September 4, 2020

The Pandemic ended my Days as a Mindless, Impulsive Consumer (& You can Do it Too).

Aren’t we all restless and rued after several months of living in isolation?

Quite like living on Mars, right? Except for being spared the hardship of the trip itself, and the dreadful prospect of a one-way trip.

Life will soon be normal. The reset button is working in slow motion with life morphing its way back from its temporary three-toed sloth personality. It won’t take long to return to its cheetah speed.

But, hey, do we really want life to be that fast again?

If money wasn’t a problem, wouldn’t we enjoy the slowness of things? The unhurried mornings, more time in the backyard, and less chances of getting in a car accident. I mean, I am never in fear of being late for something, just fearing I’d miss a flight. I can’t remember the last time I was stuck in traffic. Maybe in 2019? Ah, that seems like eons back in time.

Now, air pollution is low, but PPE and single-use items have skyrocketed—filling up landfills and littering the earth.

Is this pandemic a time-out the Earth is giving us?

As a student, I was always cautious to avoid those uncomfortable moments; one time-out used to be enough to teach me a lesson for life.

This subtle message of the pandemic made me wonder, to avoid the next time-out, what can I do differently?

And in my mind popped up a whole bunch of R’s that have been guiding my life now.

Can you guess how many R’s I have in my life, greening up my habits and thinking?

Looking back on my life, I realize that Reduce, Reuse, Repair, and Restore were always there with me as a family culture of living on less. I hadn’t ever consciously thought of them as “green” habits. I thought they were restraints, unleashed by habit to serve as money-savers and fewer errand-runs for lazy me in shopping malls.

I still find every item on the shelves craving to be added to the cart. “You need me,” they all seemed to scream. And all the rat-marathon sign-up sheets began to come with it.

During this pandemic, I knew it was time to retrace my way back and reconnect to those lifelong family habits. But, it took some plain rewiring of my brain to step up and take care of things.

Most “needs” show their true personality and admit to being spare-worthy “wants.” This huge mindset change definitely called for a lot of resilience. I could hear a resistance in my own mind, from old mind conditioning.

But, little by little, life began to change.

I started doing many grandma-kind of things: like switching to bar shampoo, or using one soap for every purpose—body wash, shampoo, hand wash, and face wash. Specific-purpose soaps are just a marketing ploy and a slight tweak of phthalates and surfactants. If I purchased liquid soaps, they had to be free and clear, and without guilt. Essential oils and some fresh flowers added charm to my home.

I was stitching torn clothes, and fixing little things.

But, many worry if a shift like this will make the United States economy go down like a house of cards.

Hmm, not so easy. It’s time to refurbish the Adam Smith driven economy of “more production means more growth and money.” I’m becoming more of a reoriented consumer; I’m buying from alternative markets, and not storing all my money in secret holes in the wall.

I began respecting the reason behind these changes—plain garbage looked like a bag of resources to make something else. It’s not waste, I told myself. Garbage dwindled to a few ounces each week, fitting in a tiny pouch.

Restructuring started with reducing. I focused on “needs” and what kind of plastic these “needs” were packaged in. I began to see plastic ingredients in the “needs,” too. Yikes! Reducing further was the only way to go.

I began to refuse what didn’t serve multiple purposes in my life.

I went vegetarian 10 years ago. A trip to the farmer’s market or an order from Imperfect Foods sliced down my water, chemical, and plastic footprint.

Next came resisting: the drinking straw and Styrofoam obsession of the modern world became my sworn enemies at the war front, along with all their single-use cousins.

Then came the fragrances, room fresheners, and all other aerosol items. Harsh household cleaners, chemical hair dyes, and perfumes were shown the door.

I felt more recharged than ever before without the couple hundred chemicals that mimic spring freshness floating in the air.

Whatever I couldn’t keep from coming into the house was constantly spiraling back to my reuse habits. Cookie boxes became business cards; silica gel pouches that came with my medicine bottles go into my husband’s camera bags and the back of the medicine chest to keep the air bone-dry.

Start small, and little by little, life will began to change.


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Balaka B. Ghosal  |  Contribution: 225

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