Saturday, May 9, 2009
Conspicuous Waste and Consumption
I would like to address the consumption issue I have with food when it comes to going to the grocery store. All of my life I have traveled with my mother to the store and the amount of food we always bought was simple-enough for the two of us. However, after four years of being in college I still go to the grocery store and buy enough food for two people, myself and myself. This often leads to grocery bills of at least eighty dollars a week and I often end up trashing most of the food, from produce which spoils semi-quickly to canned food which may take a year or more because in that length of time I have not touched the product once, but I have definitely bought more when they were on sale. If you were to look in my pantry, which is always bursting with food, the majority of the items there may or may not be expired already, yet I simply keep them there to keep me from buying more. My mother is the same way and even though I no longer live there, she buys an enormous amount of food that half of which never gets touched. Whenever I go home I end up cleaning up the kitchen because I will find piles of produce, some of which will get moldy but because it is under fresh produce, it is never seen.
On the topic of consumption, Yuniya Kawamura in Fashion-ology points out how Veblen expresses “the modes of pecuniary taste under three headings, conspicuous consumption, conspicuous waste and conspicuous leisure…Conspicuous consumption is for the purpose of impressing others and society at large, and the mere demonstration of purchasing power is the simplest device of fashion. Conspicuous waste is similar to conspicuous consumption. One can demonstrate one’s superior wealth by giving away or destroying one’s possessions” (97). Although there may be an underlying pecuniary reason behind the way my mother and I shop at the grocery store, I do not think we consciously realize or intend for this to occur. Nevertheless, conspicuous waste is not a way to be green and thus to combat this, I have been trying to make less trips to the grocery store-once every two weeks or so and use the canned items I already have. The problem is my beliefs can be deemed as those of a survivalist, where I am constantly in fear of running out of food because if our grocery stores ever stopped being stocked, it is estimated that within a week they would be completely out of food and riots would start since the average household only has enough food to last a week, if that.
Nonetheless, websites such as StillTasty.com have always helped me because they let us know “How Long will your favorite food and beverage stay safe and tasty? What’s the best way to store it?”
ABC7 had a Living Green special about reusing food which I thought was a good idea. Of course they are looking at it from a money perspective too which we all appreciate, but here is the link. One of my goals on this compact challenge is to ‘go back to the basics’ and expand my creativeness with food so that I do not consume and waste as much.
Also, a piece of information for those who do not know, if you take the Plant Science 5 class, the Plants, Gardens, Orchards and Land, students will plant their own seventy five foot long garden (which is a wonderful experience) at the beginning of the quarter and after a certain date, the instructor opens up the field to the Davis community to pick whatever they want. It should be sometime in June, but maybe contacting Professor Marrush would give you a more accurate idea. Some of the produce may be overdone, but others may be ready to be picked and it is free food. Another good way to reduce buying more products at the store when you could simply pick it yourself before they reset the fields.
Kawamura, Yuniya. Fashion-ology An Introduction to Fashion Studies. New York: Berg, 2005.