Did you know that a report from 2005 stated “Aussies have admitted to spending over $10 billion every year on goods we do not use: clothes and shoes we never wear, CDs we never listen to, DVDs we never watch and food we never eat and each year in Australia nearly 20 million tonnes of waste goes to landfill. By way of comparison, this amount exceeds spending by Australian governments on universities and roads.”
I wonder what those figures might be in your neck of the woods?
I’ve been challenged by the idea of considerate consumerism : not to buy anything new for 12 months.
Exceptions to this include underwear, food and health and safety items such as toilet paper. All clothing, furniture and other items need to be bought second hand, bartered or borrowed. However, services such as movies, theatre, haircuts, massages and music downloads cab be bought. These are experiences.
I started to try to put the ideas of considerate consumerism into perspective.
During the last two years I’ve been ‘temporarily living’ in the UK I’ve had a miniscule budget. That’s meant out of necessity I’ve bought my clothes (if not all, then almost all) from charity shops. Bedlinen etc has been loaned from friends etc. I’ve used other people’s pots, pans, cutlery and crockery.. (The one set of pans I did buy I gave to a friend who needed them – or at least the lids! – more than I did). I’ve shared meals where I can. Loaned tools when I’ve needed to. Most of my books (but not all) have come from the secondhand marketplace (if not in the library) or as gifts. And I am involved in bookcrossing.com (though less than I used to be) I don’t buy newspapers or magazines. My bicycle was assembled from spare parts and given as a gift – and while used a bit less than I’d have liked (due to the cold wet spring) I’ve loved the freedom it’s brought. When I needed to buy a new suitcase – a friend gave me hers – and even the gifts for this summer’s weddings (as well as the outfits!) have come from charity shops – though I have bought new gifts for different people on different occasions as well.
Most of my spending in the UK (other than accommodation, associated bills and food) is on train fares. Because spending time with friends matters to me! My biggest expense this year was a new laptop. A necessity for my work, but also for my way of life. My old laptop was more than four years old and was genuinely on its last legs- sounding a cross between a AWOL lawnmower and a helicopter coming into land. Another expense was a new camera – the old one died, and for me living without a camera is to live less than a full life. So I replaced it. But I have bought new things like mudguards for my bike, a torch (flashlight) and nail scissors. I couldn’t imagine buying nothing new at all.
My regular ‘experiences’ include going swimming at least once a week. The best experiences for me are usually times with people – chatting late into the night with a cup of hot water (and a hot water bottle) or over a meal or coffee, tramping in the woods etc. I do enjoy the occasional meal out -never alone. What would be the point of that? I’ve been to the theatre once in nine months (and it was fabulous!), and the cinema three times (twice to see Les Miserables!) and loved every moment of that as well. I’ve visited libraries, museums and an art gallery, as well as the local museum which was really interesting! All are free in the UK – which is wonderful. (You can make a donation and I try to do that too)
All in all – when in the UK – it’s hard to see how I could consume more considerately. And I’m not sure I really could buy nothing new for a year. mmm
A bigger challenge is whether I can change my consumer habits here in Finland? Again I buy very little in the way of new clothing. And hubby even less! My bike is great – and it’s 20 years old, and still without rust as I only use it in the summer and keep it locked in the shed at night. Hubby’s is a bit newer -by a few years – but he uses his everyday. We buy very little for the house – the dogs’ needs excluded – this year a new re-chargeable power chainsaw for us and Father-in-Law (we share it), and last year a new lawnmower. The old one broke after 20 years. We live economically – and like it that way.
So why then am I writing all this? I guess because I am challenged to do more, buy less, or buy with more intentionality.
The Communitycompact facebook page puts it like this …
A few people have been asking if there’s any flexibility to the ‘buy nothing new’ challenge.
We would like to think all people could ‘have a go’ at making a difference in the way they shop, so we are suggesting members of the group commit to one of three ‘levels’:
1. Choose one aspect/product to commit to not buying new, e.g. clothes, toys;
2. Buy only things that are environmentally friendly, fair trade and/or ethical;
3. Buy nothing new at all (apart from the compacting exceptions of food & essentials). This is what the organisers are doing, and what we would like everyone to try, but please don’t be put off if you feel that’s just too hard! Just do something!
I’d like to do a bit more – not for the sake of it, not just to see if I can (though that’s probably part of it!).
As a Christian I’d like what I do to make a wider difference. I’d like the money I save to be used for the Kingdom. (Sometimes I feel a bit like Judas with his indignation that the perfumed oil was poured out when it could have been sold for the poor … so I know I need God to work on me in this too)
… And another thing I’d like is that the products I do choose to use would do less damage to the environment or to other human beings. I believe in fair trade, though I don’t practice it very well. Like so many others I choose fairtrade tea and sugar (but not coffee as I haven’t found a source for good fairtrade filter coffee yet), and bananas and occasionally nuts, but today I’m wondering what if – what if /when I succumb to buying chocolate, or wine – luxury items - what if I made fair trade my preference there? That’s worth trying for a year isn’t it? I could do that.
(Of course as soon as I was proofreading this post hubby shouted from downstairs that the loaf of bread he made might well be the last as the bread machine had overheated and he thought it was broken! It wasn’t – and it’s ok now. Phew!)