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.)