirts, and Halloween costumes.
I love dogs and cats (and horses, goats, pigs, etc) and I bought into this crap for awhile - to the extent that I could afford cat glamour items. But in an era of resource depletion, you'll find stalwart Compact allies in your shelter dogs and cats, who couldn't give a hoot who designed their matching leash and collar.

Feb 7, 2007

My iPod Panic Attack

Today I nearly lost my mind trying to figure out how I was going to replace my iPod. I left my dentist, headed to the pharmacy, dropped by a cafe while I waited for my prescription. When I was ready to climb back onto my bike for the trek home, I realized that my 3.5 year old iPod was missing.
I ran back to the pharmacy drop off window: No iPod. I shuffled everything in my bag (rainboots, rain pants, datebook, consumption article): No iPod. Called my dentist: No iPod, but the headphones were apparently in my ears when I left. Shuffled everything in my bag, took it all out, turned out my pockets: No iPod. Started thinking about Craigslist, bad batteries, and the number of GB I'd want in my new (used) iPod. Rode my bike to the cafe: No iPod. Started to doubt the quality of Craigslist iPods. Fretted over needing to buy a new one. Rode back to the pharmacy, got in the line at the pick up window to inquire as to my iPod. Shuffled through the bag again... reached into my rainboots... Alas, there's my iPod!
Yay, I still have my (relatively) ancient iPod! As always, it was lost on my person. Clearly I am far from the simple mind (lol Supriyo) and still rife w/ materialism. Right now I don't care b/c I still have 10GB of music to haul around w/ me.

Feb 6, 2007

Article of the Week

I started looking for the reading material I'll need if I go to a particular grad program this fall and I'm thinking we should have a reading club. There's a course on consumption and sustainability so I've run into several articles that are pertinent to Compacting.
I'm starting with "The dynamics of the willingness to consume" by Inge Ropke. You can find that in Ecological Economics 28 (1999) 399-420. If you like this sort of reading, check it out and lemme know what you think.

We have Washington and Iowa groups now! That list to the right just keeps growing.

I did some filming this weekend with super cool, independent film maker Miguel and journalist, Elsa (with spaghetti, the cat lending crucial support). So perhaps there's a short about the Compact coming to Current TV some day. You should check out the film that Miguel has on Current TV right now. It's about the role of Mexican laborers in the post Katrina cleanup of New Orleans. http://www.current.tv/watch/13668390