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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Conscious Shopping

Air Date: Week of

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Now that we’re in the busiest time of year for shopping, Chicago high school student Jen Schaeflein finds that she’s having a hard time keeping her hard-earned money in her wallet.


CURWOOD: Ready, get set, shop! The holiday rush is boom time for retailers, and it can be a tough time for consumers on a budget. With all the dazzling displays in the malls and the parade of advertising in the media, high school senior Jen Schaeflein says she’s learning fast that it’s hard to hang on to her wallet.

SCHAEFLEIN: Shopping. What girl doesn’t love it? I know I do. Ever since I started work a year ago, shopping has been on my mind. Friday is when I get my paycheck. I walk into work with one thing on my mind: how am I going to spend this money?

But things didn’t start out as usual last weekend. Our paychecks were late, so when Saturday rolled around, I had no money. Not doing my weekly routine gave me a chance to think. Do I really have to have that new shirt? Just because the jeans are buy-one-get-one-half-off, do I really need another pair? To me, the mall is like a big light that attracts bugs. It’s too hard to ignore. But I hear a buzz in the back of my head every time I’m near one. Don’t go, you don’t really need anything.

There are so many people responsible for just one shirt, from the cotton picker to the cashier. Just one of my purchases affects all of them. If I buy that shirt, then they will get paid. But how do I know that my shirt wasn’t made in a sweatshop somewhere? Now I find myself thinking twice before I buy that new shirt. Do I need it? How many times will I wear it? It’s hard not to buy what I really want, so I’ve managed to find a balance that lets me buy what I want, and keep my closet from piling up with too many clothes. When I buy a T-shirt and pants, I give a T-shirt and pants away. My church has a donation box outside the parking lot. I put my new outfit in my closet, and grab an old outfit I don’t wear anymore, and head over to the church. I put my old clothes in the donation box.

I know my typical American ways of buying too much and giving back too little are not going to be solved by simply putting an outfit in a donation box after I go on a shopping spree. But as I look at my closet, I feel better that it’s not growing, and that someone else’s is.

CURWOOD: Jen Schaeflein is a senior at Queen of Peace High School in Chicago. She produced this commentary as part of Living on Earth’s Ecological Literacy Project. For more on our education project, and to hear work from other students involved in it, visit our website at loe.org. That’s loe.org.

[MUSIC The Jazz Warriors,“Chameleon” Rebirth of the Cool, 4th & Bway (1993)]



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