Nothing New: the first month.

homePIN ITIt’s been a month now.  A month of buying nothing new. A month of no frivolous spending. A month of borrowing and sharing. A month without a single trip to the shops. I  must admit, I thought this would be more difficult. I’m somewhat at ease with the actual physical task of this project so far. I haven’t found it difficult to not consume. I do kind of miss my op-shop expeditions, but I’m definitely not suffering without them, I mean, that would be a bit ridiculous. We haven’t faced any great challenges (besides my camera, which stopped working… but I’m still hoping for a small town miracle), and it’s proving to me more and more every day that we do have far more than we ever truly need.

Saying that this has been easy, however, would be far from the truth. I’m struggling… just in a different way than I may have imagined.

I’m struggling more with the actual spiritual and psychological side of this project. I’ve been thinking more and more about consumption and the mindless impact we are all making on our earth and on each other. We don’t mean to do it… we just do it, without thinking. As if we are in this bizarre consumerist coma. It’s not as if we don’t know better either, so we certainly can’t get away with the “ignorance is bliss” excuse… so why do we do it? Why do we spend our money on frivolous, meaningless things that are not ethically produced, that are essentially funding slave markets and sweat shops around the world. Why do we do it? Is it because we are so sheltered and so lucky that it’s so easy to forget? Is it a case of out of site, out of mind?

I think about the way I would spend money before this project started. Whilst I was always keen to purchase second hand, I often found that for some things it was cheaper and far more convenient just to duck into the local Kmart or the equivalent. I mean, if you can buy a glass bowl in Kmart for $3 and the one at the local op shop is a ridiculous $5 – which one are you more likely to buy? Whilst you might not get as many fist pumping props from your Insta-buddies for you Kmart cheapy as you would for your awesome op shop find… if you aren’t an Instagram or blog aficionado… you probably don’t really care. Op shops are overpriced and large corporations are dangerously cheap… which can only beg us to question… where is this stuff coming from and under what sort of duress? What is it that we are mindlessly endorsing when we buy this cheap plastic (or glass) crap from these department stores? What is it that we are buying into?

Ethically I’ve found that all of a sudden I’m being faced with a lot of things that I have always known but have conveniently “forgotten” when the need for a purchase arose. I’m looking differently at the way I eat, at the way I create garbage, at the way we reduce and reuse and recycle. We are an above average home when it comes to conservation and awareness and even we, a family of just two, waste far more than we need to. The amount of plastic and packaging even from our local farmers market that ends up in landfill every month from this little family is abhorrent. I’m looking into building a worm farm and into cutting our food miles right back… I’m inundated with ideas and suggestions and research and documentaries and stories and articles and my mind is always going at one hundred miles an hour with all of the questions.

As it turns out, researching this area is not without it’s serious challenges. There are so many counter studies to every eco-study and I find myself lost in a world of complicated analogies and scientific jargon when really all I want to know is what can I do to make a difference in this little part of the world. What can I do to reduce my own impact. What can I do… And when it comes down to it, I know that the best thing I can do is to just consume less… to create less of an impact.

If in doubt, go without.

It’s pretty safe to say that on one hand I’m feeling a little underwhelmed by this project at this point. I’m starting to wonder what the point is a bit… wonder whether something I do can really make much of a difference to any one else. And then on the other hand I’m feeling totally overwhelmed by the enormity of it all… I’ve started making plans for a second phase of this project where we will delve further into a world of little impact and try to cut back on more and conserve more so that I can really decide what it is that is important to us as a family.

We are all consumers. Whether we like it or not. We consume products constantly… and whilst I”m going to try to consume as little as possible this year it’s not actually the consumption that concerns me. It’s the attitude surrounding it. The “shopping is therapy” motto… the competitive gifting… the supposed “need” for things that are not life-essential… the big cars and the foreign food and the processed foods and the junk-food television that we are being fed day in day out and accepting, because it’s always been this way. In our life time at least. It’s always been this way.

But does it have to be?

I guess the question is more so, do we want it to be? Is this what we want for our futures? If it is, then I’ll go and move to commune in the middle of the bush somewhere and live off the grid, but truth be told I quite like society. There are tonnes of awesome people out there who are doing great things and living inspiring, beautiful lives.But when I look around and I see us getting fatter, and sicker, and meaner, more desensitised and more and more stressed… I can’t help but ask…

For what?

And so the project grows of it’s own accord, and I find myself being dragged, unknowingly, along for the ride.



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  • January 28, 2014 - 6:40 am

    Lila - It only seems to get more complicated the deeper you delve in to this kind of question doesn’t it?
    I find it hard that the meaning of ‘need’ varies so greatly between people. We use and consume a lot less than some people yet I know that things like the big car we changed to last weekend can be looked at as a huge environmental transgression. Even though now we won’t have to make three trips to pick up building materials or worse drive a 60km round trip to borrow a ute and return it, or the fact that we are a one car family when so many are two or more.
    I worry about the impact of materials we are using to renovate but on the other side the impact of renovating (and choosing a very small house) is much less than building a mcmansion, and the choice of recycled materials is very limited.
    I think though we all just have to find our own way to negotiate it and hope that setting an example encourages others,because stressing about their consumption and desires won’t fix anything.ReplyCancel

  • January 28, 2014 - 4:47 pm

    Katerina - I’m amazed! It always surprises when I hit the stores and end up without buying even a little something..I really want to see how this goes..ReplyCancel

  • January 28, 2014 - 5:53 pm

    Kathy - Go to the library and get out “Eco House Challenge” which originally was on SBS. It’s a 6 part show DVD with families and eco experts to help them reduce their rubbish, consume less electricity etc. it’s awesome and my kids and I watched it. Regards Kathy A, BrisbaneReplyCancel

  • January 28, 2014 - 9:14 pm

    Emma Crawford - Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
    Margaret MeadReplyCancel

  • January 28, 2014 - 9:25 pm

    Julie - I am always inspired when I read about people spending less, so thank you. I’ve been cutting back on my consumerism over the past six months and it has certainly raised my awareness as to the amount of stuff we buy that we don’t actually need.

    Have you heard of Bea Johnson’s zero waste home? She writes about some of her practices for reducing plastic waste.ReplyCancel

  • January 29, 2014 - 5:09 am

    Kate - Great post. As Lila states, the more you delve into it, the more extraordinarily complicated it seems to get!

    We also aspire to consume less, grow more of our own and things we do consume are sourced ethically and sustainably. I made a pact to avoid the big two as much as I could in 2014 and so far I haven’t used any of them. We try to minimise our packaging wherever possible, reuse, recycle and compost (as well as run a worm farm). I’m trying to convince my mum to stop throwing her veggie scraps in the bin (ever losing battle!) but like Lila also said…you can only lead by example.

    Thanks Kathy for the tip on the DVD, I’ll have to check that out!ReplyCancel

  • February 1, 2014 - 7:58 pm

    Rachel - Have you seen the doco “No Impact Man”? that was pretty amazing!ReplyCancel

  • February 5, 2014 - 1:53 pm

    Julie - My question is do you need either the cheap Kmart bowl or the Op shop bowl? Is there not something already in your cupboard that you can use? This is what I repeated to myself over and over for the past two years. Though I would make an exception for a camera. First i would try to repair the old then I would weaken and buy a new camera. I would rather go without a car, clothes or shoes then miss out on documenting life. I did not have a camera when Tamika was a child and I feel as if so many memories have been lost.ReplyCancel

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