I don't have a smartphone. I have affection for my "dumb phone" (as I call it) that has the sliding keyboard. I have a computer at work, a laptop at home, and even a smaller laptop I use for travel. For now, I just don't need my email or my Facebook or games on my phone. And yet everyone these days seems to be telling me I "NEED" to get a smartphone.
When I was growing up, my sisters and I never, ever had a TV in our bedrooms. When I was driving a car, my two sisters and I shared one cell phone (which meant two of us were without it while the other had it), and it was only to be used in emergency situations. Depending on what we were doing, we had to decide who had priority in having the phone. We had just one family computer growing up. We didn't own a video game system. I'm not knocking the use of technology in homes--heck, I've embraced faster computers, larger TV screens, and telecommuting technology, and my husband loves his PlayStation. I don't think it's wrong for people to evolve with the times or enjoy what technology can do for us.
And yet...do people fully realize the price others pay when they are scrambling to get the latest iPhone (really, Apple, how many times a year do you have to put out a new phone?)? Do we fully understand how much waste is affecting our environment, and worse, how our constant demands and consumer culture are killing others?
While driving to work the other morning I heard a story on NPR about how electronic waste has spiked worldwide, and the U.S. is at the top of the list when it comes to dumping "high-tech trash."
After a conversation about this topic, my colleague sent me a link to a powerful, devastating video about war in Africa and how we are funding the violence. I realize it's the holiday season and many people are thinking about presents. Please, take a moment to reflect on all that you truly have, be honest about what you really, truly need, and shop smart.
Eve Ensler wrote this commentary in 2009 about the war on women in Congo, a war that is directly tied to "our role in plundering minerals." Four years have passed, and the violence remains.
There are many things you can do to be a better consumer, saving your money as well as saving the earth and helping our brothers and sisters in Africa and other countries that slave away for our pleasures and conveniences:
- Don't buy things because you want them. Buy things (stuff) when you need them.
- Don't throw out an old model just because a new one has come out. Get your money's worth! Use what you have until it runs out or until it's broken.
- Recycle and/or safely dispose of computers, TVs, batteries, lightbulbs, cell phones, and etc. Many Best Buy stores will recycle them, and some natural foods stores will also recycle batteries and light bulbs. Also, if something still works, give to Goodwill so that another family can get use out of your old TV or DVD player.
- Purchase fair trade coffee, chocolate, sugar, and etc. Look for labels that say they are fair trade certified. People in other countries deserve to receive a fair price for their work and their goods, and it's important that we work to try and identify which organizations, companies, and etc. don't take advantage of the labor that is available to them.
- Ask yourself if your eight-year-old really needs a cell phone. If you have multiple children, can they share a laptop or an iPod?
- Consider purchasing non-toxic toys for your children, or books to read, or a bicycle so they can go outside and enjoy fresh air and sunshine.
- Support local, small businesses when shopping for gifts, or shop in stores like Ten Thousand Villages where you can find unique, hand-made gifts from around the world.