On Minimalism by Ivy Helman

untitledOne of the concerns of ecofeminism is the modern materialistic mindset of capitalism. Materialism in capitalism instills not just owning many possessions, but it also inculcates the “need” to own the newest innovation. In addition, materialism advocates a throw-it-away mentality. In other words, it is often cheaper to buy a new shirt or computer than to have them repaired. Similarly, it is not enough to have a cell phone. Rather, one must have the newest and best one! The environment pays the price.

One attempt to deny the hold of materialism is minimalism. The minimalist movement seems to run the spectrum. From the ideals of less is more, there seems to be some competition between mindful consumerism and extreme self-denial. Mindful consumerism suggests that minimalism is a journey of recycling, reusing and repairing combined with well-researched, well-considered, as-ethically-produced-as-possible purchases when necessary. Extreme self-denial advocates owning almost no material possessions. While I strive toward mindful consumerism, I have serious concerns about extreme minimalism. Continue reading “On Minimalism by Ivy Helman”

Low Impact Giving as a Holiday Gift to Mother Earth by Elisabeth Schilling

BeachAs the winter months approach, at least one “Christmas” gathering will be on my schedule. As this holiday has been co-opted by consumerism as evidenced by my memory of the throngs of sales and shoppers in large shopping centers to get “the perfect gift,” I wonder how to give the perfect gift to Mother Earth simultaneously. At the December meeting of my local chapter of the Sierra Club, one of the members passed out a list of gift ideas for a “low-impact” season. Some of the items on the list include or have inspired the following:

Gift Coupons for Services – cleaning out a garage, taking care of someone’s kids for the day, a home-cooked meal for a family, showing someone how to set up composting, teaching someone to knit.

Memberships/Lessons – Yoga classes from a studio, membership to a museum or a gym, art lessons, music lessons.

Gift Basket of Sustainability-Minded Products for Cleaning/Bath  

Donations in Honor of Someone

I am sure many of us are already creative in our gift giving. So hopefully you will all comment and share your low-impact gift traditions. For those of us who haven’t quite transitioned or have never fully thought of pursuing this course of action, there can be some resistance encountered in those who receive low-impact gifts. Continue reading “Low Impact Giving as a Holiday Gift to Mother Earth by Elisabeth Schilling”

What I Learned (and Found) Dumpster Diving, Part I, by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

“I get that consumers generally prefer to buy produce that looks a certain way, but can the routine act of trashing whole bags of clementines, apples, or tomatoes because of a few imperfections be justified in a world that is full of hungry and malnourished people?”


Renowned climate change activist and author Bill McKibben spoke at our graduation earlier this year. Among the charges he gave to all of us in attendance (i.e., not just the graduates) was for us older folks to be willing to bear more of the possible “costs” of political activism. His reasoning was that being a 20-something with an arrest record was not a particularly good thing for young job-seekers today.

I was inspired. I thought to myself, “I have tenure, I work with colleagues who champion prophetic civil disobedience, and my class privilege would allow me to post bail if arrested.”

When chatting with a graduate that afternoon, I told him that I’d like to make good on something we once discussed in class during a session on the ethics of consumption—I’d like to go dumpster diving with him.

Mind you, I don’t fit the stereotypical urban scavenger profile (although middle class dumpster diving is on the rise). I grew up in a gated community, once brought my portable curling iron on a junior high church group camping trip, and today am more bourgeois than Bohemian. So what interest did I have in electively digging through garbage?

Continue reading “What I Learned (and Found) Dumpster Diving, Part I, by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

Should Our Children and Grandchildren Live Better Than Us? And Whatever Happened to Our Dreams? By Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ is a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement.  She teaches in the Women’s Spirituality program at CIIS and through Ariadne Institute offers Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions.

Last Sunday on Meet the Press Tom Brokaw spoke about the breakdown of what he felt had been a common consensus about American life. He said that Americans are questioning the American dream which tells us that “our children and grandchildren will live better than us.”  He found it disturbing that people now feel their children will not be better off than they were.  The poor no longer see a way out of poverty and the middle class fear that their children will be unemployed for long periods in their lives, burdened with college debt, and unable to afford mortgages and college educations for their children.  I have heard this idea expressed many times in the recent economic crisis, including by progressive journalist Adrianna Huffington.

What Brokaw and others do not mention is that a few generations ago, this American dream was the hope that one’s children would not live in poverty.  Now, for the middle class if this dream means anything, it means having a bigger house, more cars, $2000 suits, botox and plastic surgery, expensive vacations, weddings costing tens of thousands of dollars, store-bought Halloween costumes, and so many Christmas presents that children step on their new toys to get to the tree for more packages.  What Brokaw and others did not address is whether the desire for your children to have “more” than you had, once your family is out of poverty is a valid, good, or sustainable desire to have.  Of course we should all hope that our children and children’s children will find employment and not live in poverty, but an endless upward spiral cannot be sustained and there is no evidence that it makes anyone any happier. Continue reading “Should Our Children and Grandchildren Live Better Than Us? And Whatever Happened to Our Dreams? By Carol P. Christ”

Halloween Matters (Part II): An Immigrant Family, Christian, and Feminist Parenting Perspective by Grace Yia-Hei Kao


Halloween 2010

“[W]e have not gone the store-bought, costume-in-a-bag route, even though we recognize that the proliferation of ready-made options is a godsend to time-strapped, dual-career parents.”

This is a second part of a previous post about the shifting personal importance of Halloween.  Now that I’m a mother of two young boys, I find that my husband and I are constantly looking for teachable opportunities. The holidays have accordingly become excellent ways for us not only to spend quality time together, but also to impart our values. We manifest our commitments even in something as simple as costume choices, as I explain below.

(1)    We do not indulge the Manichean-like stage that our four-year old child is in. As befitting a boy his age, our primo is fascinated by superheroes and has asked on a number of occasions if he could be one for Halloween.

Continue reading “Halloween Matters (Part II): An Immigrant Family, Christian, and Feminist Parenting Perspective by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

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