How To Give Nothing While Still Giving Something


Get Outside

I recently reread the super thought-provoking piece by George Monbiot that was featured in the Guardian on December 11th, 2012 and continues to pop up in my news feed every so often. It is strongly titled, The Gift of Death and for me it was one of those pieces that not only resonates but also lingers. And lingers. And lingers.

It is a pretty short piece, well written and to the point, I highly suggest you go read it now.

Here's the link again —don't worry, I'll wait for you to come back...

...

Oh awesome! Welcome back :) 

Hey world, we don't need more stuff!

Now if you've read the piece, you're probably wondering what place it has on a blog for a business that sells something (a phone case) that easily falls under the category of "stuff."

This is not lost on me. 

Monbiot mentions that many products are inherently wasteful because of their "planned obsolescence (breaking quickly) or perceived obsolescence (becoming unfashionable)." 

And here we are selling a phone case that has planned obsolescence, albeit breaking down slowly in a composting environment while trying to avoid perceived obsolescence—staying simple and classic to avoid being just another eco/green trendy product that will be put to pasture when something new and shiny shows up.

It's a weird place to be as a business. Even weirder as the person standing behind our brand after reading pieces like The Gift of Death and is now all confused on how to grow Pela without becoming another person pushing vapid consumerism.

Existential crisis, is that you again?

So how do I talk myself down from these existential cliffs? I remember that while the economic model and the way we design and treat stuff might be broken, there are still ways we can try to improve. For starters:

  1. Let's cherish and care for the things we already have.
  2. Let's invest in products that are built to last.
  3. Let's reimagine the things we own to see if we can keep using them in different ways.
  4. Let's ask how our products are made and measure their impact on the environment.
  5. Let's ask where our products will end up when we absolutely no longer need them.

Linear Economy versus Circular Economy Illustration by Plan C

via Plan C

And lastly, because I'm writing this around the time that some people are thinking about what to buy their dad for Father's Day,

6. Let's think of what we can give to others that doesn't harm the planet in the process (hint: probably something money can't buy)

No Things but Still Something

Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for god’s sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care. All it shows is that you don’t. —George Monbiot, The Gift of Death

While this list is a great place to start, here are a few from me too:

  • Listen 

My dad loves to talk about the newest thing he's doing to improve his health (think lots of raw seeds and the newest way he gets his chlorophyll) and I can admit, when I was younger, I learned how to nod while still tuning him out.

Yep, I was a total jerk.  Now I make sure I actually listen to him, ask thoughtful questions and engage in conversation. I might not buy into all the things he's trying but instead of thinking about myself, I'm thinking about how cool it is that he's still so curious about his health and all the things he's learning.

Can you listen better?

 

  • Cook Together 

I don't want to start a fight but...my parents make the best food in the whole world. When I visit them, there's a temptation to sit and wait to be called for dinner but now I'd much rather play sous chef (and chief tasting officer) in the kitchen with them.

Is there a recipe you'd love to learn and can pick up the ingredients for?

 

  • Skill Share 

This one I'm still trying to figure out how to be better at. My dad is constantly dreaming up business ideas (I might get my entrepreneurial gene from him) but I can't say I've always been supportive. I promise, the next time he asks me to look at setting up a website for him though, I'll definitely give him my time.

Is there something you're good at that you can offer to teach or guide someone through? 

 

  • Document Their Story 

My parents came to Canada as refugees from Cambodia and since I was little, I always thought I'd write their biopic one day. But I did what most kids do, had a lot of attitude and only wanted to do my own thing for much longer than I am proud of.

I know a lot of friends who are great at creating scrapbooks or memory boxes for others but a zero waste idea might be to open up Google Docs and start asking lots of questions to turn into a story or even blog. Set up a camera and do a little interview you can post as a private (or public video) on YouTube or even conduct a little Podcast-style recorded conversation as a keepsake. 

Is there a memory you can make into a story? 

 

  • Pay it Forward 

Honour someone you care about by donating a monetary gift in their name. While we may not need more stuff, there are a lot of great organizations who are using money and time to tackle some of the issues hurting our planet, wildlife and humanity.

What matters to the people that matter to you? 

    Lead the Way Eco Friendly iPhone Case