The counterculture of living simply

Boosting the CWRU community

Heather O'Keeffe

Sometimes someone says something and it sticks with you. Their words delve deep into your mind, entangling themselves in your conscience. Two weeks ago I saw Yvon Chouinard accept the Inamori ethics prize. His acceptance speech was so powerful that every day for the past 14 days, Chouinard’s message has permeated my thoughts.

If you regrettably were unable to attend the ceremony couple weeks ago, you missed seeing Chouinard—whose face was weathered from harsh winds howling through mountain passages; whose intimate knowledge of ethically responsible business practices stem from his creation of an internationally recognized company; whose message is simple, powerful, yet overwhelmingly at odds with the mainstream— give one heck of a speech.

Chouinard believes in living ethically, responsibly, purely and as one with the Earth. Quite simply, he believes in living simply. He urges customers to think twice before purchasing Patagonia merchandise: if you don’t need it, don’t buy it. When people do buy Patagonia gear, Chouinard and his colleagues work tirelessly to ensure the product’s supply chain is eco-friendly and that it will last from one generation to the next.

This philosophy is a consequence of a reality we all know is perilous but which many have chosen not to face. We, a society of consumers, are buying and buying and buying, and little by little, chunk by chunk, depleting our Earth of its resources, environment, wilderness and pure naturality.

If we are to preserve our Earth, our home, then we have to stop consuming and wasting. This is an ideology completely against the mainstream that will be a struggle to attain against a society that encourages the emblazonment of advertising products over every surface within eyesight.

However, the fight can be won. And with visionaries such as Chouinard leading the way, we can abolish the sickening consumer mentality that has undoubtedly consumed us. Our actions dictate what kinds of products and services businesses put on the market – it is about basic supply and demand principles. If we say enough is enough, then businesses will listen and adapt to the commands of their customers.

Over the course of the past two weeks, I have been incessantly thinking of ways I can play my part. These effortless tasks and exercises of willpower markedly belong to the college subculture. It would be entirely selfish and a disservice to the CWRU community, Chouinard and the Earth if I were not to share this with everyone.

Free t-shirts are a college staple. Every week, one can receive a free t-shirt by simply showing up to an ice cream social or club-sponsored event. People love free garb and organizations love seeing people walking around campus representing their club. But what if we stopped handing out free t-shirts (unless of course they are made of organic, durable fibers and will last for years to come)? What if athletic teams, academic societies, charitable organizations and Greek communities stopped enticing participants via free garb? Instead clubs could put on excellent seminars, retreats or thought-provoking activities and displays that would stimulate excitement and discussion. Organizations could rely on the power of word of mouth rather than artsy fonts to gain traction within the community and further the organization’s mission.

As the children of technology we are constantly plugged in. However, by simply unplugging our gadgets and gizmos we can curtail our electricity usage and ultimately lessen the hunt for fossil fuels. Every morning I unplug my laptop charger from the outlet. If my laptop and I are to be gone from the day then there is absolutely no point in my charger drawing power to charge nothing. If we only plug in cords and appliances when they are in use we can save money, electricity, species and glaciers on mountain tops.

There are hundreds of little things we can do every day with little to no effort that can have resounding effects: Choose the stairs over the elevator; bring a reusable canvas bag to Grab It; only select food you will eat at the dining hall; thrift shop or borrow clothes from friends; print less and recycle more; acquaintance yourself with a needle and thread to make repairs.

The keys to living simply are simple. All they take are initiative and commitment. If together as roommates, a school, a community and a society, we can make an impact and decide to use less for longer.

For the naysayers, who believe life without new shoes, free shirts and shelves full of infomercial products, I urge you to think upon the words of Chouinard: “A simple life is not an impoverished one.”

A simple life is lying in the grass amongst friends, feeling the warmth of the sun on your cheeks or listening to the crackle of campfire while gazing at the infinite sky. These are life’s richest moments.

Heather O’Keeffe is sophomore studying biomedical engineering and sports medicine. She is currently in pursuit of ‘90s-inspired Green Bay Packers Zubaz (gently used of course) to complete her game day uniform.