Tag Archives: finance

“I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas”

Here is a post by a guest blogger: my sister, Emily Horton.  She recently took a course called “Master Recycler Program” from a local agency aiming to maximize sustainability in the Eugene/Springfield area of Oregon.  After having taken the course, she tells me that she feels her life has new direction and purpose as she seeks to implement some of the ideas and strategies she has learned.

As “pay back” for the class, students are required to fulfill a certain amount of volunteer work.  She wants to develop presentations to give in local classrooms and also to publish some of her ideas and experiences.  

She welcomes any comments and feedback you have on her article!

“I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas”

With Christmas looming right around the corner and three young children to consider, I am beginning to brainstorm my holiday plan.  When I think back to Christmases past, I see visions of trashbags full of plastic packaging dancing in my head.  In the Lane County Waste Management Master Recycler Program, I learned it’s okay that I can’t afford all the gizmos and hoopla our consumer-based culture has come to expect from the holidays: Mother Earth can’t afford it either.  And so I sit in the November rain, pondering how to make this season go easy on the Earth and my pocketbook, but heavy on the festivities.

Such an outcome is possible if we use the Green Triangle.  Ernest Callenbach developed the Green Triangle as a way to visualize the connection between our personal well-being, the health of our planet and our economy.  Picture a triangle with each point representing one of the aforementioned factors.  Every decision we make, everything we buy affects all three points in a similar way.

So when we choose to clean our yard with a rake instead of a leafblower, we positively affect our personal health with exercise, our earth’s health with a zero-emissions human-powered tool, and our financial health with a one-time, low-cost investment and no additional fuel or tune-ups required.  When we make a decision that is responsible and positive for the earth, we positively affect our health, and definitely save money.

Now to take the Green Triangle theory and apply it to my holiday dilemma.  Our family’s main holiday priority is making happy memories for the kids and infusing the season with meaning.  In addition to the Eugene Register-Guard, I check the Eugene Weekly and Oregon Family Newsletter for free or low-cost family events in the area.  Our favorites become annual traditions, like the free live nativity at Herrick’s Farm and the open house at Heceta Head Lighthouse.

While we try not to focus on gifts, we do like to spoil the kids a little at Christmas.  In years past we spent $200 or more at major corporate retailers and really didn’t have much to show for it, and nothing cherished or special.  But last year we bought a few beautiful toys and puzzles from a local family-owned toy & hobby shop and then spent the rest of our budget at non-profit second-hand stores like Teen Challenge and St. Vincent de Paul’s.  It feels good to support local businesses (it’s great for the economy, too!), it’s good for the planet to buy non-plastic, minimally-packaged gifts (especially second-hand) and we spend less money while giving better gifts.

Why stress and work overtime to fund your Christmas this year?  I see everyone’s lives improving dramatically as we use the Green Triangle to guide our daily decisions and purchases.  There’s no better time than now to start, so go ahead, give it a try!

For more information on the Green Triangle, visit

 http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC26/Callnbch.htm and read his original article.

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Damning Debt

How much does debt destroy a person’s integrity?  Is credit rating the new and improved way to judge a human’s worth, or is it just a shallow measure like breast size or bicep thickness?  Should I live in fear like the guy on the commercial who finds himself in a pirate get-up earning minimum wage, or is it all just an empty threat by the cruel credit industry to get us to slave our lives away to buy them more yachts?

About 8 years ago I was living debt free.  I was also living without a car, without cable or a cell phone or indeed most amenities that mainstream society considers essential to basic survival in the modern world.

But I was happy, and I was proud that I didn’t owe a dime.

Then, for reasons I will blame on the heartache of being dumped by my then-husband of 10 years, I went a little crazy.

Next thing I knew I was back in college, racking up student loan debt I never imagined possible, holding scary new credit cards that were used to buy food and other necessities for me and the kids.

And if anything is going to keep me up at night, it is thinking about money, most specifically the phenomenally huge piles of it that I will end up shoveling into the yards of those to whom I owe.  Despite my new husband’s reassurances that there isn’t a debtor’s prison in the US, I definitely feel shackled by the red numbers that haunt me.  I am simultaneously grateful and guilt-ridden to think of him shoveling next to me, trying to fill the holes I dug before he even met me.

The worst part of it, worse even than the bag of tater tots I charged way back when that I will have paid $49.73 for once it is paid off, worse than being afraid of the friendly neighborhood mail carrier, worse than the feeling that I will hyperventilate myself blind when I write out yet another check for nothing in particular except that I HAVE TO OR ELSE, the absolutely worst part is that I feel like the lowest kind of person.

I try to imagine for an instant that I am a murderer hiding out, then wave my reality wand and *POOF*  Now you are perfectly innocent of homicide!  Don’t you feel better now?  That trick lasts about 6 and a half minutes.

I imagine that my house has burnt down and I’ve lost all my photos and writings.  Then, *ABRACADABRA* your house is actually intact!  Doesn’t life seem more rosy?  That ruse is good for 11 minutes.

I picture what a debtor’s prison was actually like, the fear and shame and suffering.  The utter darkness of the body and soul.

But none of my extreme mental ploys can really dispel this little cloud that hangs about my head, casting gloom into the future.  Nothing gets rid of the certainty that I have signed on with the Devil, or at least some of his demon minions, and the road to eliminating the spot on my eternal soul will be long, difficult, and perhaps impossible.

What have we as a society done to ourselves?  Am I the only one who confuses my essential self with the paper trail that my material existence leaves behind me like the slimiest kind of slug?  Is there a way to take responsibility for the choices I have made without drowning in discouragement? Is there a way to set the debt aside as separate from me, to isolate it in a hermetically sealed section of my life so that it does not contaminate the flavor of food or the color of the sky?

I hope that someone somewhere is enjoying their yacht, and that guilt over their criminally high interest rate is not spoiling the caviar.

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Filed under society