To celebrate all things secondhand, homegrown and sustainable in light of this month’s “buy nothing new” challenge, please welcome guest blogger Kelly Treloar. Kelly studied Anthropology and Psychology at University and became interested in people’s interactions with their environment. She has pursued environment and sustainability ever since and now works as a Sustainability Officer in the public sector. Her and her partner recently completed a whole year of buying nothing new. Kelly details their journey below.
With Buy Nothing New Month here, and having somewhat recently finished twelve months of The Compact (or “buy nothing new year”, if you will), I was asked to write a guest blog on my experience engaging in all things not new. Perhaps difficult to do in a few hundred words, but here goes….
I’m always exploring new ways to live my daily life more sustainably, so when I came across The Compact, I thought to myself “reducing my impact on the environment, supporting local communities and saving a bit of money at the same time – why not?” With my partner in crime on board, we agreed on a few exclusions to the “buy nothing new rule” (sports equipment, uni supplies, arts & craft supplies) with the clause that the “fair & reasonable” standard must always be applied – there is a difference between wanting and needing, and Compactors know the difference! We found this to be true, no matter how hard we tried to justify a new purchase to ourselves or each other.
As someone who is fairly environmentally conscious, I discovered I was already embracing a degree of Compacty goodness through shopping at local markets and exploring op shops every other weekend. But The Compact made me take it to the next step.
What does this mean in real terms? Well, I made my own birthday cards and gifts, used only refillable water bottles and coffee cups, and stopped using glad wrap. I made the switch to organic shampoo and conditioner, used only reusable shopping bags, borrowed books from the library, and started growing my own herbs. If buying brand new, I now opt to spend more on quality to ensure it will last longer. I discovered Oxfam shops and the Ethical Consumer Guide, and now look at food labels more. I discovered I didn’t miss shopping centres and found myself cringing at the bright lights and sensory overload when I ended up in one.
There’s still room for improvement. Perhaps next time, I’ll push past local markets for fruit and veggies and start growing my own. I’d like to increase my use of organic and ethically sourced products (but am yet to balance the budget on that one) and I’d really like to know more about where my meat comes from so I can make more informed choices. I’d also like to start making my own pasta sauce in bulk, instead of always using the convenience of buying an already bottled jar.
What really drew me to The Compact was its flexibility; it had a general theme (buy nothing new) but you could apply your own exclusions dependent on what was important to you. It wasn’t about a reduction in quality of life or taking it to the extreme (although by all means go for it if you’re up to the task!), but about rethinking your approach to how you go about buying things. At the end of the day, buying anything – new or secondhand, big or small – requires thought and makes you question what values are important to you. Made local. Made ethical. Organic. Free range. No packaging. Certified sustainable. The list goes on! But the main thing is, it got us really thinking about these things.
Overall, how do I rate our performance? Well we failed on a couple of accounts – we bought a new car battery and a new suit for a wedding (we were overseas at the time and discovered the suit that travelled with us was the holey, stained one, one which I was not prepared to see attend a wedding!) – but the success was much greater. Even now, six months after finishing our Compact I’m still asking myself the same questions – Can I get it secondhand? Can I use something else? Can I borrow it from someone? Can I buy a more sustainable product, or perhaps purchase from a local store? Will it last? And above all, the most important question and the first: Do I need it?
I challenge you to ask the same questions of yourself. You may just be surprised by your answers!
If you would like to ask Kelly any questions or commend her on her challenge please feel free to provide a comment below or contact me directly.