Follow me on Instagram!

I recently created a special account for Counter Corporations where I’ll be featuring local, independent businesses and companies that I love and support, as well as a variety of products, news, books, and things to inspire us in our anti-corporate journey. Following me on IG will also mean that you’ll never miss another post!

So, follow me @countercorporations right now, and let’s do this thing!

Disclaimer: I know it sounds hypocritical to use a Facebook product (I.e. large and fairly evil corporation), but I plan on using it for “good” and awareness-building about the issues I care about, so I hope to be forgiven this time.

Valentine’s Day, the Non-Corporate Way

This year — skip the expensive dinner, and store bought cards, candy, giant stuffed teddy bear, and standard flower arrangements, for something much more special, unique, and good for your wallet and the environment.

This February 14, my plan is to buy some ingredients from the local market and cook a nice dinner at home with my boyfriend. For his presents, I purchased a shea butter bar from Lush and a book from Powell’s. We’re keeping it cozy and will be doing our good deed for the day by babysitting his brother’s adorable one year old daughter while her parents go out for a much-needed date night.

For you though, the possibilities are endless!

Instead of buying a cliche, mass-produced Hallmark card, you could: 

Make one yourself! Not only is it more eco-friendly, cheaper, and more fun than buying a $5 card, but there’s no better way to communicate exactly how you feel or what you want to say, than by making a card to your personal requirements and specifications. Don’t know where to start?

  1. Grab a few magazines (and/or old cards, newspaper, photos, stickers, etc.), a pair of scissors, tape and/or glue, and some paper or cardboard from the recycling bin, and get to work!
  2. I generally begin without a set idea or direction in mind, and then cut out anything that feels “right” or makes me think of the person (or an inside joke, shared memory) for whom I’m making the card.
  3. After I’ve compiled a decent set of pictures, photos, words, and/or stickers, I start playing around with them on the paper. Keep an open mind, and you’ll see that a theme starts to emerge, and at this point you should start to get pretty excited thinking about the person’s reaction when they read it.
  4. From there, finish it up by using a pen/glitter pen/paint/marker/crayon to complete the sentiment, and put it away somewhere safe to dry.

I can almost guarantee-or-your-money-back, that the individual receiving your homemade art, will treasure and remember it for years to come.

Instead of ordering a dozen roses or expensive bouquet of flowers, you could:

Put together your own succulent or potted plant arrangement. I personally love succulents because they’re incredibly easy to keep alive — infrequently (minimum every two weeks) pour a tiny bit of water into the soil and keep it near a light source — but they’re also more eco-friendly than buying flowers that are going to shrivel and die within a few days. Unlike stemmed roses, a cactus lasts, my friends.  As an added bonus, cacti are, for some unknown reason (maybe because they’re Millennial-friendly and low maintenance) very trendy at the moment, and oh-so-Instagram-worthy.

  1. Start by first looking around your house for a container. Mason jars are super cute, but even other old jars or containers can be used as-is or, if you’re feeling extra-crafty, you can paint or decoupage the outside for some added oomph and personalization. I’ve even seen plants potted in old shoes, so, really, the sky is the limit with the container you could use. Let your imagination run wild, and make it special for the recipient.
  2. Next, head to a plant nursery to pick up your new green friend. Avoid the plant departments of Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, and instead opt for a locally owned store. A quick duckduckgo.com search should turn up some viable options.
  3. Before you leave for the store, make sure you have your container AKA the plant baby’s new home, with you. This really helps with picking out the right size plant since you need to ensure there’s sufficient room for the plant’s roots to grow and expand. If you need help, the folks at the nursery will be more than eager to assist you in selecting the best plant for your container and the recipient’s lifestyle.
  4. At this point, all that’s left is to remove your plant from the plastic container it arrived in and repot it in the container you prepared.
  5. As a finishing touch, you could create your own instruction care card and tie it around the container with a ribbon, piece of twine, string, etc. that you have lying around the house.
  6. Then, just be sure to keep it alive until you give it away to its new owner!

 

Instead of buying a box of Dove/Lindt/Godiva chocolates, you could:

Make your own chocolate-dipped strawberries or truffles! There are a million and two recipes out there for both, and trust me, they’re much easier to make than we’re lead to believe. You can also customize them based on the recipient’s taste preferences, and get really creative with the box in which you give them.

  1. Find a recipe. A quick duckduckgo.com search will yield myriad results.
  2. Head to your local shop to pick up the ingredients. The standard required items will most likely be baking chocolate, flavoring (e.g., vanilla extract), and, if you’re planning on making dipped items, the fruit, pretzel, bacon, etc.
  3. For those who have yet to venture into the kitchen, rest assured that there are plenty of cooking shows out there that will guide you every step of the way.
  4. Make your items.
  5. Let them cool for a sufficient time as directed in the recipe. I would even recommend letting them sit overnight to ensure completeness.
  6. Find your box. It could be an old jewelry box, cardboard box that you decorate, vintage container/cigarette box, etc. Again, let your imagination run wild.

 

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? I would love to hear about what you did to celebrate the non-corporate way!

A Guide to Buying Books the Anti-Corporate Way

Here’s where NOT to buy books: Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target, Barnes & Nobles, Books-A-Million, or other mega, chain retailer. You know what I’m talking about. They not only have a gigantic eco-foot print, but they also exclude certain types of books and authors, and are often more pricey than many of the other options highlighted below.

Here’s where TO buy books:

  1. Start with your local library! Not only will you be supporting your community, but you’ll also refrain from spending a dime or bringing clutter into your house. Other added benefits: You may also meet some new friends, stumble upon a book club or discover some great local events that you would have otherwise never heard about.
  2. Next: check out your local bookstore. Since I live in Washington, D.C., I have the fortune of being close to some fabulous local spots. My favorite so far being Kramerbooks & Afterwords — helps that they have a cozy bar and an amazing gluten-free chocolate torte! Local book stores also frequently host book signings and author talks, so check them out!
  3. Trade your books on PaperBackSwap.com. Here’s how it works: after you create an account, pull out the gently used books that you want to trade, and list them by their ISBN number. After someone requests one of your books, you ship it to them (and pay for postage; books are sent by media mail, so it’s usually less than $4 a book). After they receive it, you receive one credit in return (books on tape are worth two credits), that you can use to request a book from another user on the site (plus a trading fee of $.50), who then pays to ship the book that you requested to you. I’ve had resounding success on this website, and have sent/received over 140 books.
  4. If you’d like to go the used (and more affordable/green) route, thrift stores are generally chock full of paperbacks and kids books. My sister has found some incredible texts at her go-to store in Portland, Maine, and if you’re on the look out for James Patterson or Sue Grafton novels, thrift stores will feel like winning the jackpot. A word of advice: make sure that your expectations aren’t too high, and definitely go in with an open mind, because there is very little guarantee that you’ll find the exact title you’re looking for. So, be ready to be surprised and to take a chance on a novel that has seen better days.
  5. And then there’s this: Little Free Library! (photo above) Not sure how I got so lucky as to have one of these a block from my house in D.C., but it is just about the cutest, coolest thing ever (nerd alert)! The concept is simple: a Steward (anyone!) picks a legal and high-traffic location for the library, gathers starter books, and then registers it with the website. That’s it! So far, there are over  60,000 of these little guys all over the world! I really love the concept of making books accessible in neighborhoods where they may be far away from a library, or lack the resources to purchase books of their own.

If you don’t have any good, local options near you; or you are looking for a specific book, check out these online options for buying used and new books:

Powell’s Books Independent bookstore based in Portland, Oregon

YourOnlineBookstore.com  Free domestic ground shipping on all books

Thrift Books Free shipping over $10

Discover Books Free shipping in the U.S.

Llewellyn The world’s oldest and largest independent publisher of books for body, mind, and spirit

Did I miss anything? Let me know! What’s been your best thrift store book find?

4 Rules for Anti-Corporate Living

1) Whenever possible, buy local and buy small.
2) If you see the product everywhere (e.g. McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Exxon), you can make a safe bet that it’s a mega corporation, and should avoid it.
3) Download the Buycott and/or Better World Shopper applications. These will make your life significantly easier because they’ve already done the research on the companies for you!
4) Research! Take time to learn about the products and companies from where you buy your products and services. Find out if the company is reputable, treats its workers well, practices environmental stewardship, and is not a cog in the mega-corporate machine.  Yes, it will take more time than clicking a few buttons on your Amazon app, and yes, you’ll go down some rabbit holes, and most likely get frustrated. But, I promise you, it is WORTH it. You’ll feel better knowing that your morals and values align with your spending and you’ll buy fewer, more high quality, not to mention unique, things (it’s about quality, not quantity, people!).
And, of course, check out this page for an ever expanding list of acceptable/unacceptable companies to buy from. I hope that you will contribute to the list as well!

Shower Curtains & Starbucks

Christmas and New Years have come and gone, and along with it a massive tax break for American corporations, and continued political chaos. Despite the highs and lows though, I’ve stuck mostly to my anti-corporate living. Here’s a brief synopsis of the past months’ successes and failures.

(As always, I am not getting paid by any of the companies mentioned below)

  • Whenever I’m go out to eat with friends or family members, I cajole, push, and, when forced, whine, until I persuade them to eat at a local, small restaurant or coffee shop. And in most places that I’ve been to since my last post, it’s been relatively easy to do this (Washington, DC and Portland, ME) considering the vast array of affordable, yummy, and available options. However, the one place where I found this to be challenging was in the St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN region. Indeed, the Mid-West section of America is a land of strip malls and chains. The weekend I was there I experienced my biggest slip-ups since I started avoiding corporations a few months ago. With my head bowed down, hoping that none of my faithful followers would see me, I found myself becoming a customer once more of Target, CVS, and Starbucks.
    • I will say though, that stepping back once more into these chain, cookie-cutter, big-box stores reminded me exactly why I have been staunchly avoiding them. To me, they were, and are, nauseatingly boring, wasteful, and stuffed to the brim with products lacking in both quality or uniqueness. But, but, but! They are readily accessible, and, in some parts of the country, literally the only option for the things I and my family needed at the time: poster board paper (Target), gluten-free breakfast options (Starbucks), and contact lens solution (CVS). And, I will say, that it was comforting knowing that I could easily and affordably buy the above items when I needed them. Thinking about how the convenience and cost factor often play such a mammoth role in one’s shopping decisions reminded me about why it’s so difficult for us to cut corporations out of our lives completely. T=However, this lifestyle is like a diet: you HAVE to get back on healthy eating train right after you cheat, or all is lost. Therefore, despite my failures, I learned from it, and was even more inspired to avoid them in the future.
  • One of recent successes was finding an eco-friendly shower curtain. Random, I know; but I needed it since my current one is discolored, old, and very unappealing to the eye. I started my internet search by searching for (on duckduckgo.com, of course) “eco-friendly shower curtains”, since I knew from the start that I didn’t want one made out of plastic or anything that would eventually have to end up in a landfill. This immediately generated quite a few results, with Amazon (no surprise there) heavily advertising its products in the topmost position. I scrolled past seven corporate results until I found one that highlighted “5 Options for Eco-Friendly Shower Curtains” that provided information about hemp, bamboo, linen, cotton, and DIY curtains, I decided to go with hemp for its durability, lack of synthetic compounds, and the fact that it is naturally resistant to bacteria and fungi. While there weren’t a ton of non-corporate websites selling hemp shower curtains, I finally stumbled upon arenaturals.com and purchased these curtains in sea foam (while the sea foam color itself ended up being more green, than blue, I’m very happy with the quality of the curtains, and love how my bathroom looks now!)
    • I tell this story because I find it’s a fairly standard example of what I go through now when purchasing products. Whereas, before I would open up my Amazon Prime application on my cell phone and quickly scroll through a few choices before clicking “buy now”‘, I find myself spending a greater amount of time researching and browsing until I find an item that fits my requirements. I will be the first to admit that my new process takes more time and money, but on the flip side, I find it more rewarding and fun to support small, socially conscious, and distinct businesses……Don’t get sucked into the trap of thinking that Amazon is the only option!

I would love to hear from you!

Have you been somewhere recently where you felt suffocated by corporate options and couldn’t find the little guy to support? What did you end up doing?

Or, have you had any success finding an anti-corporate option to a product you needed to buy? Do you have any research techniques or resources to share?

Thanks for reading!

-Abigail