There is this term I bandy about: YuppieHippie.
As in, “I picked up my grass fed milk at the YuppieHippie market. It was on sale for $10 a gallon.”
In my town there is a segment of the population that cares about the eco trendy trinity of local-organic-sustainable because they can. They drive their hybrid SUVs to the YuppieHippie market and push their Kavu-clad toddlers around in Euro-strollers before enjoying a 90 minute Bikram session and an organic soy latte with a friend. These people are livin’ la vida YuppieHippie.
They care because they can afford to care. They spend more on the good stuff, the local-organic-sustainable stuff, because they can afford to spend more. They have cute reusable totes and perky yoga asses and they do not even think about dumpster diving.
And then there are the punk housewives, the radical homemakers. They glean (possibly illegally) and wait for Purple Tag: 50% Off days at Value Village. They know how to seed-bomb and squat-garden and never quite get the dirt out from under their nails. Their toddlers wear cloth diapers and little else as they run around chasing the backyard chicken. They’d rather D-I-Y than B-U-Y. They do because they can’t afford not to do.
In any movement that is gaining traction – and the green living/urban homesteading/Micheal Pollan-reading lifestyle is certainly gaining traction – questions of legitimacy inevitably come up.
What makes someone legitimately crunchy? Is it the point when you give up paper towels and switch to cloth? When you start shampooing with baking soda? When you buy carbon offsets? What makes someone a legitimate urban homesteader? Domestic production of 50% of your edibles? Beekeeping? Goat-keeping? What makes someone a legitimate punk domestic? Home based charcuterie skills? Knowing how to make and smoke a wheel of gouda? A sexy tattoo of a radish seedling?
Sometimes there is the feeling of a ladder with rungs of legitimacy: Entry level: organic bulk shampoo in a reusable container. Master level: homemade calendula & homestead honey salve. Entry level: patio tomato. Master level: backyard vineyard and annual grape crush on 1/10th of an acre. Entry level: cloth diapers. Master level: humanure.
Those who are comfortably balancing on some of the higher rungs can get pretty dismissive of the YuppieHippie segment. They don’t seem legitimate. I get this; when you work hard at something the perception that someone is buying their way onto the bandwagon is, well, irritating.
But I’d propose that we all come from somewhere and we’d do well to remember that. Before I became a raw-kale-salad eating urban homesteading chef I was a big fan of Jack-In-The-Box Jalapeno Poppers. A big, big fan. I liked to eat them in my SUV, while the cheese-like substance they fill those things with was still molten.
Now I walk to the YuppieHippie market in my yoga pants and I buy the expensive milk with money I save not buying the expensive produce because I grow that myself. I buy the local chocolate because sometimes you just need a little chocolate.
There is dirt under my nails and a cute – cute but cheap – reusable tote slung over my shoulder. I check out the prices of the artisan bread and artisan granola to get an idea of the financial value of what I bring to the homestead by not buying that stuff. (I love this exercise.)
Annie Jones says
Our well-known yuppie/hippie stores are both in the yuppie part of town, and definitely have their share of those who "care because they can afford to care". A lot of times it's obvious. Maybe it's the dirt that's not under the acrylic nails.
I'm of stock that's more hippie/hillbilly who grew up with gardening, cloth diapering and a DIY mindset. When I go into those stores, I can't help but wonder if there's anyone else in there like me.
But you are right, there are exceptions to every rule, and I've been pleasantly surprised, and sometimes amused, to learn about the "past lives" of some of my friends. Outward appearances don't always tell the whole story.
really great post, erica. so true. outward appearances can't be trusted, but maybe more importantly, like you say we all come from somewhere, and not even "inward" appearances tell the real story.
i guess there are folks who really don't care in the world, but i haven't met any. everyone i know is doing whatever they can and are comfortable with.
I feel kind of like you. Usually when I go buy some pastured pork at the yuppiehippie butcher in the uber yuppiehippie town of Napa I'm wearing my business clothes because I just got off of work. People definitely prejudge you based on your outward appearance. They don't notice that my fingernails are cut super short because our goats were kidding and it makes them easier to clean the dirt out of. They don't know that I don't live in that uber hippieyuppie town and they would be appalled to know where I actually live. The don't know that I have an SUV because I can haul both people and large amounts of livestock feed and/or livestock in it. They also don't know my other vehicle is a truck that we use to haul manure in.
But I think it's also obvious that some people do buy their way and don't actually live the life. If people pay attention they'll notice that my mary jane shoes that I wear to work every day are actually athletic shoes with a line of mud around the bottom. They'll notice I don't do my nails or wear makeup and that my hair is usually in a ponytail. As Annie says above, I can't see the woman with the acrylic nails hauling manure out of a truck.
Bethany @ Uncle Dutch Farms says
Good post, Erica. Sometimes I need that reminder! I am one who has always been "function over form" and so I get attacked on a regular basis by Frumpzilla. Given the fact that I am just about as opposite as the Yuppie-Hippie-Acrylic Nails-Prius Driving-Whole-Foods-Shopping-Imported-Fairtrade-Kids-Clothes mom I do tend to get kinda judgmental sometimes… thinking they'd never get down and get dirty, that it's just a fad.
Good grief, and I want people to see there's more to me than the clipped up hair, old sweatshirt and dirt under my nails! Thank you for this.
Incidentally, even though I have been into natural living pretty much my whole life, I have always felt very uncomfortable in natural food stores and always scooted out as soon as I could. Weird…
Very well said! I started out that YuppieHippie and worked myself slowly to where I am now. I'd rather grow, bake, and make then buy it all. I also wonder if anyone else is out there like me as I walk around our country market mumbling to myself that I could make it better at home. Thanks!
Simple Mama says
Such a great post! This really spoke to me. I live in yuppyhippieville, but I'm going to work hard to change my perception of those around me. It's easy to assume we're doing more than others when you walk this lifestyle. We shouldn't.
This is an essay in your future book. I think you'll need to edit this label soon to say, "raw-kale-salad eating urban homesteading chef-author." Seriously fantastic writing! True and funny words on a topic worth reflecting on more often. I love it!
meg- grow and resist says
Fantastic post Erica! Well thought out- I loved it! There is a lot of legitimacy issues within the YuppieHippie and DIY, etc communities! And, so often the groups that are the most marginalized go unseen completely (communities of color).
Great post. I've lately been mulling over the same things myself. I had a"friend" who was definitely YuppieHippie, and although praising our work to my face, she often told our other friends that we did it because we were poor. That always makes me laugh. It may have possibly been he background, as she came from an area in the country that only the lower class gardened, etc. ??
on another note: "A sexy tattoo of a radish seedling?" –There's a guy in our CSA who has a tattoo of "a sacred turnip" on his arm. It looks like this: http://monroeorganicfarms.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/design-2.jpg which he also submitted for the t-shirt contest they held last year. 🙂
The Red and Black Redneck says
Erica: This reminds me of the debates friends & I had in college about when one became a true Spreadhead (Widespread Panic). How many times did you have to see them? How high did you have to be when you did? It seems to me that if someone is consciously spending more to select the organic milk or what have you and perhaps sacrificing some other luxury (cable TV, XM Radio) to be able to do so, then legitimate thinking has begun. I am freely stereotyping here but I think that most readers of your blog would probably stereotype me as a southern redneck (which I am) without thinking about the many strands of commonality that bind conservatives and progressives of the type found in the urban farming movement. If agrarian minded folks on the left and right could get past the appearances, I think we'd find that our dreams and ideas flow from some common sources.
Adrienne Audrey says
Honestly, if I could afford a hybrid SUV, hour long yoga sessions and all that jazz I would probably buy it, but I can't so I do the best I can and spend my weekends trying to grow my own food and shopping at value village. I'm fine with it. If someone has the means to indulge in expensive "eco friendly" sustainable products and lifestyle. I'm fine with it. I'd rather they buy the hybrid SUV than the regular SUV and sustainable products than the alternative. If you can afford it, why not? Why feel bad about it? As far as I'm concerned it's none of my business anyways and I fully realize not everyone wants to spend all day shoveling manure 🙂
I get what you're saying but the acceptance needs to work both ways. I have experienced a fair amount of snubbing (subtle and more obvious) and isolation because I am not of the YuppieHippie crowd. We live the way we do because it is the right thing to do for the planet and because it allows us to live on far less money than most people. Sure, that means I am not wearing the nicest fashions, but I didn't care about fashion back when more money was available anyway. I can't afford to take a Bikram yoga class and I sure as heck wouldn't want to get a FT job just so I could. I'd rather use a DVD found for a buck at a thrift store!
There's a large local contingent of very hip folks living "green". They think they are the bomb because they have houses run entirely on solar power and 10,000 gallon rainwater tanks are buried in their yards. Yet few of them are willing to alter their behavior and lifestyle at the more basic level, such as by using cloth wipes or peeing in the garden to use less water in the first place, or chopping the veggies by hand instead of using the food processor. They generally think I am nuts.
Great post Erica !
I believe that anyone who is a friend of the environment and who opts for meat, eggs and dairy from animals raised with respect is doing a good thing.
Of course, some YuppieHippies are arrogant. But so are some urban homesteaders. In fact some urban homesteaders are uber arrogant (as we have learned during the last few weeks)…
Do I think we who grow and raise our food ourselves deserve more respect ? I would love to answer "no, we are all doing what we can, on a different level" but a small voice in me is saying otherwise. And to me, it doesn't matter if you are on the "entry level" wagon or the "master level" wagon, as long as you are on the train 🙂
"Perhaps it's best not to assume too much. There may be legitimacy where we least expect it."
I agree with your conclusion. And though I'm not a Christian, I try not to judge, lest I be judged. I'm no paragon of anything myself; so I wouldn't hold up to judgment very well.
Anyway, if someone is trying to buy into this lifestyle with money, I say we should encourage that. At least the money is going to a good cause. Let the wealthy spend their money lavishly on local grass fed meat and dairy that sells for a premium. What better for them to spend their money on? It's a voluntary and mutually beneficial way for them to support local food production. If enough of the wealthy did this regularly, it might make those same foods more affordable for the less than rich. That's a way to preserve a foodshed for everyone.
Very well said. Thanks for laying it out there. I've been thinking about this a lot, too. Would it be okay with you if I link to your blog from mine and write a bit along similar lines? Perhaps it's a topic a lot of us need to mull over more – I know I sure do.
Thanks for reminding everyone that it's important to do what you can with the circumstances you have. I love when you say:
"They care because they can afford to care."
Reminds me of a lecture from college were the professor challenged us to reflect on the fact that we were able to have the luxuries of time was because there were people all over the world making our clothes and growing our food. Things that make you go "hmmm…"
I think you hit the nail on the head when you say:
"Perhaps it's best not to assume too much"
Great post 🙂
I was raised mostly crunchy, without knowing there was such a thing. All the moms I knew breastfed except the one who adopted those adorable twin baby boys at birth. We had an organic veggie garden. My parents helped organize the natural foods co-op before you could join a natural food co-op online. I changed my baby sister's cloth diapers, in between homeschool math assignments and sneaking away to read anything I could get my hands on.
I bring my own bags to grocery shop. Half of them are ones from the grocery store's yuppie-hippie displays of "eco-friendly" totebags. Half are ones I got for 50 cents at the thrift store, or just had lying around in a closet somewhere.
Much of the "crunchy" stuff I do now is so I can afford to buy the expensive raw milk… from the rustic barn-like country garden center, and the farmer with permanent dirt stains under his fingernails. I tried my hand at gardening. I guess I was good at it. The deer certainly found my little patch irresistible. Having everything eaten down to the roots demoralized me, and I didn't even bother to weed the beds this year.
I don't so much care WHY someone works to incorporate more organic and natural elements into their life. Hey, the more the rich yuppie-hippies increase the demand, the more likely the prices will eventually drop as production increases. Maybe I'll actually be able to afford more of the organic stuff that I just can't right now.
Excuse me, I have to get back to looking up patterns to make cloth diapers out of old t-shirts now.
Here's an angle I'm trying to work, and I recommend it. Assume those people are on your side. Assume that they appreciate you. And reciprocate.
maybe texas girls do a little different, but i know my family can walk the walk and keep it upscale. theres dirt under these acrylic nails.
On the YuppieHippie-EcoPunk spectrum, my kid sister leans toward the former and I'm definitely the latter. She's more affluent, likes Nice Things, and buys organic foods at HippieGranola Market. Meanwhile, I'm an enthusiastic scavenger (I harvested a huge mess of dandelion greens yesterday!), recycler, and DIYer–the crazy hillbilly throwback in our family.
But when we sit down and start talking about the things that really matter–sustainability, humane treatment of food animals, climate change, energy conservation, how shamelessly f'ing evil Monsanto is, poverty and food availability–we're on the exact same page. And that's what matters. We can talk about what we're doing, exchange ideas and information, and brainstorm ways to gently bring others on board.
Both of us arrived at our respective approaches to sustainable living only after eating lots of industrial deathchow, buying lots of shiny plastic crap, striving for bigger houses and more stuff–only to realize that none of it was making us healthy, wealthy, or wise. We are not without sin; not by a long shot. Nor did we change our ways overnight (and they're still constantly changing).
What makes somebody "legitimately crunchy"? I admit that questions of legitimacy, or of rungs on a ladder, have always bothered me. The best answer I can come up with right now is that anyone who allows themselves to be aware of the impact of their lifestyle, and voluntarily takes steps to mitigate it, gets to be a member in good standing of the Crunch Club. I am all for inclusion, for embracing and encouraging even the most nascent crunchies. It doesn't matter if they're just starting out by replacing incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs and bringing their own bags–while still driving an SUV–because we've all had to start somewhere and take our first baby steps.
I've heard too many accusations of snobbery, judgmentalism, and elitism leveled against green-living advocates, and unfortunately too many of them are true. And unfortunately, I still catch some of those negative traits in my own thinking; on a bad day, at the wrong moment, I can be as greener-than-thou as anyone. But I don't believe we have the luxury of creating exclusive categories anymore; if we're going to encourage more people to even start thinking about green issues and make even small changes, we have to give that up.
Yes, I still get the occasional urge to sneer at affluent HippieYuppie yoga moms. I admit it. But darn it, they're at least thinking about these issues, while so many Americans resolutely refuse to do so. Plus, they're Early Adopters, who have been willing to buy organic and sustainable products despite high costs and limited availability. And by supporting organic growers and sustainable businesses through their purchases, they have helped make those things more widely available, at lower prices, so people like me can afford them. So as far as I'm concerned, they're part of the Crunch Club, too.
Sheryl Dutton-Ramos says
The downside to categorizing status within any social structure (who breastfeeds their babies longer, who grows the most food, who is the most hard core environmentalist) is that it discourages. It's natural to be competitive, thats how we move forward, but passing judgement, jealousy and criticism hold us back from reaching our true potential. Being conscious of our behavior and the impact we have on the world is a journey. People get the messages they need when they need them. We can encourage each other, rather than compete with one another. Its all good! We're in this together.
Very interesting thoughts. I believe most of your readers, like me, fall somewhere in the middle. I personally am trying to save money and bring the family together during this time of financial crisis by creating a more simple life. Not a less technological one, but a one where we use less gas, grow what we can, and play around the house. We don't go out to eat much, but enjoy finding new dishes to make at home. Ah, I wish I were a chef like you.
Karen @ My Pantry Shelf says
I love your writing. Thanks for a good laugh. I definitely fall in the middle- I guess that is what we would all say. Of course, it is difficult to accurately judge anyone elses experience without actually living in their shoes.
Your descriptions of the people definitely remind me of my years in Eugene. Oh how I miss the Northwest and yet don't at the same time.
Great post – I think I probably need to bookmark these for those bad days when I start getting cranky and judgmental. What I think it really comes down to for me is whether people are making changes because they have some kind of awareness of why these things are important to do (although, really, even trendy can be useful, I suppose, since it can start people on the path to change, support the market for greener products, and so on, so I try not to go off the deep end too much), but this is something that you can't necessarily tell from appearance, and it's so important to be open to people whose ways are just not the same as mine, so thanks for the reminder.
Actively looking for a tattoo artist who will do a radish seedling for me 😉
Gods bless the YuppieHippies. Without them there would be no market for my extensively marked up organic produce. They may think they're buying their lifestyle, but really, they're buying mine. 🙂
Wow, you guys are brutal. Sounds like high school. Also, I'm not sure that everything is an ideological decision. Example? Acrylic nails. Do you really look at someone and isolate one aspect of their appearance and conclude, "Oh, she's THAT type!" ?
April Alexander says
I've been thinking about these issues for years now, and you have articulated many of my feelings with great accuracy, thank you!! I live in a pot growing college town where there are the have's and the have nots, and not a whole lot in between. What urks me most is that the majority of people around here who can enjoy the easy benefits of organic lifestyles can do so only because they are making money illegally. Then they look their noses down at the rest of us who follow the law and can't afford all of the expensive eco/organic wares. Then there are the legit folks who do it because they can. They don't really get under my skin. They're trying, and most really do care from what I've seen. There is a whole different set I've seen as well: Those who can afford to buy all the expensive eco/organics but chose to scavenge and find the freebies. We have some friends like this, and I highly respect them – they "get" it. Yesterday they picked up two free chickens and put them into their home made chicken coop which was made from re-purposed materials. They were giddy with excitement and very proud of their accomplishment. Then they share their home pressed apple juice with others, so impressive.
I think I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. We're a one family income with two kids, so we simply cannot afford to buy all organic eco-friendly items. What we can't afford to buy we make up for with recycling, up-cycling, trading, sharing, etc. All of our garden materials were free scores, and we thrift shop on a regular basis. But there are times we buy from Costco and Walmart too, truth be told. It really annoys me when others look down on me for not buying organic, fair trade, eco-friendly, etc. We're all at different stages in our journey, and this isn't a race – it's a destination. We need to be patient with one another and realize that everyone is trying their best, everyone is in a different place, and we're all playing our individual parts. Let's cut one another some slack and have respect for where we are! Thanks again for the post Erica!
I did enjoy reading this post, but at the same time was a little uncomfortable with putting labels on people. Are we still in high school? Now don't get me wrong, like-minded people tend to gather together and befriend each other and that makes sense, but I think we forget how eclectic some people can be. I say this only because I am a pile of contradictions and if someone wants to judge, be my guest. I can't please everyone and I really don't care to take the time to try. I like make up, pretty clothes and technology but I equally love mucking around in the mud, t-shirts and a good pair of working jeans and the feel of a perfectly good book in my hand read in my backyard. I share my home with dogs and parrots and soon chickens will be in my backyard. I am constantly evolving on this journey but its the journey that makes my beliefs so strong. If I was just told to stop doing something or to change and I didn't come to those realizations on my own I don't think it would be as meaningful. I judge a book by its cover sometimes I won't lie, but the older I get the more I realize that doesn't serve me well. Sometimes reading a chapter or two changes everything. Could I be pegged as a yuppiehippie? Probably. Do I care? No. Because in my heart and those who know me well, know that I am on a journey to be the best urban homesteader I can be. And by the way, someone has to keep those farmers and other local and small business in business. Its not wrong to admit to your limitations and support others who can do it better, faster and potentially cheaper. Just some food for thought and still enjoyed reading your side of things.
Jessica @ Delicious Obsessions says
I love, love, love this post! The first thing that popped into my mind when I started reading is sitting outside of Whole Foods and people watching. I don't shop at Whole Foods b/c I don't like the company, however, I do like to use it in my social research.
I make no claim to be an urban homesteader or a true "hippie", despite the fact that my hubby calls me a hippie. However, I would classify myself in the urban-homesteader-in-progress category. I do what I can with what I have and can afford. Money is super tight for us, so I buy the best quality food I can and try not to lose sleep about the rest. I use coconut oil for moisturizer, I have a garden where I can grow a decent amount of veggies in my short growing season, and I try to reuse and recycle where I can.
But, I do know that there are so many things I could be doing better. Those mostly come down to not having a) the space for a bigger garden (teeny tiny backyard with strict HOA rules), or b) the money so we can actually buy a house and get away from this stupid HOA where I can have chickens and bees and goats.
I'm a work in progress … I hope people don't judge me, as I try my hardest not to judge them. But I'm not perfect either.
Thanks for this post! 🙂
Laura H says
Sounds like more than a bit of envy at the beginning of the post. I am a yuppie-hippie wannabe, too!
Mandy E says
Thanks for this post! When we can get past questions of legitimacy, we can talk to people about what we have in common. Whether you scraped together the money to buy the fancy organic milk or the money is spilling out of your wallet – the point is that you BOTH value that organic milk. Starting with that is where exciting things can happen. Let's all use these commonalities as a jumping-off point to invite people to go deeper into this movement and BE invited as well.
We call them trustafarians around here. Just a play on words with Rastafarian and their trust accounts. Used in a sentence: "I wish the damn trustafarians would go down to the drum circle. They are taking up seats at the bar." Yes there is a weekly drum circle in Asheville during the summer.
Hippies denote those of the composting toilet and patchouli crowd. Used in a sentence" "I scored some good weed from the hippie down the street, I just wish he would take a bath sometimes".
Locals denotes those that are from Western North Carolina and already have gardens, practice canning, and generally do the same things their parents and grandparents did. Used in a sentence "You ain't from around here…are ya?"
Well the last example is often used by locals to discern non-locals (often known as Floridiots b/c the come from Florida)
Not sure how this comment got completely derailed from your post, but because it took awhile to type I'm just going to let it stand.
Oh the label frenzy. This is segregation! How can you discriminate against the Trustafarians or Floridiots 🙂 ??? Now go wear your baby and throw a boob over your shoulder! I hope you don't catch head lice at the next drum circle!
Love your blog! So funny and balanced. Rare as hens teeth 😉 Keep them coming – Karen
I love your writing. I read you every day and linked to you. Please consider writing a book. I carry Urban Homesteading books in my store and would love to have a book that just talks like you do about the reality of living the lifestyle. I love your Urban Homesteading Asshole post and go in and reread it periodically. The Anonymous comment still makes me laugh. Thanks for doing what you do so well.
Free Range Mama says
I find this appropriate to read right now as I am wondering exactly who or what I am. A little of everything, I guess. Anyway, whatever I am I am happy and enjoying my life. With an expensive board jacket, boots from Value Village, goats and chickens and kids, and a great cheer as a soccer mom. So what does that make me? Phew.
Mama Turtle says
I'm a complete mixed bag of these lol. I'm originally from Missouri, and grew up country-poor. That means you live within your means, and don't have a lot, but you don't know you're poor because you have what you need and everyone else around you is poor too. My parents had a little homestead that served as a small chicken farm and had an acre garden plus an acre orchard to feed us, and sometimes the neighbors and extended family too if they got hard up. I wore hand me downs and played barefoot in the crick all the time, picking wild blackberries for a snack. Now, I live in the suburbs of L.A., nestled up against the San Gabriels with my daughter and my soon-to-be DH, between us we bring in low 6 figures and yes, I have a perky yoga ass, even though it's gotten wider since my thyroid went pbbt on me. My shopping bags are cute, my food is all organic, I have great highlights, and my child is stylish. I look to all eyes like a yuppie-hippie, with just a smidge more piercings than usual. But here's the rub: I'm still a sensible country girl at heart. There is dirt under these manicured-but-natural fingernails, my fab golden blonde hair is naturally sun bleached, I made those kid clothes and cute bags myself, I grow as much of that food as I can, make homemade bread and some cheese, and I drive a Camry that's 6 years old which I share with my DH2B. I make my own soap and household cleaners too, even though I know I can afford to buy whichever ones I wanted. I homeschool my daughter and own two cats who are street rescues. I don't have cable TV, I don't have designer shoes, and I wear no makeup 90% of the time. Why do I do all this when I could just buy everything? Because I am practical. Because I love doing it. Because in the end, I don't care about status or convenience or looking a certain way. I wear those yoga pants to the store because they're comfy. I'm proud of my roots and of accomplishing things for myself. Money is just paper bits… if tomorrow I woke up and they were all gone or worthless, I want to be prepared for that. I never did like labels, probably because I never fit in any of them properly. No matter what someone appears to be, there's always another story under there if you take the time to discover it.
Erin B says
OMG! Now I want a sexy radish seedling tattoo! This is why I love this blog: I get humour and DIY without the shame that I can’t afford the $10 gallon milk or the fancy pants gardening products.
I read it and i was looking for something about yippies. Or how so many people with more money than me wear bell bottoms and listen to Reggae. I now have the term Trustafarians.. I don’t think labeling is so bad in this case it took me years past high school to make these observations for myself and the ones getting defensive it probably applies to most. Hippie-yuppie go hand in hand and its all blank sub/urban elitism. I didnt realize it till i saw the most Rasta looking guy in the world driving a BMW convertible it is sad but its very true in many cases.