A few years ago a group of friends in San Francisco formed The Compact. Their quest was to buy nothing new for a year. Inspired by them, some of us here are inviting others to join us in A Year of Buying Nothing New. Our plan is to limit our shopping during 2012 to essential consumable items such as food, drink, vital health items and certain necessary things we can’t fix, get second hand or do without.
So yesterday I bought some stamps at the post office but packed my parcels in old cardboard as I’ll not be buying brown paper this year for packaging. Nor will I buy a food dryer I’ve been coveting or a new pair of sandals this summer; the old ones will do. Perhaps for me the challenge will be not to buy newspapers or new books. But maybe not: there is so much you can get for free.
Call me a domestic extremist, but this kind of exploration excites me. It feels good, and like an appropriate response to our broken civilization. We all now know that our level of consumption is fast eating up our non-renewable resources, including minerals, topsoil and water. Making new things uses fossil fuels that have become so scarce that we’re turning to even dirtier means such as tar sands and fracking. And the waste creates toxic landscapes and, worst of all, CO2 which threatens runaway climate change in our time.
The Story of Stuff is a lovely little film that explains all this quite simply and why buying less – much less – is necessary. It’s pretty obvious now that our leaders, our corporations and our media are not going to encourage this behaviour – it’s almost unpatriotic to not help our economy grow. But in this time where we’re having to choose between economic growth and life on earth, I know where I’ll be placing my vote.
Perhaps the most persuasive reason to live with less stuff is that we’re heading in that direction anyway. It may be better to ride the crest of a wave of change than be sucked under it.