Embracing the irony. Kinda

My life might be about embracing “nothing,” but my work at the newspaper doesn’t always reflect that.

You can’t sell zero waste or minimalism. I mean, you can, as corporations and advertisers have proven. But both of these movements really hinge on not consuming, or consuming less. There’s no money in that for businesses, including newspapers. We need advertisers to pay for the production of our paper and yes, that includes my salary. And you’re never going to see an advertisement that says, hey, you know what? Just make do with what you have. You’re fine.

That’s what we get for living in a consumer-driven economy, I suppose.

Well, this is about the cutest shopping picture ever. Thanks, public domain images!

Well, this is about the cutest shopping picture ever. Thanks, public domain images!

Anyway, all of that is just to say that I’ve been busy working on stories for the paper’s upcoming gift guide. It’s basically one big advertisement under the guise of “shopping locally.” I can’t say I really enjoy these assignments anyway — more work, no time, etc. — but this year it seems particularly ironic.

Because I’m working on a zero waste project. Because shopping isn’t very zero waste. Because I’m a minimalist.  Because my own gift list is so tiny. Because I don’t even like to shop.

I mean, if I had a choice, I’d write about the gift ideas we’ve come up with here: DIY products, goodies, secondhand stuff. Things you can create at home and away from the crowds. Zero waste wrapping. Coffee! Actually, never mind, one of my stories really is about coffee. For some reason my editor thought that would be a good fit for me. Huh, I wonder why?

Instead, I’m writing about the exact opposite of that. More is more, here’s what’s hot right now, everyone needs one of these! Get one for your list and one for yourself! We’ve got stuff for every budget!

It makes me feel a bit smarmy.

It’s not all terrible, though. The writing style is more relaxed, so that’s fun. I found some hilarious socks by a company that donates a portion of its proceeds to Doctors Without Boarders — the girls are getting those in their stockings. And there are a surprising number of items that are both reusable and eco-friendly. I wasn’t expecting that.

It would be interesting to be a zero waster pursuing another profession — I wonder if that would make it easier or harder to accomplish a more unified work / life balance? — but the truth is that I really love what I do and don’t want to do anything else. I guess the good news is that my work and my life aren’t always this out of sync. Or maybe I just hope the blog makes up for it. 😉

Next up: Too much self-reflection! Friday’s post will be something fun. Um, fun-ish, let’s not oversell it.

6 Responses to Embracing the irony. Kinda

  1. About gift guides…

    I’m busy making my Christmas request lists to give to family, something we always do to give others ideas for what we’d like to receive. I’m struggling a little because in some ways I want to receive less, but also struggling to find items that would come sans packaging, since of course with sellers like Amazon that’s hard to achieve.

    What I want to say in favor of gift guides, though, is that you can look at them positively. People are going to give gifts if they want to. Even I wouldn’t dispense with that tradition, because it’s about the fun of giving as much as anything. We have family overseas and they really WANT to give us nice gifts in lieu of being together. Giving them ideas for good presents – eco-friendly presents, useful presents, good quality items that will have a purposeful place in the home, consumables – is actually a kindness because it enables eager gift-givers to give good gifts that will be appreciated. So while I’m compiling my list of ‘wants’, and wondering how to communicate my desire for gifts that aren’t wasteful, I’m trying to look at it as a beneficial project because I am showing respect for their desire to express love through gift-giving, and doing the legwork of finding options that fit with my preferences.

    I think a gift guide that prioritised ethical or local shopping would be great. It’s not saying, ‘Hey, you thought you were fine, but we’re telling you to buy all this stuff instead!’ It’s saying, ‘You’re going to buy SOMETHING regardless, so here are ideas for really good things to buy!’

    • I was complaining about it to my mom recently, and she said she likes gift guides, too. Maybe I’m just being a whiner? Yours is a much nicer way of looking at them … but publications like this are always about making advertisers happy (can I even say that out loud?) more than anything else. Although not all of the stores we write about buy ads, now that I think about it.

      But this does make me feel better. I have found some fun things to share, not all locally made, but at least locally available. I’ve even found some stuff that would make a great zero waste starter kit — a market basket, fun bottles and cloths, etc.

  2. This post rang so true with me. I too strive to be more of a minimalist and to reduce my waste. Yet I am a merchandiser. I create displays and an environment to make shoppers buy things that they did not need. I try to separate my work from my personal life but it can be hard.

    • Yes! Usually it’s pretty easy for me to keep it separate — after all, I’m just there to report, and what I think matters very little. It’s just sometimes the irony is greater than others. Your job sounds like it would be pretty creative and fun. But yeah, sing it, sister — I know!

  3. You’re uncomfortness about writing about shopping when you’re kind of against it is understandable. Although, being a journalist, is it not your job to be critical, researchive and question society? So question why we buy so many gifts, the social aspects, the ethical aspects. How can we so joyfully buy gifts and at the same time neglect the negative impact overconsumption has on society? And then offer better solutions for the gift-giving problematic. It is after all your power as a journalist to impact people’s way of seeing the world, and I think you can contribute positively to it, with a humourous twist but still making people reflect on the overconsumption in our society. Good luck with the articles!

    • Well, yes and no. As a reporter, my duty is to shed light on all sides of a story (although let’s be honest, I’m primarily a features writer, there’s not a lot of light to shed), and if I were writing a story about why we feel the need to buy stuff during the holidays in one of our regular editions, that would be one thing. The problem with the gift guide is that it’s not THAT kind of a publication.

      But you’re absolutely right, I could have proposed a couple different ideas that would have both satisfied the spirit of the thing AND been closer to my own personal value system, like eco-friendly gift ideas or charities that need a boost. I wish I’d have thought of that sooner. Next year!

      (Although writing about coffee is not the worst.)

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