Size is Relative: When Oversized American Kitchens Are Called “Tiny”

Americans have a skewed sense of size. They will use adjectives like “tiny” to describe living spaces and kitchen appliances that would be considered “huge” or at least “normal” in the rest of the world. I have long since learned to expect to see the trend towards glorifying large size and wasted space in American mainstream interior magazines. What surprises and worries me more is to see American environmental activists embracing the idea that their perfectly normal or even large living spaces should be called “tiny.” In my opinion, environmentally conscious people should refuse to accept and embrace American mainstream ideas about what ought to be considered “normal” in terms of size and also in terms of lifestyle choices. After all, size is relative, and we can choose our own vocabulary and benchmarks for what constitutes “large” or “small.” [Read more…]

Plastic Free July

It’s July now. The month in which people are reminded that they could try to reduce the amount of waste they create. Plastic Free July challenge encourages people to refuse single-use plastics in July (and beyond). The idea is that people can experiment with ways how to reduce the amount of plastic waste they create, find great alternatives for disposable goods, and hopefully also develop some new and better lifestyle habits.

What can you do? Here is a list of some basic ideas you can try. And in this blog post I have already written about how individuals can try to reduce the amount of waste they create. Basically, avoid single-use plastic packaging for the goods you buy, refuse takeaway items (plastic bags, bottles, straws, coffee cups), replace single-use items with reusable items (for example, safety razors and glass straws instead of plastic equivalents).

And here’s a picture with a summery of various things you can try to live with less waste:

Live with Less Waste

How to Live with Less Waste

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Decluttering Your Home

I periodically browse websites about interior design, because I consider beautiful interior an art form, and I am interested in all kinds of art. One of the buzzwords I routinely notice in American websites that discuss interior is “decluttering”—the art of getting rid of superfluous and unnecessary stuff. Decluttering seems to be trendy among Americans right now; Googling for “how to declutter your home” gives you a lot of results for various online guides. There are websites devoted to teaching people how to throw away and organize their stuff. Numerous people have made careers by consulting clients who feel like they need help with decluttering. The basic premise is reasonable—if your home is full with stuff you don’t even use, it creates a mess and makes it harder to find the stuff you do need. However, whenever I spot yet another online article offering tips on how to declutter your living space, I cannot help but wonder how humanity even got to the point where such advice on decluttering is necessary at all. [Read more…]

Why Consumers Should Treat Clothing as Unisex More Often

Clothes are strictly gendered. In stores, some are marketed as only for men while others are marketed as exclusively for women. Clothes that are marketed as “unisex” are a rare sight in shops. Thus many consumers tend to imagine that men’s clothes always differ from women’s clothes. On top of that, there’s also a social stigma against wearing clothes that were designed for the other sex. This is why, when they go shopping, majority of consumers only browse the isles that are marked as intended for their gender, and they don’t even glance at the stuff that can be found at the other side of the store.

The reality is different. A lot of clothes are essentially unisex, because there simply is no real difference between men’s and women’s version, the only thing that varies being tags, placement in a store, and marketing. Sometimes male and female products also do not cost the same, which is how we get gender-based price discrimination aka the pink tax. That’s one more reason why shoppers would benefit from comparing things that can be found in men’s and women’s isle. [Read more…]

Overpriced Snake Oil

While grocery shopping, I always compare prices between similar products and read the labels. Especially the fine print. The smaller the letters, the more carefully I read some text. I expect sellers to lie and try to mislead me. Once you start to examine the ingredient list of every food you contemplate purchasing, you will notice a certain interesting trend, namely, people who make food want to rip you off. And I don’t like getting ripped off.

I assume most people must have noticed that there exist real products and various substitutes. For example, real ice cream is made from milk, various “frozen desserts” are made from vegetable oil. Alternatively, there exists real butter and various butter substitutes. Or you can get real chocolate or fake one that’s made from weird ingredients. Recently, I wrote about how these fake products are sometimes incorrectly labelled in an attempt to mislead the consumer. Today I will instead explain how such fake products can be more expensive that you might imagine. [Read more…]

My New Year Spruce Tree

Spruce trees are one of those goods that lose their value in an instant. On the morning of 31st December, people sell them as Christmas trees. At the evening of the same day, unsold spruce trees litter the dumpsters. In Latvia people start selling Christmas trees in mid December, and 31st December is the last date on which trees are still available for sale. Then, at the evening of 31st December, all the unsold trees become garbage and are thrown out. [Read more…]

What a Waste

Now that the Christmas is over, some of you might have gifts that you don’t want. If so, you might be thinking about returning an unwanted holiday gift back to the store. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance your holiday returns will end up in a landfill. Each year, consumers return a lot of goods, a significant portion of which are processed during the Christmas season. Unfortunately, only some of returns make it back to shop shelves.

Once a product is returned, the retailer has to deal with the cost of assessing the item and repackaging it. Sadly, especially with low value items, often it is cheaper for the retailer to throw out returned goods rather than trying to resell them. On top of the sorting and repackaging problems, there’s also the time limit to get certain products resold. Returned electronics, for example, can lose much of their value in just a few months. This is why many returns are sold for pennies to liquidators and discounters before ending up at regional wholesalers, who send the goods to pawn shops, dollar stores or out of the country. Retailers have worked out logistics how to get goods from the place of manufacture to the shop shelves. Reverse logistics (getting good from customers back to the shops) are severely lacking. [Read more…]

Always Read the Fine Print

Whenever I go grocery shopping, I always examine the packaging of any food I consider purchasing, and I specifically look for the information that is written in the fine print. I expect sellers to lie and to attempt to cheat me. Personally, I don’t care about counting calories (I am perfectly happy with my weight). Instead, I am looking at the ingredient lists. Once you start to examine the ingredient list of every food you contemplate purchasing, you will notice a certain interesting trend, namely, people who make food want to rip you off. [Read more…]

Holiday Gifts and the Christmas Shopping Spree

Holidays used to be about spending a few work-free days with your loved ones. So far so good, that’s all nice. Unfortunately, nowadays instead people are coerced to participate in a stressful shopping frenzy instead. People are reminded to buy some gift for everybody they know, otherwise they are somehow guilty of failing to show love. As if giving a weird-looking acrylic sweater to your 2nd cousin proved that you love them. As if failing to give some gift demonstrated that you don’t love some person. As if love could be reduced to stuff that you buy in a shop. As if love could be measured in how expensive some gift is. [Read more…]