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​Conscientious consumerism important for personal well being

The other day, an alarming story popped up on my newsfeed. Beneath the image of a nostalgia-inducing rainbow bear with the signature heart tag and covered in thousands of spiders was the headline: “The spider eggs they used to fill beanie babies are finally hatching!” Immediately my mind jumped to Mr. Giraffe, Mr. Rhino and the rest of the Beanie Babies zoo stuffed somewhere in a box in my room, where millions of spiders must have been starting to come out. In my head, my room — in fact, my whole house — had become a spider-infested hole, thanks to those darn Beanie Babies.

My roommate and I even had a conversation about how appalling it was that factory regulations had not detected spider eggs in children’s toys. The ‘90s may be notorious for bad taste in music (cue “Barbie Girl”) and even worse taste in fashion (the age of denim on denim), but could it also be associated with endangering the welfare of the future? Apparently, so.

Recently, I read another story that revealed the truth. The original piece of information was tweeted by ClickHole, which is an offshoot of the satirical news source, The Onion. It turns out that my precious rainbow bear had not been a spider-hatching ticking time bomb after all, but rather another crack at the anti-renaissance of the ‘90s.

The issue had been resolved — or had it really? I consider myself a relatively rational and realistic individual. There had to be a problem with the fact that I had completely believed there were 20-year-old spidery eggs in my Beanie Babies. 

That’s when I began to think, and the light bulb clicked. I had grown up in a time when Taco Bell tacos were deadly, when new cars were in danger of brake failure and when Easy Bake ovens had led to the amputation of fingers. If peanut butter could cause sicknesses and baby cribs could cause suffocation, then surely there could be buggy beanie babies.

Let’s take a look at this timeline of events. In 2006, bagged spinach was recalled in 39 states. In 2008, 143 million pounds of beef was recalled. In 2009, peanuts in 3,918 different types of food products were recalled. These numbers make a few bugs in my teddy bear seem tame.

No one knows where E. coli could be hiding — in our supermarkets, our corner stores or even in the spare bag of frozen spinach in the back of your freezer. Just now, we’re learning that our favorite childhood toys are covered in lead-based paints.

It is both saddening and scary that the seemingly innocent products we use today could be the perils of our future. The process of production for everything has become obscured and hidden from the public. No one knows where things come from anymore — our electronics, our clothes or our food. Produce commercials depict bright, cheery farms where cows and chickens are free to roam. The reality could not be more different. Rare footage of chicken farms depict chicken sitting in their own feces, crowded by the corpses of other birds.

Clothing companies boast the production of hand-sewn designer wear. Hand-sewn, yes, but by the hands of sweatshop workers in abominable working conditions of developing nations.

All of this comes down to the fact that we can’t trust the companies we buy our products from because they are harming our health and our well being. Factories care more about finding loopholes in regulations to save money than the safety of their consumers. Disappointing a few thousand consumers is nothing to these giant corporations because there will always be more to take their place. Production is all about numbers and efficiency, not reliability and customer satisfaction. Simply put, time is money, and time can’t be wasted on perfecting the product.

There is no absolute solution. The mass production of consumer goods is a necessary evil of living in today’s world. Unless you’re willing to live off the land pilgrim-style, there is no escaping it. But there are ways we can lessen our dependency on these products. We can make more of our own food. We can stop buying so much stuff. We can be more dependent on ourselves, instead of running to consumerism to solve every problem. If we can make the effort to do these things, our health will thank us. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Courtney Han is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies and political science. Her column, “Fit Wit,” runs on the third Friday of every month.

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