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Empire State building

The new Worldwatch State of the World report is out, and a couple of facts leap off the page: Humanity is extracting the equivalent of 112 Empire State Buildings worth of resources from the Earth every day and the average American is consuming 194 pounds of that total daily -- more than most of us weigh! Every day? That popping sound you just heard was my brain bubbling while I tried to wrap my head around what this means. Here's where I landed: We all want things for our families, and consumption is a natural impulse. But we need to figure out a way for everyone to "consume" without devouring the planet.

Some of that will involve reorienting our cultural desires so that we value things that aren't things, i.e. time spent talking or hiking with our families instead of time spent shopping. In other cases, we'll need to re-engineer our goods and services. But while we work it out, what do we do about those 112 Empire State Buildings? One thing we can do is borrow rather than buy. When I needed to drill through a metal door to replace its insulating seal last fall, I didn't buy a set of metal drill bits, I borrowed them from my neighbor. Money was saved, and resources, too. When it comes to things we need only rarely or just once, or things that we need but outgrow quickly -- tools, children's clothing -- we should think loanership not ownership.

We should also follow the old Yankee axiom to "fix it up and wear it out, make it do or do without." When something breaks, we should try to fix what we've got instead of starting over. Buying a new widget may seem the cheaper route to take, and it often is on paper, but when you consider all the hidden costs (like those 112 skyscrapers), we're paying a lot more than we think. Repair and restore should be the mantra we chant as we step away from the shopping cart. Now I'll toss it over to you, Nation members...What are the strategies you use to consume less and protect your planet home? photo: Eric Mayville


Geoff the Inkslinger and his Dog

The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds!