Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Have you watched this video yet? It's called "The Story of Stuff" by Annie Leonard, a former Greenpeace worker and an expert on waste. Not much new information about American consumption, i.e. that Americans own waaaaayyyy too much stuff, but she presents the facts with clarity and thoughtfulness. Even I, as one who tends to be annoyingly conscious about my ecological impact, was moved to think more about my bad consumption habits. 

It comes as a surprise to my family and friends that there are actually fewer things in Mexico cheaper than the US. There is an inherent belief that because Mexico is a poor nation that, duh, stuff is cheaper. I thought that, too, before we moved here. However, things are generally priced the same or higher, especially on imported products (an effective way by the government to "encourage" you to buy Mexican). Fruits and vegetables are the only items I've found to sometimes be cheaper, and if I had domestic help, that would also be cheaper. Like around $15 per week for maid service. 

Even if you offset the cost of higher prices in Mexico City, prices in this country are SO not commensurate with what people earn. It is an expensive country to live in, actually. If I were teaching in a public school, the salary might be around $500-600/month. Give half that to rent, much of the other half to food, and the rest to pay the bills. It's why something like shutting down all businesses during the influenza can leave people who live day-to-day struggling to put food on your family. :) In general, though, hallelujah that this country is blessed with arable land and good climates for farming because Mexico would suffer from hunger otherwise. Can it be true that there are so many mangoes in Guerrero state that they leave them on the ground to rot?? 

Back to the stuff. We came down here with minimal stuff, assuming we could buy it all when we got here. Were we wrong! One day I went to Sears to look for a plastic air-tight container, but it was nearly $30. I shopped around for something cheaper, but the cheapest I could find was around $10. I could live without the container. In fact, I've learned to live without a lot of stuff. We hoard every plastic container we have, rewash our Ziploc bags, refill plastic bottles (in case the water goes out), place a plate over leftovers instead of plastic wrap, use canvas bags for groceries, rebag our vegetables at the store with old plastic bags, etc. While, yes, stuff is not sooo expensive that we can't afford it, I am retraining my brain to use resources more wisely. Higher costs of stuff in Mexico and the haunting image and knowledge of trash gyres the size of Texas floating in our oceans have pushed me into a new realm of eco-living. 

Just a teensy tiny portion of a trash gyre

My blender blew a fuse two days ago. It was a wedding gift, which makes it less than one year old. Compare that to the blender my parents received for their wedding in 1975 and still use today. Oh so (9 months) long ago, I could already tell it was heading into a vegetative state. It puttered along, gave me chunky smoothies and chunky hummus, and then, two days ago, the base lit up like a rocket and went kaput. Leonard addresses this issue in her video, and manufacturers actually think about ways to give stuff a short life span so we'll go out and buy more. WELL, I am determined to defy Oster blender odds, forgo my initial instinct to throw it out, and find someone to fix it. In such a resourceful country, I wouldn't be surprised if the doorman knows how. If I don't find someone, I'm gonna have nightmares of my blender floating in the ocean...


  1. Alice,
    No problema. In just about every open air market there are "blender mechanics". They will get you going again in no time for relatively few pesos. Just look around for a table full of blender parts.

  2. Thanks, I knew they'd be around somewhere. Learn a skill in this country, and **VOILA** you have yourself a business.

  3. Alice, there are people around that fix just about any household appliance. Today we had someone come look at our washer and because there wasn't what we thought wrong with it he gave us some tips and didn't charge us anything.