My Buy Nothing New year officially ended five days ago, but as I said, since doing The Compact has been so rewarding and relatively easy, I've decided to continue as a Compacter into 2010, and indefinitely. This blog will document my experiment with making it a feasible permanent lifestyle.
In addition to what I've already listed as exceptions (things like food, underwear, running shoes), I'm also going to loosen the rules a bit this year in order to make this workable for myself. I'm not trying to prove any point about how much deprivation I can take, I'm trying to be more conscious about my purchases and practice a more simple lifestyle. And it would be impossible to go back to throwing items into the shopping cart, willy-nilly, just because I wanted them or even thought I needed them.
I do think that the philosophy of buying used, borrowing, or trading is the lightest way to tread on the earth, better even than buying "green" products. I've noticed a lot of commerce and advertising in the green industry that attempts to persuade you that you need a certain item, either because it will make your life easier or make you feel like you're living your values, etc. And sometimes that's true. But a lot of times you could just buy secondhand or not buy at all.
However, there are a few things I'll be allowing myself to buy new this year that aren't strictly on The Compact. The first is books, specifically when they're written by people I know or a favorite author, or occasionally as a gift. Almost every one of last year's "falls off the wagon" were in this category. The majority of the time I'll still be going to the library or buying used.
I'm also going to allow myself an occasional handmade item, especially if it's also green and local. I want to support local artisans, and the arts in general.
And finally, when we do need new sheets and towels, if I can't find an alternative, I'm not going to feel bad about buying from a green company that uses organic cotton and US labor.
And for those items that I really do need, but can't find used, I will practice the Compact/Zen method of "looking out for it." I'll put out the word to friends and acquaintances, consult the Compact yahoo group for ideas and possible substitutions, and scour yard sales, thrift stores, and freecycle. But if after six months, nothing has turned up, I will allow myself to buy it new. The same goes for any household items my husband and I agree we need as I don't want to simply pass the buck to him for home purchases.
So, call it Compact-lite if you want, but that's the way I can see to make it work longterm. These exceptions will allow me to be a conscious consumer who makes purchases in line with my values.
I'm more interested in carving out a lifestyle that feels right to me and that works for both my husband and myself than I am in calling myself a Compacter. But I don't think I'll be kicked off the island for my exceptions, cheats, or whatever you want to call them. On the whole, they're a remarkably helpful and accomodating group.
Please leave your thoughts, ideas, and questions in the Comments section.