Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Modern Housewifery and the Green Movement

There was a time, just a century ago, when a typical housewife burned up to 9000 calories per day. They were up before dawn cutting wood for the morning fire and carrying water in buckets from a far-away well. Making pancakes for breakfast required collecting eggs, milking cows, and grinding wheat. I consider myself a productive person, but I don't accomplish in one day what these women did before their families even woke up.

The other day, I was reading one of my favorite homemaking sites. I realized that, unlike housewives of other times, the main duties of a modern hausfrau are cooking and procuring/managing goods. Sure, I clean, go to school, take care of my kids, and work when I can. However, the things that occupy much of my time are cooking, baking, organizing stuff, and making decisions about what new stuff my family needs. Like most women, like most modern people, I am not a producer. I am a consumer.

Americans are consumers on a mass scale, and that is why our food and consumption decisions are so important both politically and environmentally. It seems frivolous to micro-analyze every little decision, but those decisions will determine the type of consumer I am. Is local, organic lettuce worth a dollar more? Should I throw away my daughter's jeans with the blown-out knee, or can I find a way to make them wearable? Is it worth my energy to pick through thrift store racks when an organized Macy's is across the parking lot and doesn't cost a whole lot more? A lot of my life, and a lot of this blog, revolves around these seemingly insignificant choices.

In the end, my food is going to have a greater impact on the environment than my choice in cars. My decisions on what to buy will have a bigger effect on child labor in the third world than my voting. If you want to make a difference in your future quality of life, every consumer decision matters. Is it worth sweating the small stuff? I think it is.