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Davis, California

Monday, May 20, 2024

Column: Buy one get one tree

I’m standing by a Whole Earth Festival booth filled with interesting, exotic-looking jewelry. I’m debating whether or not to buy an overpriced necklace. There are approximately 15 girls surrounding the tiny tent, eager to get a glimpse at the various items on display.

After roughly 15 minutes of observing the winged necklace (made out of domesticated Indonesian water buffalo horn) in my hand, I tear my eyes away and notice a poster with a sketch of a tree printed on it. The salesperson simultaneously shares a small tidbit about the company to the girl next to me.

“It’s for a good cause,” he said.

The words “good cause” catch my ear. I take a second look at the poster. Apparently, for each item I purchase, one tree will get planted — that’s like saying “buy one, get one free,” except the more accurate saying would be “buy one, get one tree.”

I didn’t want to be the person who didn’t help end global warming because she was too stingy to spend $20 on a purchase that would ultimately go toward planting a tree. Thus, I felt somewhat good about my purchase.

As long as my guilty conscience didn’t kick in throughout the rest of the day, I would be okay. If it did kick in, I would purchase an item from every Whole Earth stand and have a negative amount of money left in my bank account.

It was tempting not to just buy random organic cotton shirts or Indian silk just because they sounded good for the environment and were anti-corporate. (Although I would never wear the organic cotton shirts, because really, they don’t look or feel much different from regular cotton.)

The guilt was present. How could you not support your local artists? How could you not donate some money for the overall cause? How could you claim to admire indie musicians while not purchasing their CDs and instead just downloading them online? (Well, a friend likes to say it’s because we’re even poorer than those indie musicians we claim to support.)

It’s nice to live for — or at least give to — noble causes. But with so many alternatives to large corporations, hypocrisies and contradictions arise. There’s a current mentality that “anti-corporate” is better and an alternative lifestyle is the way to go. But for most of us, this just isn’t probable or reasonable.

Can you really shop at Target each week and then claim to support locally grown food at the weekly Farmers Market? Can you really live a lifestyle that’s a mixture of both corporate and anti-corporate without becoming a living contradiction?

Then again, I’m fine with being the living contradiction. It may be easy to say, “Don’t shop at Target because it’s a large, capitalistic presence sucking the well-being out of innocent souls.” But at the same time, as college students it’s much more convenient to buy in bulk at Costco or get discounted toiletries from Target.

This doesn’t mean I don’t try to support local artists and vendors. I don’t claim to be “anti-corporate” and then go to Target to buy all my shampoo. Students have to make use of their resources and the easiest way to do so is through large corporations.

With all of this anti-corporate mentality going on, we like to make ourselves feel just a little better by supporting “the starving artist.” So scattered here and there, we make our donations — minor purchases in which we not only get a necklace in return, but also that chip of guilt brushed off our shoulder.

Ultimately, we need all our resources. These resources come from having options of where to shop and also having natural resources like planting trees. When there are so many different causes in place, it’s difficult to juggle them — to pick and choose and not be a hypocrite, a contradiction.

It wasn’t until later that I realized in the process of saving a tree, I had killed a domesticated Indonesian water buffalo.

TIFFANY LEW thinks that you should listen to the indie duo Angus and Julia Stone, although she hasn’t bought any of their albums. She’s getting to it. E-mail her any other non-conventional music suggestions at tjlew@ucdavis.edu.


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