Saturday, March 14, 2009

Social Experiment In The Works-- still in the thought process

Pushing a bike around in wintery Sweden (and riding some too) gives a person time to think. Or at least cause to think. Well, me anyway.

What would it be like if you opted to go for a significant amount of time (a year, maybe?) without buying anything new? There are a lot of implications to this, and I'm trying to thoroughly think through each possibility before I start anything crazy.

I'm not suggesting that a person who tries this experiment should not buy anything ever within the year. I'm suggesting they should not buy anything that is new. This of course will not work for everything, food comes to mind, but how does it look for a lot of things?

Over the years I have been struck by the culture of "disposability" that I've seen mostly in the United States, but can occur anywhere. And who knows? Maybe I've been out of the United States for so long that this problem no longer exists? At any rate, I'm still affected by it, and would like to get further and further away from the culture of disposability.

I'm no expert by all means on this idea. I'm sure someone smarter than I am has written a clever book about it. But just the thought that something can't be reused or is in such poor quality to begin with and will be quickly replaced seems like...well, even though it is trendy, it certainly isn't the way I would like to do things. It seems so wasteful. And if my dead great-great grandparents knew how much cheap, crappy crap we as a culture consume each year, they would role over in their graves. But anyway, the point of this post is not to rant and rave about disposability so much as it is to explore what it would look like, and maybe some guidelines for living a year without buying anything new (remember, new to you).

Wear what you have. If you absolutely need something different, go to a thrift store or borrow from a similarly sized friend.
For socks and underwear:
Perhaps stock up on these items before you start on this project (Sorry, I can do a lot of things, but secondhand socks and underwear is too much. I would rather go without).

Books/Movies/Music/Other entertainment:
Get a library card, rent, borrow from a friend, listen to/watch what you already have, etc.

Necessities of life (food, shelter, hygiene products, cleaning products, etc):
You may think that being clean is not a necessity of life. But for health and social reasons, I think it is. Especially if you are doing this project as a way to fast. As far as food goes, I still need to think this one through some more. It could mean that you only buy local food. Or it could mean that you don't eat out. Or it could mean that you don't eat at or buy food from chains. I don't know yet. The purpose of this is not to put everyone in the restaurant industry out of business (not that me giving up on eating out will put a dent on anyone's budget). As far as shelter goes, perhaps it could mean that you don't buy anything new for your shelter (as always, new to you).

This I have thought about, but don't necessarily know how it would look yet, based on the broad definition of travel, and everything that could possibly be involved in travel. For example, there are different times of travel. Daily, weekly, quarterly, yearly, etc. And what if your primary mode of travel is walking, does that then make your shoes not only clothes, but vehicles too? I think I would for sure condone not buying a new (to you) car or bicycle or...rollerskates (or whatever you use for daily travel from here to there). But what about the less frequent types of traveling that are more long-distant. I don't know that I would condone hitchhiking over buying a train ticket. Not for myself anyway. I would however suggest staying with friends or family at your destination over paying for a place to stay. I will think more about this. Souvenirs is also a topic within travel to think about.

Say you wake up one day and you want to hang a picture on the wall. And you don't want to/can't go out and buy some new art. So you decide to create your own art...but you don't have any paint or clay or photo paper, or wood (or whatever supplies you might need). I am not sure that secondhand paint exists (or anything else on the list for that matter). Or let's say that you want/need to buy someone a gift, but can't buy anything new (to you or to them), and you are all regifted out, or you think that regifting is tacky....I would say that in making a gift or art or whatever, it might be ok to buy some supplies as you need, because you are being resourceful already and making what you need.

I can't think of anything else off the top of my head.

After typing all of this out, it doesn't sound as thrilling as it did when I was pushing the bike around. However, I like a challenge...especially one that will help me to grow as a person. Perhaps if (when) I do this, I will start slow. Like not buying anything new from one category for one month before adding another category. Who am I kidding though, I don't really buy much of anything as it is, the more I think about it. Maybe I should start cold-turkey? After I stock up on socks and underwear, of course.


Laura said...

Also, the implications of this would range depending on the amount of people who did this. If I am the only one, certainly it will affect me and those closest to me, but not society as a whole.

If all of society decided to do this for one year (and let's be real, all of society would not choose this lest they were forced) would that look? How many jobs would no longer exist? Would new jobs take their place? Would more emphasis be placed on quality rather than quantity? Would there be clothing stores with 39 of the same shirt hanging on a rack waiting to be bought?

What would it do to community life if we all had to rely on each other. From petty things like having a certain style of shoe to wear to a ball and having to borrow from a neighbor, to important things like "I see that you need a car for an extended period of time, please feel free to borrow my extra one. We'll learn to live without for a while."
Would it enhance it, or cause more struggles over "ownership?"

I would bet that people would eventually catch on and try to take better care of what they already have.

Man. Soapbox. Thanks if you read this far.

Guy Magno said...

Lets do it.

Eva Joy said...

How to be a good reader even when you aren't buying books:

Also, another suggestion is to win blog giveaways where the prize is a book. But you're already all over that one. : )

Laura said...

Done and done.

Also, I've decided that if you are buying something to make (art, a gift, food, etc), then it can be new if needed (the gift itself can't be new. Like, you can't buy a brand new car for someone and say, "Here. I made this for you."

I haven't made any conclusive thoughts about eating out or traveling.


Warren MacLeod said...

This would be refreshing and challenging. However, as to the souvenirs during travel, (if travel is permitted) I would argue that if you are going to another country, it's definitely ok to support the locals by buying souvenirs.

And as to food, I think that the no eating out would be the way to go. We don't have the skills anymore (at least I don't) to hunt/gather all our own food, which would be the epitome of not buying anything new.

Good thoughts.

Laura said...

I think that someday it would be incredibly fulfilling (and challenging, given my total lack of skills) to have a garden and grow some food, maybe do some canning (or jarring?).

I think you're right on the eating out, and the supporting local souvenir sales.

Laura said...

I think also...and I'm putting this here as a comment so as not to have to make a whole blog post about it (although maybe someday I will)...I think that I will, as a way to justify buying new socks and underwear, buy new socks and underwear and donate them to someone who needs them each time I buy those items for myself. And justify shmustify, I think it's a good idea.

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