Mariel trying out the walker; Photo: Francisco Collazo

A trip to the store to buy a walker for my daughter causes me to reflect upon my consumer habits.

A few weeks back, my husband and I realized that our six month old was ready to practice toddling on her sturdy little legs. No longer content to lie prone on the bed, and too heavy, at 20 pounds, to sit in the swinging chair, it was time to buy her a walker.

Off we went to Target.

If there’s anything to make you aware of your materialist consumerism, it’s having a baby. Even when you resist the prevailing parent marketing narrative that it’s necessary for you to buy all sorts of gadgets and doodads (an electric warmer for diaper wipes!), it’s true that the addition of a child to your family does occasion the need to make some purchases, mostly of items that will outlive their usefulness within a few weeks or, at best, a couple months.

The environmentalist guilt associated with this phenomenon is relieved, somewhat, by deciding that you’ll pass these items on as hand-me-downs rather than toss them to the curb, but still… as I look at the plastic Kolcraft walker taking up a quarter of our living room, I can’t help but wonder where it will eventually end up.

As someone who cares about the environment, I’m fascinated by people like Colin Beavan, aka No Impact Man, who try to live as impact-neutral an existence as they can. And I admire people like Taina, a 31 year old Vancouverite who has sworn off plastics for at least a year, and Matador’s own Dona Francis, who lives fridge free and is currently trying to pare down her inventory of personal goods to just 100 items.

I’d like to be like them, and really, I try to do my part. I take cloth bags to the grocery store, I buy local whenever possible, I let natural light replace light bulbs as much as it’s feasible. I recycle, I eat organic, and I try not to buy things I don’t need.

But it feels incredibly challenging to get even close to the kind of lifestyles Colin, Taina, and Dona are leading.

I’d love to know how you try to reduce your impact on the planet and what kinds of challenges you confront. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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