Friday, October 29, 2010

Would You Like Apple Sauce or Pork N Beans?

Minimalism is not about doing without. It is not about continual sacrifice. It is about doing more (or, at minimum, the same amount) with less. That may sound a little like one of the three Rs of environmentalism – Reduce. But minimalism is about making choices that make sense, not necessarily making choices to leave less of a footprint. The end result may be the same, but the motivations may differ.
Let us consider the choice of apple sauce or pork and beans. In the grocery store, a can (14 oz or 400 ml) of beans may cost you ninety cents or so, but no more than $1.20. A jar of apple sauce, on the other hand, may cost upwards of $3.00 for 900 ml (32 oz). Yet, both are relatively inexpensive. Both can be grown and produced by you.
If both can be produced by you, then, should not a true minimalist make his/her own beans or apple sauce? Not necessarily.
This fall, we made our own apple sauce, from a basket of tart apples picked from our own tree. To make six quarts took us four hours. That’s hardly a productive use of our time, since we were working for less than $5 per hour! Yet, our only inputs (the tree was in the yard before we were) were a little cinnamon, the jars (which we already had) and the heat to do the canning. We canned on a cool day, so the heat generated would have been generated anyway, to heat our home. That meant our only true cost was less than fifteen cents worth of cinnamon.
On the other hand, we also grew a variety of beans. Those beans could have been made into canned beans with pork. Instead, we chose to pickle them and freeze some. Less energy input was required on the hot summer days when they were ripe for the picking. Our net cost to pickle and freeze? About six cents per pound. To can them into brown beans with pork would have required sugar, cooking heat, spices, and tomato or molasses. And the time to prepare them for canning would have exceeded four hours for twenty pounds. At a retail price of $1.00 per pound, we would have saved $20 over store-bought beans, minus the input costs of forty cents per pound, and worked for $3.00 per hour. That is considerably less than what we earned on the apple sauce.
There are three additional major differences, though. The homemade apple sauce is pure, with no artificial preservatives added, and no sugars. And we used recycled jars, rather than aluminum cans. For the beans, we had an easier option: freezing. For virtually no cost, and little labour, we preserved the same quantity of beans as we would have canned in the pork ‘n beans scenario.
Sometimes, it is an act of minimalism to buy, rather than produce an item yourself. But where your inputs will exceed what is consumed by commercial production, where quality of doing it yourself far outweighs commercial product quality, or where commercial products generates excess waste, “doing it yourself” is the minimalist’s best option.
Minimalism, it seems then, is not as simple as “doing with less” or “doing it yourself.” It is also about “doing it smart.”

No comments:

Post a Comment