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"Polka dots, pocketbooks, and pennies saved" by Beth Weick, as published in North Country News, November 2009

Last week, a close friend was visiting me where I live and work at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead. Naturally, I thanked her for her company by wrangling her into helping with some chores, including changing the sheets on some of our hostel beds. The DAcres linen closet, I must say, is a quirky hodge-podge of colors, our beds a nod to mis-matched vibrancy. "Why?" she asked.

And so I responded with the truth behind our far-from-monotonous bedclothes. We're trying to model various interpretations of sustainability here at the farm. One manifestation of that is to distance ourselves from our mainstream culture of consumption to the greatest degree that we can. We try to reuse and give a second life to whatever objects we can. We thrive on picking up mechanical or construction pieces at the town dump, kitchen utensils and household items at thrift stores, and welcome donated goods of all kinds. Sheets included.

In this way, we are able to take a step back from our economy of consumption, our profit system of winners and losers, and our reliance on short-term industry. No, we're not independent from factories, warehouses, and department stores, but we are re-evaluating our culture's love of buying new things, and slowing our role in the global marketplace. In doing so we minimize waste, minimize our budget, and minimize our role in the inequality, oppression, and resource depletion represented by our industrial economy.

This seems all the more relevant in light of the coming holiday season. Reputably based on Thankfulness, Giving, and Love, the next month routinely devolves into buying frenzies, corporate profit, and continued support for our transnational economy of monopolies.

So we're opting out. And recommend that you do, too. November 27, for example, is Black Friday. Instead of lining up outside a department store at 4am, however, join the movement behind 'Buy Nothing Day.' Keep your cash, your checks, and your credit cards in your pockets. Consider what it is you really want to give to your family, friends, and community this year. How you can best spread the Peace and Joy of the holidays? Is shopping really the answer?

Rather than spending, buying, and gift-wrapping, consider these alternatives: Go for a walk with someone you love. Write a real letter. (Send a letter.) Volunteer. Cook a meal with someone. Have a potluck with friends. Read a book out loud. Make music. Talk with your neighbor. Learn a craft. Barter more often.

And if you find yourself in bed with floral and stripes, or paisley matched with plaid, perhaps it's not that bad. After all, with your eyes closed the colors don't matter much, and your conscience may just rest all the easier.

Beth Weick is a resident of D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, a non-profit service organization. She first came to the farm in April 2008 as an intern, and now focuses her work on gardening, tending to the animals, and writing. Learn more about the programs at D Acres by visiting www.dacres.org.

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