Friday, April 24, 2015


A gleeful grandmother was telling me this weekend about the birthday gift she just bought for her 4-year old granddaughter. She described it as a parent's nightmare gift. It was a singing Elsa dress. I totally agree with her description.

But it is more than the noise the dress creates.  It’s so many other things. 

It’s the buy-in with a Disney character. What, this child can only pretend to be Elsa in this dress? It’s the singing. What’s wrong with the child singing? It’s the batteries. Seriously, a dress needs batteries? It’s the plastic. How was this dress made? Why did we need to drill oil to make this dress? It’s the sweatshop. Who made this dress? What are their living conditions? Why did this dress need to be made in a far-away country and then shipped across the ocean? The more I thought about it, the more I hated this dress, too.

How much of the rest of our material lives do we not think about?  How often do we have blinders on about the consumer choices we make?

We drink our morning cup of coffee without thinking about the forests that have been cut down to grow the coffee plants. We don't think about the laborers on the plantation who are struggling for low wages. We don’t think about the diesel fuel used to move the coffee from the plantation to our cupboard and the packaging required for us to buy it at the store.

We put our dirty coffee mug into a dishwasher, not thinking about what resources were used to build that dishwasher and install it into our home. The metal had to be mined, the plastic parts had to be made from oil, the electricity and water have to be used to run it. There are 65 dishwashers in my building. Or worse yet, we toss our “disposable” coffee cup in the trash can. What about the resources to make that cup? Where does the trash go? 

Every day, we are bombarded with choices about what we buy. Granted, a four year birthday comes only once per child and this grandmother wanted to make a big impression, but why is this kind of gift not only acceptable, but lauded? Do we think? Or do we just buy what Disney tells us to buy? 

It’s Earth Day week month year. Let’s think about what we consume. All the bits.