Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Dilemma of Charity

A while back our friend Adam emailed me about disposing of bottles made with BPA. The research convinces us they are not healthy for us to use, yet tossing them in the trash just rubs us the wrong way. What to do with them?

In my response to Adam, I admitted that I didn't think this through when I wanted to get rid of my two "number 7" bottles - I ended up donating them to Goodwill. At the time I thought: "a not-so-good water bottle is better than no water bottle at all for a poor person, right?" Yeah, I now realize that that's terrible logic. So I brainstormed about Adam's bottles and told him I thought they could safely be used for storage of solid items, even dry goods like rice or sugar. Some random ideas: change jar? Lego container? Battery holder?

It all depends on our needs. In the end, if I could find no use for them in my home, I would not grieve over having to toss toxin-leaching bottles.

This issue is closely linked with another dilemma I've been pondering lately. Now that I'm changing so many of my food purchases for the better, I wrestle over whether it is right for me to buy the cheap stuff (when I come across great sales) to donate to charity. Should I be encouraging needy people to eat sugar-laden cereals by donating them? Our national obesity epidemic is in part attributable to all the cheap processed foods available. But we can't really afford to purchase organic for ourselves and our monthly donations (collected by our diocesan
Catholic Social Services).

Other examples: David and I have decreased (but not successfully eliminated - yet) our use of standard antiperspirants and deodorants due to the possibly
Alzheimers-inducing nature of the aluminum they contain (dementia runs in David's family, so we have cause for concern). With help from Money Saving Mom's weekly deal posts, I can often get deodorants for free or nearly free at CVS. But should I? Last week I read about a way to actually MAKE money by purchasing toe separators at CVS (thanks to their Extra Credit Bucks program) - but I no longer wear nail polish now that I know that the chemicals it contains may harm babies in utero. If I got the toe separators and donated them, would I be encouraging other women to endanger their children? And what about diapers? They are a much-requested donation for the local crisis pregnancy organization, Room At the Inn, and I've seen ways to buy them cheaply by matching coupons with sales. I am 100% committed to cloth diapering to limit our environmental impact and better care for our babies. Should I still give disposable diapers for the moms who would otherwise have to buy them for their babies (and thus have less money for utilities, gas, and other bills I cannot get deals on)?

I'm eager to read your thoughts on this dilemma...

Photo credits: bottle by darrylh and deodorants by ??


Adrian said...

Hello Frances! You have a great blog. Great design and great content. Many greetings, Adrian from Germany

Devin Rose said...

Hi Libertos,

These are good questions to ask; Katie and I switched to using non-Aluminum deodorants recently, so we know where you are coming from. Incidentally, we bought Tom's of Maine deodorants and have been pleased with them, though they are quite a bit less effective than their main brand Aluminum counterparts.

Eventually those BPA water bottles are going to end up in the trash somewhere, unless someone figures out how to recycle them while getting rid of the poisonous compounds, so I don't think it is wrong just to throw them away. Yes, they will take up landfill space, but until we quit producing such poisonous products, we won't be able to stop them from piling on the landfill when they get thrown away.

As for giving things away, I don't think you need to buy organic foods--many poorer people don't care about that and the benefits of organic in many foods is marginal--but you could at least buy raisin bran instead of chocolate cocoa puffs. :)

Adam said...

Interesting post Frances.

My take on the deodorant issue, along with other things that have a similar theme, is that in my mind, causality of these conditons from the given source is very difficult to establish. It is very difficult to say that Alzheimers is caused by the aluminum in anti-perspirants. Can it increase potential risk factors, perhaps, but to say that it is caused by it is hasty. I think about this everytime I see a study that says that something or another is good/bad for your health. I could probably find, if I wasnt so busy with other work lol, an article or two that says that aluminum has no effect on Alzheimers risk.

I digress.

In terms of buying "high risk" products for your donations, I would say that if you are that concerned about it, you could just donate the money you would spend on the products to the agency. Alternatively, I would agree with Devin that the benefit of eating all organic foods is minimal (although I have no evidence for that claim), and could border on cost-ineffective. That being said, you and David need to make the best decisions for you and your family first, and as long as you are doing everything with a spirit of love and charity, God will take care of the rest.

God bless you two, I wish I was in Charlotte so we could sit down and actually talk about this stuff instead of blog about it lol.


Frances said...

Devin - thank you for sharing your thoughts; I do nab lots of Raisin Bran on sale! :)

Adam - you are right about contradictory findings regarding the health impact of various foods and products. Actually, two of the websites I linked give a more balanced approach: Aluminum has been found in the brains of those who died with Alzheimer's, but that doesn't necessarily mean it entered their bodies through their underams.

And I definitely only buy a few organic foods (milk is high on the list) due to their high cost and limited availability. It's a balancing act - making the most of our limited means while doing what is feasible to eat well for our health. I still have lots to learn.

It is important to note why I try to donate products (food and household items, such as shampoo and soap) rather than money (although we tithe and thereby support a great array of charities - I plan to write about some of them soon). With my coupon-collecting and sale-searching efforts I am often able to purchase these things very cheaply (or even get them for free!), thereby donating useful items of value with minimal cost to us. Also, many charities request item donations (although money is gladly accepted) so that they don't have to go out and do the shopping themselves.

Jules said...

Interesting things to ponder Frances.
Regarding charities...besides the possibility that the benefits of organic in many foods is marginal...sometimes something, even not the best, is better then nothing. Hopefully those receiving these donated items are in great need of them whether it be food, hygiene, etc. and if they are in such great need wouldn’t it be better that they have something even if it is not the best? We can only hope and pray that these people are not in need of charity their whole lives and will be able to provide better food and such for their health at some point in the very near future. Even if these items are harmful to our health I would imagine it would be from a long period of time consuming or using these products.
This dilemma reminds me of one I hear all the time about whether or not to give a person that looks like they are in need money (if we are unable to give them food, a job, or other material help) in fear that they will use it to harms themselves through drugs or alcohol. A priest I highly respect once told me we should give and pray and put the rest in God’s hands.
I suppose as with everything we have to bring it all to prayer first and let God lead the way.

WOOD said...

with regard to aluminum... have you researched vaccines at all yet?
I think there is more cause for concern there...

We should talk about EC (Elimination Communication) someday. It's even more environmentally sound than cloth diapering and I'm fairly certain the concept would appeal to you!
(I still think it is worthwhile to donate disposable diapers though. They are just a fact of life in our culture.)