This week we’ve been focusing on the non-produce products that we buy, and I thought it would be a difficult week to do that because I’ve been back in the UK. Normally a visit to the UK from Kosovo brings out the materialist in me. It is true that Kosovo does have a rising culture of consumerism, with malls opening on the edges of Pristina recently, where young girls hang out at weekends, running their fingers along the hangers of clothes and staring with cupidity into brightly crowded shop windows. Shopping – conspicious consumption – is becoming a leisure pursuit in Kosovo, but the range of consumables available will never compare with London. There are options, but usually it comes down to a choice between the Slovenian or the Turkish. (Strange racisms surface when you are negotiating the trade crossroads of the world. When we were choosing our first house in Pristina, one landlord proudly opened every cupboard door in the kitchen, pronouncing ‘Slovenian plastic!’ approvingly. We moved into the other house, with the wooden kitchen).
So sometimes on visits back to London I go to John Lewis, just to stare. I buy things I don’t need, just because they’re pretty (I frequently rationalise these as gifts to other people, but I know that doesn’t make them gifts to the planet that they will eventually litter). And this week I’ve been keeping track of what these things are.
Well, listmaking is a cold shower on lust of any kind. You can’t dawdle along Oxford Street and stare, and hold out a hand just to feel some fabric, play with the light that gleams on a trinket, tease yourself with the infinite pointless possibilities of a kitchen gadget, while your inner statistician stands with biro poised on clipboard to take notes. So maybe that’s why. Or maybe I’ve learned some lessons – from the process of doing this Energy Diet and elsewhere. Because this is the total list of non-produce products I’ve bought this week:
*book (and this was a gift to someone, which I didn’t buy wrapping paper for, instead wrapping it in a kind of funky old paper bag with string handles).
I’m not sure whether there’s an environmentally-friendly alternative to a hole punch? I bought metal rather than plastic and errrmmm… But the tea infusers I’m really proud of. I have a nice selection of (locally produced) ‘mountain tea’ which is mainly marjoram and chamomile picked in the highlands of Kosovo. Unfortunately I don’t have an infuser or tea strainer so that’s what I set out to buy today. Not for me the high-carbon-footprint metal ones, though. I found paper fill-em-yourself teabags. Biodegradable and everything. I think you’ll agree that’s a green solution to a green tea problem?
So I’m generally feeling pretty pleased with my consumption. Perhaps I’m on the way to mastering the haRdest R of the three – the need to Reduce as well as Reuse and Recycle.
And since I don’t have much to report from my shopping trips, I thought I’d use up the remaining space on this week’s blogpost with a Reuse idea that National Geographic might consider. Ex-pat friends of mine in Kosovo often talk about bringing back presents for young people they’ve befriended in Kosovo. They look for something educational that transcends cultural and linguistic barriers, that isn’t available in Kosovo. It’s tricky. But frequently a great solution is the National Geographic magazine. With the fabulous photographs that speak for themselves on topics that literally expand the horizons of the reader, the National Geographic magazine is a great unit of barter internationally. And of course the stories are relevant for many years after they are published, so secondhand National Geographics can be just as prized. There must be millions – billions? – of secondhand National Geographics sitting unread in middle-class living rooms, or thrown out in retirees’ downsizing, cleared out to make room when the study is converted into the gym. One ex-pat in Pristina suggested to me a few months ago that someone should set up a transfer system where you can take in your old magazine, like you can with old electrical appliances, to the shop where you bought it, in the knowledge that it will be carefully rehomed. Kosovo could end up being one of those homes (as could educational establishments around the US and the UK, for example) and a whole new readership could benefit from the insights and inspiration of the magazine.
You can see I have the zeal of the convert. When you’ve self-improved yourself to only 3 non-consumable purchases in a week, and those all environmentally tolerable, you start trying to change others. It’s contagious, this energy diet – beware!