Sustainable Shopping

The Difference Between Needing and Wanting

Now a college graduate and soon to be Massachusetts resident, I have begun to consider the magnitude of my transition. Moving to a new place, to a new apartment, with new people, scares me. My comfortable college home so quickly evaded me that I barely had time to say goodbye, forcing me to look toward my professional career–and my first official move.

“Man, I need a lot of new things,” I remember thinking, shortly after accepting my position. “How do I furnish an unfurnished apartment?”

This thought process, though not entirely uncommon, led me evaluate my roll as an American consumer. Do I really need towels of every size and knives for every occasion? Do I really need a blender and a coffee maker and a set of color-coordinated mixing bowls? Or do these items simply represent convenient purchases, a way to fulfill a “first apartment essentials” checklist?

Perhaps my frustration with American consumerism is interfering with my judgement. Yes, if I were a coffee drinker, a coffee machine would warrant a place on my counter. And yes, a knife collection would make meal preparation more seamless. But as I sort through my checklist, I cannot help but wonder if somewhere, in this twisted system of over-buying, we have misconstrued the difference between needing and wanting, between essential and convenient. What’s the difference?

I see needed purchases as do-or-die items. I need a roof above my head for protection; I need basic cooking supplies to cook meals; I need clothes to cover my body. But I do not need a 46-inch TV or a Bluetooth Phone dock. These items are not wrongful purchases, by any means, though they teach us that we use the word “need” too often and “want” not enough. No, I don’t “need” lots of things before I move. I will survive without a comfortable couch or an LED TV. But responsibly and sustainably, I want to live a simple life, allowing a balance of purchases to shape my new apartment. I won’t “need” everything I buy; but I will distinguish the difference, ensuring that my wants do not become needs.

“Are these things really better than the things I already have? Or am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?” (Chuck Palahniuk)

Farmers and Food

This way to the Farm Stand

We’ve finally made it through the colder months, when CSAs and farmer’s markets offer trimmed-down selections and dimmer colors. Now in the heart of spring, local farmers offer a renewed selection, driving local connoisseurs from miles away. What do you appreciate most about local eating? What items do you refuse to buy at the store?

Farm MarketI recently stumbled across, a website that offers a local search for CSAs, farmer’s markets, Co-ops and all things local eating. I will soon be relocating to Quincy, Massachusetts, and was blown away by the detailed results LocalHarvest offered. I now have a personal collection of sites, addresses, ratings and offerings, all waiting for my arrival. Even in my own area, I noticed a number of locations that flew under my radar, opening up dozens of new possibilities.

Currently a LocalHarvest user? How has the site enabled you to eat locally?

Check out LocalHarvest here:

Photo courtesy of Michigan State University