I Gave Up Online Shopping for Lent This Year (Sort Of)

With Easter just in the review mirror, I’m admittedly relieved that the season of Lent has passed. This year, I attempted to give up online shopping. I didn’t completely fail, but I didn’t completely succeed, either.

FYI, Lent is the six weeks leading up to Easter that symbolize the forty days Jesus spent in the desert–mentally, emotionally, and spiritually preparing for His ministry while Satan tempted Him. Lent is a season of preparation and reflection–preparing to celebrate Easter and reflecting on what Jesus’s life, ministry, death, and resurrection mean for us (salvation, eternal life, a call to follow Jesus and love/help others).

To commemorate Jesus’s temptation in the desert and Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, many Christians give something up for Lent like a certain beloved food or social media–anything that would genuinely be tough for that person to go without for forty days.

My own experience with Lent has varied over the years. When I was younger, I didn’t REALLY understand it. My conception of it was superficial; I knew WHAT but not WHY. For instance, I might decide during Lent NOT to get any of the freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies that sat next to the cash register in my high school lunch line. But they were just sooo darn tempting and delicious that I would eventually break…and that was that, experiment=failed. I was metaphorically gritting my teeth to do it, almost arbitrarily, rather than using it as a way to draw closer to God or enrich my spirituality. Once the futility of that–giving something up only for the sake of giving something up–dawned on me, I stopped commemorating Lent for years.

As of this year, I’m making intentional choices for what I’m giving up and why and approaching it differently–which brings us back to my Lent resolution.

During the pandemic, I’ve practically become an online shopping addict–it’s easy, it’s convenient, it’s fun, it’s fulfilling–and that last one is so problematic, for reasons I’ll expound on in an upcoming sustainability post. Knowing how this compulsion has gotten out of hand made it a clear choice of something from which I should attempt to abstain for forty days.

I had some urgent purchases, like “need to buy more of this skincare product I’m running out of” and “my laptop might have a virus so need to back everything up to an external hard drive ASAP,” but I resisted many temptations. Admittedly, I went plant shopping in person a couple times, which felt like a loophole. A couple plants I ordered before Lent arrived during it, which also felt like cheating.

As far as using these temptation opportunities to turn to prayer, I didn’t always do that; there was still a lot of good ol’ teeth gritting where I resisted the urge but didn’t use it as a spiritual exercise. It’s hard for us to lean into God’s grace, which goes back to the ever-prevalent “saved by grace vs. saved by works” concept; people have always tried to be righteous on their own instead of asking God for help.

This whole experience has made me reflect on a lot, like how blessed I am to be able to afford fun stuff while many have to penny pinch, how the cycle of consumerism is insatiable (you always want more), how consumerism is inherently self-centered and self-serving while Christians should be serving others as much as possible. While I’m probably not going to stop online shopping, this experience will make me take a little more pause when I want things and be less impulsive.

Though I hope to do better in the future, I did at least learn some things from my Lent resolution this year; it wasn’t just superficial or arbitrary.

What’s your experience with Lent been? How did you commemorate Lent this year? Thanks for reading!

P.S. Here’s my latest vid, a fun break from serious stuff. Check it out and subscribe if you enjoy it. Thank you so much for your support! ♥

Don’t Give Up on Sustainability: The Little Things Count!

There’s no point in stressing over things we can’t control, right? So, acknowledging the disturbing levels of consumption in America feels futile. What power does any one of us have to fix the factories, the supply chains, and environmental impacts of the corporations like Unilever who make many products we need and use frequently? This argument is understandable.

We Americans, and all those with the comforts and conveniences available in first-world countries, have more or less thrown our hands in the air with this topic. We choose not to think about how much the earth and people get mistreated and exploited every day. But we need to face the truth

  • The average North American household uses roughly 240 gallons of water daily for indoor and outdoor uses.
  • In 2017, the average American generated 4.5 lbs of municipal solid waste (MSW) each day, with only 1.6 lbs recovered for recycling or composting. For comparison, MSW generation rates (lbs/person/day) were 2.20 in Sweden, 2.98 in the U.K., and 3.71 in Germany.
  • Drivers traveled over 3.2 trillion vehicle-miles in the U.S. in 2018, a 112% increase since 1980. This is equivalent to more than 6.5 million round-trips to the moon.
  • In 2017, more food reached landfills than any other material. This waste accounts for roughly 15% of the municipal solid waste stream and represents a loss of $450 per person each year
  • Rubber, leather, and textiles make up more than 9 percent of municipal solid waste in the U.S. according to EPA estimates. That means the average American throws away about 81 pounds of clothing every year.

(Taken from http://css.umich.edu/factsheets and https://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2018/01/ready-waste-americas-clothing-crisis/)

It’s true that big companies generate most waste. It’s also true that we need to drive to get to work, and we need to buy clothes for our growing children, and many of us are too financially strapped to boycott corporations that make affordable goods. We know the problems, but what can we really do? We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

But this is unsustainable. If we go indefinitely at this rate, we will destroy this beautiful earth that God created for us and called “good.” So much is out of our control–but we, individually and collectively, can make better choices. One million people doing something will help our planet more than ten thousand people living militantly low-waste lifestyles.

In other words–it’s the little things that count.

Shop secondhand and/or locally when possible. Don’t be so quick to throw away leftovers and bags and old clothes; remember the saying “reduce reuse recycle.” Make sustainable swaps–reusable water bottle vs. disposable ones, reusable bags vs. disposable ones, etc. Educate others; be that person who saves the giftbags at the Christmas party or that person who insists people recycle their soda cans at the family reunion–and explain WHY. Start a recycling or composting program in your home, workplace, church, wherever.

Most importantly, don’t give in to apathy; don’t lose hope. Just do your part and encourage (not pressure–encourage) those around you to do the same.

As one of my favorite sustainability YouTubers, Shelbizleee, always says: “You cannot do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good that you can do.”

How do you try to be a good steward of the earth? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

P.S. Here’s my latest vid. Thanks to anyone who watches. Please like and subscribe if you enjoy it. ♥ This was my first time editing in Davinci Resolve, and I had way too much fun. 🙂

Let’s Support Small and/or Sustainable Businesses When Possible

When we need to buy our friend a birthday present, it’s easy to pop in Walmart and grab a candle, a knick-knack, a planter, etc. But items that are handmade or made responsibly are way cooler! Let’s discuss why we should support small and/or sustainable businesses, and I’ll share pics of some recent purchases.

Small business is the backbone of society. Of course, corporations like are vying to eclipse the economy, but small businesses were around long before huge companies. BTW, I don’t like to approach topics without nuance, so I must concede that corporations are not literally evil; they do create jobs and provide cheap goods for those who struggle financially. Nonetheless, small businesses are vital, and we should support them when possible.

There’s a fine line between necessity and convenience. In other words, some people truly cannot afford to shop anywhere that isn’t dirt cheap…but many of us simply choose cheap goods out of privilege. We are privileged if we believe that a T-shirt ought to cost $10, yet we don’t have to think about the low wages and terrible treatment of the workers. We’ve become accustomed to the luxury of “fast” consumption (fast fashion, fast furniture, etc.), neglecting to consider how the company cuts corners with responsible environmental care. [Sadly, the latter leads to marginalized people dealing with issues like toxic waste in their water supply.]

Maybe it seems funny and somehow incongruent to call inexpensive items luxurious. Really, our hypermaterialism is the luxury, and our rapid, even compulsive consumption of cheap goods is just a symptom. We buy five inexpensive sweaters made in horrible conditions without a second thought, rather than having the self-control and mindfulness to save up for one sweater made sustainably by workers making fair wages.

We can and should be better stewards of the Earth and love our neighbors in Vietnam, Bangladesh, China, etc. Some may argue that NOT supporting “fast” companies will ultimately hurt the workers even more; having a bad job is better than having none. I understand the point, but let’s think a little deeper. If consumers demanded quality products and fair working conditions, companies would be forced to follow our wallets. Regulations and lack thereof, lobbyists, loopholes, and all that jazz play huge roles, too…but that’s another subject. 😉

I’ll be the first to admit that some things just have to be purchased from a big, we-sell-everything type of store. For instance, I often wear earplugs during the night because I’m a fickle sleeper. Finding sustainable earplugs would be tough. Still, it’s easy to fall into lazy habits and justify them. Ex: I buy books on Amazon, knowing deep down I could find a small online bookstore to support and only buy the ones I can’t find elsewhere from Amazon. I’m even stepping on my own toes here! As of writing this, I’m convicted to try a little harder to follow my advice of supporting small and/or sustainable businesses when possible.

Below, I’m going to share some photos of some recent purchases from sustainable brands, a local crafter, and crafters on Etsy:

  1. I bought the artwork from Funky by Nature. The owner Michelle, who lives near me, makes art with upcycled materials–so cool!
  2. The tiny air plants came from Bella’s Bloom Shop. There are also three in the first pic–can you spot them all? 🙂
  3. These tiny, chic planters came from Etsy.
  4. These reusable cotton rounds with a matching drawstring bag came from Etsy. Yay for ditching the single-use cotton rounds!
  5. This handmade bag came from Humble Hilo, which provides gainful employment to Guatemalan women. Also, at check-out, you choose whether your purchase goes to support a nutrition, job skills, or literacy program. Get the woman in your life a Christmas gift that’s beautiful, unique, AND truly meaningful!
  6. My future MIL bought me these handmade earrings, which happen to be the prettiest I’ve ever laid eyes on. Pictures don’t do them justice.
  7. I tried to take the pic in a way where you could see that the pair on top is thicker than the pair on bottom. And get this–the ones on the bottom are Levi’s! The pair on top, the best ones I own, are from Revtown, a sustainable brand. The owners used to work at Under Armor and somehow use the same magic that makes Under Armor so thick and warm. Also, I’m tall, and these are one of the few pairs of jeans I own that cover my ankles.
  8. I’m so obsessed with how warm, soft, and cute these are that I own the same shirt in three patterns. United by Blue removes a pound of plastic from the ocean for every item sold!

Thanks for reading! Do you support small and/or sustainable businesses? Let me know in the comments.

5 Wasteful Shopping Habits I Used to Have (& What I Do Now)

After a couple weeks of seriousness, I’m ready for a light-hearted topic. In the second installment of my new Sustainability series, I’ll share some wasteful habits I had before my awareness was heightened on topics like caring for the environment and minimalism.

These things seem silly and ridiculous in retrospect, and you might wonder–why?! I think there’s an attitude of “frivolous materialism” which undergirds Western society and all the habits I describe below. Wasting money and accumulating stuff is so normalized in our society that we sometimes don’t question our illogical and/or impulsive shopping habits.

Buying random things because they’re cheap

In the past, it was common for me to leave a store with many items I had not intended to buy initially. It could be anything–nail polish, a shower cap, a pen, chapstick, a knick-knack (like the unicorn pictured), a keychain, you name it. If it was mildly useful and relatively inexpensive, I almost reflexively added it to my cart as I shuffled down the aisles.

[Now, I’m deliberate with my purchases, always assessing, “Do I really need this?” or, if I really want to guilt trip myself, “Do I need this enough to justify its winding up in a landfill somewhere down the road?”]

Buying unnecessary bathroom products for a sale

If I enter a drugstore to buy a new bottle of my face wash, moisturizer, etc. I often encounter sales that apply if I buy multiple products from the same brand. Ex: “Buy two Neutrogena products, get the third one free!” In the past, I thought nothing of buying hair/skin/etc. products I didn’t need (and would inevitably throw away years later in a “bathroom clean-out” session) to be eligible for the deal. Isn’t it ironic how we end up wasting money in our hasty attempts to save it?

[Now, I buy multiples of the product I know I’ll use so I can get the deal without purchasing unneeded items…or, if I go on a limb to try something new, I really contemplate it and commit to using it.]

Buying “meh” clothes because they’re cheap or on sale

Here’s a good rule of thumb in a store dressing room: if you don’t LOVE the item when you try it on, don’t buy it. As you might guess, I didn’t always follow this guideline. In the past, especially my early college days (when I was broke most of the time), I bought clothes that were just “okay” because the price seemingly justified the purchase. Well, the fit isn’t perfect, and the fabric is sorta scratchy, but it’s marked down to $4! I’m sure I can get $4 worth of use out of it! This led to a cycle of constantly buying clothes and getting rid of them; once I took these garments home, I rarely wore them because I didn’t feel confident in them…resulting in the “I have a full closet but nothing to wear” predicament, which necessitated more shopping. Meanwhile, clothes were leaving my closet in “give away” piles every few months.

[Now, I actually follow the dressing room rule of thumb. I also like to shop online from brands where I know what size fits me well and can expect to feel both comfortable and attractive in their clothes.]

Buying fast fashion, fast furniture, etc.

In the past, I only bought clothes from fast fashion brands like Rue 21, Forever 21, H&M, Walmart, Hollister, etc. But I don’t support them now due to their exploitation of the earth and workers in overseas factories. I wish I had known about these concepts before buying my bookshelves from Walmart last year; upon trying to move them during some pandemic-sponsored spring cleaning, they completely fell apart. Yes, all the books had been taken off, and the guys tried to be careful…but alas, you get what you pay for. Stick to quality items when you can! They last longer, and the companies who make them are usually less harmful to people and the environment.

[Now, I support sustainable brands (like United By Blue & Synergy Organic Clothing) and thrift stores (no carbon footprint)! Since sustainable brands cut less corners, their clothes are pricier, so I wait for them to have sales. FYI, online thrift stores like Poshmark and thredUP enable you to search for secondhand fast fashion clothes from specific brands without supporting the companies financially. Whenever I buy more shelves, I’ll try to thrift them or look for locally-made, high-quality furniture.]

Buying makeup products excessively

I go without makeup at least 80% of the time (yay for good skincare and daily sunscreen). But, around age 21, I went through a phase of being obsessed with it. In the past, I accumulated so many makeup products because I couldn’t just pick one and be satisfied. If I went out to buy a red lipstick, I “might as well” get fire engine red, burgundy red, pinkish red, and brownish red; if I was getting a blush, why not buy three more shades that are barely distinguishable from the first one and each other? 😉 There’s really no justification for it; I was just overly indulging myself.

[Now, I hardly ever buy makeup, but when I do, I only get what I truly need. I don’t buy a new tube of lipstick while knowing I have 20 unfinished ones at home.]

Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and I’ll likely post a “sequel” to this sometime in the future. We can’t change the past, but every day provides opportunities to reflect, gain insight, and decide to shift old ways. I, for one, have realized how dang privileged I am; many people can’t afford to waste money. I hope you are inspired by this post to assess the ways you may also be feeding into “frivolous materialism.”

Friday morning update: My fiancee and I went to the mall yesterday, but the store he wanted to shop in was closed, so he offered to accompany me to another store in the mall or drive to Marshall’s (an outlet store). After pondering the fact that every clothing store there carries fast fashion, and realizing I didn’t need anything either, I suggested we go back home. The old Lily might’ve opted to go to Marshall’s, roll around the store for an hour, and check out with $40 worth of stuff I certainly could live without…but the new Lily is different. The new Lily is intentional with the money she spends, the companies she supports, and keeping her space uncluttered. Yay for evolving!

Thanks for reading! What do your shopping habits look like? Are you/have you been guilty of any of these? Let me know in the comments.

Why We Should Be More Conscientious When We Shop

This is the cycle of hyperconsumerism: shop excessively, stockpile clutter, repeat. America is built on this wasteful but effective concept, which causes us to ravage people and the environment yet keeps our economy afloat. How do (and how should) we think about this issue?

For most of my life, I didn’t think twice about my typically-American lifestyle choices. Some of those include:

  • Leaving a store with several items I didn’t intend to buy initially
  • Buying new things often
  • Having piles of clutter throughout my living space

I never questioned these actions because frequent, frivolous shopping is so normalized in our culture. Entire stores exist with the seeming purpose of encouraging us to buy things we don’t need (shooting you a side-eye, Target). Almost every household in a first-world country contains some amount of excess.

Towards the end of 2019, I stumbled across two books which changed my perspective and ripped the blinders from my eyes. Shopping by Michelle Gonzalez is about 100 pages and provides illuminating information on American consumption levels. Gonzalez, a Catholic, spends a portion of the book delving into the spiritual implications of this issue. I also read We Are All Fast Food Workers Now by Annelise Orleck, which pries the shiny veneer off our first-world lives of luxury to reveal a dark underbelly. Our materialistic lifestyles are held up by foreign and domestic workers who are impoverished, mistreated, and miserable.

Now, my lifestyle looks drastically different. I don’t buy things without a lot of critical thought on whether I will REALLY use/need/love it and where I will store it in my home. I almost never leave a store with more than I went to buy. And I consider the conditions around which things are made–what resources did it require? Was it made in a sustainable way? Are the workers who made it getting fair wages?

During the Coronavirus quarantine, I’ve been decluttering, organizing, and cleaning (among other things). I’ve read of and spoken with others who are doing the same. For those going through that process, we are being reminded how much junk we own. And for all of us, whether we are or aren’t in the midst of spring cleaning, we are being deprived of many “impulse shopping” outlets. No T.J. Maxx, no Hobby Lobby, no Forever 21, no Marshall’s, no Zara’s (in-person stores, at least). I feel slightly diabolical for saying this, but I’m GLAD people can’t access as many stores right now. Temporarily, we’ll have to be less mindlessly compulsive than usual.

I don’t want to cram “everything under the kitchen sink” in this post, so I’ve got some ideas for future posts:

  • Shocking Statistics on American Consumption
  • Ways to Shop Sustainably
  • Ways to Save Money & the Environment
  • Reviewing Sustainable Purchases I’ve Made
  • Etc.

So, now, there will be a new category on Retrospective Lily–“Sustainability.” 🙂 [Updated website graphics coming soon!]

I’ll wrap up this post by saying that hyperconsumption is not good for our wallets, our already-overflowing living spaces, or the planet (not to mention, our mentality/spirituality). However, the American economy depends on our materialism: millions upon millions of people work in a retail industry…hence my feeling “diabolical” for my earlier comments. Speaking of monkey wrenches, we must also consider how those in poverty can participate in sustainable practices; as with the fast food vs. fresh veggies predicament, it’s generally cheaper to live UNsustainably. I plan to explore the nuances of this topic in future posts.

Exploiting the environment, people, and even our own spirits is not sustainable long-term. We need to change. We can, and I believe we will, do better in the future. Surely, we can find ways to sustain our economy without destroying God’s creation.

Thanks for reading! How are your shopping habits? Do you have excess in your home? Let me know in the comments.

Another blogger pointed out recently that our seemingly-unanswered prayers could actually come to fruition after we’ve passed on from this life. That is an encouraging thought for me. I pray that, throughout my lifetime and even after I’ve passed on, ideas of waste reduction and caring for the environment will continue to grow in popularity to a point where they are eventually normalized. I hope Americans will look back on us in a few generations and scoff at how we did things.