You can't buy irony either.
February 13, 2006 4:47 PM   Subscribe

The Compact "About 50 teachers, engineers, executives and other professionals in the Bay Area have made a vow to not buy anything new in 2006 -- except food, health and safety items and underwear..." And presumably gas, insurance, electricity, water, etc. Oh, and Internet service-- they have a blog and a Yahoo group. Did I mention one of them currently works as a marketer and another one is a currently a professor in marketing?
posted by keswick (95 comments total)

 
But the main advantage of being in a group is "you can brag to someone," said Boyd.

Conspicuous anti-consumerism?
posted by ColdChef at 4:55 PM on February 13, 2006


Wait. Wait. Wait. They can still buy anything they want as long as it's second hand?

That's bullshit rules. Don't buy ANYthing, and maybe I'll be impressed.
posted by ColdChef at 4:57 PM on February 13, 2006


What with eBay and craigslist, I don't see them suffering much.

Not so much buying anything, but they need to do all their secondhand purchases in person. That'd enough to impress. Maybe.
posted by linux at 5:05 PM on February 13, 2006


Someone better keep buying and making new stuff, or these folks will run out of old stuff.
posted by brain_drain at 5:06 PM on February 13, 2006


Today I'm starting a Compact wherein no one can buy anything yellow. Except bananas. And lemons. Packaging doesn't count. Or butter. Oh, wait. I need legal pads. Ok, the compact shall hereby begin on Wednesday.

This is going to be so cool.
posted by stavrogin at 5:12 PM on February 13, 2006


My grandpa used to do stuff like this. It was called BEING SHIT POOR.
posted by billysumday at 5:13 PM on February 13, 2006


LOL, billysumday!
posted by brundlefly at 5:22 PM on February 13, 2006


stavrogin you should call your group the ring of the green lantern!
posted by I Foody at 5:23 PM on February 13, 2006


this is called BEING IRONICALLY SHIT POOR, dontcha know.
posted by zpousman at 5:24 PM on February 13, 2006


Like the OP hinted at, you still are buying things - and those things are connected to the "grid." So even if I stop driving a car, the apples I buy are still driven by gas guzzling truck and the apple seller goes to Walmart and uses the money to by a portable Panini Maker. You can and you should cut down on what you consume, and it's good that people are doing this (I buy all my shit at Goodwill, I feel good about it, and I pay a fraction of what I'd pay to buy a plate at Target), but it's not going to liberate ourselves from the "grid" - to do that, we have to take down the "grid" altogether.
posted by iamck at 5:32 PM on February 13, 2006


Is my Playstation outside of the grid? I hope so.
posted by ColdChef at 5:35 PM on February 13, 2006


What do these people need to buy anyway? Pretensions are free.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 5:35 PM on February 13, 2006


This kind of reminds me of the "vegetarian" girl I dated in high school who also ate seafood and eggs. So, my best friend and I started pointing out things like her leather shoes and her suede purse and the fact that she was only partially ethical when it came to animals. By the time we got around to pointing out that the jello she loved was made of hooves, she was crying.

I was a lousy boyfriend.
posted by ColdChef at 5:40 PM on February 13, 2006


I'd be more impressed if they bought whatever they figured they needed, but slapped a marketer square in the face every day. Guess that's not gonna happen, eh?

Seriously: "one of them currently works as a marketer and another one is a currently a professor in marketing"? How much cognitive disconnect do these people suffer? Have they got "Reduce Dependance on Oil" bumper stickers on their SUVs? It's like a conservative voting for George Bush, for chrissakes!

On preview: I was a lousy boyfriend.

I was hoping the end of the story was '....and that girl's name was Anne Coulter.'
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:45 PM on February 13, 2006


ColdChef: Heh.

OT: I Once dated a girl who'd buy the average-generic dishsoap and pour it into the Seventh Generation, eco-friendly brand bottle. She was so ashamed that she didn't even recycle the contraband plastic bottle and hid it in the trash. /OT
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:45 PM on February 13, 2006


Cold Chef: That reminds me of this and this response.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 5:48 PM on February 13, 2006


Then one couple remodeled their house and couldn't find used drywall. After that, "it all started to unravel," Perry said.

You are all so unfair. I mean, are you going to call them pretentious posers if they also need to buy a few new items for Burningman?
posted by freebird at 5:55 PM on February 13, 2006


ColdChef, I think you should start up a chapter of the He-Man Woman Haters Club.

Hehe. You remined me of almost every girl I dated in college.
posted by bardic at 5:57 PM on February 13, 2006


You can't buy irony either.

Sure about that?
posted by freebird at 5:58 PM on February 13, 2006


Coldchef:

Vegetarians are folks who don't support killing animals. Eating fish = killing animals. Wearing leather = killing animals. Eating jello = killing animals. So you're 99.9% on the mark.

However, eggs are not animals, because they're unfertilized. Basically, they're chicken menstruation. Eating eggs doesn't make you a non-vegetarian. Nor does drinking milk, eating cheese, etc.

Now, vegans are folks who don't support killing animals or eating stuff that contains parts of animals, including chicken menstruation. Vegans don't eat eggs or cheese, or drink milk.

Just helping hone your next barb : )
posted by Bugbread at 6:04 PM on February 13, 2006


In contrast, "bugbread" is clearly not vegetarian cuisine.
posted by brundlefly at 6:11 PM on February 13, 2006


Navin R. Johnson: Well I'm gonna to go then. And I don't need any of this. I don't need this stuff, and I don't need you. I don't need anything except this.
[picks up an ashtray]
Navin R. Johnson: And that's it and that's the only thing I need, is this. I don't need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that's all I need. And that's all I need too. I don't need one other thing, not one - I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that's all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.
[walking outside]
Navin R. Johnson: And I don't need one other thing, except my dog.
[dog barks]
Navin R. Johnson: I don't need my dog.
posted by Balisong at 6:14 PM on February 13, 2006


They didn't think this through very well, did they?
posted by ryanhealy at 6:18 PM on February 13, 2006


Of course, the spirit of this should be totally ignored so that MeFi can have a good superior laugh.
posted by trey at 6:19 PM on February 13, 2006


Balisong, stop being a jerk.
posted by brain_drain at 6:21 PM on February 13, 2006


We had something money just couldn't buy. Poverty.
posted by Wolof at 6:23 PM on February 13, 2006


I hope they remembered to renew their Adbusters subscriptions before the compact began!
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:24 PM on February 13, 2006


trey: Of course, the spirit of this should be totally ignored so that MeFi can have a good superior laugh.

The gap between the spirit and the reality is what causes the superior laugh.

If we ignored the spirit, we'd have "a bunch of people have vowed to buy certain things, but not other things".

We wouldn't laugh at that.

If we ignored the reality, we'd have "a bunch of people have vowed not to buy anything for a year".

We wouldn't laugh at that.

It is precisely because we are not ignoring the spirit or the reality that MeFi can have a good superior laugh.
posted by Bugbread at 6:24 PM on February 13, 2006


Well, I think that you folks are being really poopy. Maybe The Compact isn't perfect, but it is a fantastic place to start. Yeah, we have all known "vegetarians" who eat seafood and maybe even chicken, but I'm sure we all know vegetarians who just quietly go about their own business and make their own ethical food choices.

OK so The Compact doesn't take themselves completely out of the grid, but since they aren't interested in living like hermits out in the forest I think they are making a pretty good compromise. It doesn't look like an easy lifestyle, I challenge you to try it for a week. If nothing else, it will make you aware of how much you really do consume. And yeah, if he wants to brag about getting a free sewing machine, I think he has every right. He's not gloating about how much better he is than the dirty consumerists, he's excited about a good find.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:27 PM on February 13, 2006


arcticwoman : "It doesn't look like an easy lifestyle, I challenge you to try it for a week."

Huh? You find it hard to go a week without buying anything but food? What the hell are you buying that going 7 days without making a purchase sounds like a challenge?
posted by Bugbread at 6:33 PM on February 13, 2006


arcticwoman, don't bother. The denizens of MeFi are perfect in every way at every task -- past threads bear the proof of it. If someone can do something, rest assured that MeFi users can sit and chuckle at how THEY'VE been doing that particular task (and much better, mind you) for years and can't believe the pathetic manner in which those other people are attempting to do it.
posted by trey at 6:35 PM on February 13, 2006


Well, I think that you folks are being really poopy. Maybe The Compact isn't perfect, but it is a fantastic place to start.

How is being frugal and not buying shit you don't need "a fantastic place to start"? Start what? Since when did financial prudence become not just unfashionable (it's certainly that) but actually obsolete? My problem with these people is they think that since they have disposable income they're not using, they're somehow sticking it to the man, or, worse, saving the world. Hey, how about getting a job as a teacher? That way, you'll be educating our nation's youth on the proper ways of avoiding the purchase of stupid shit, and you'll also find yourself in the predicament of not actually being able to buy stupid shit. Only rich people in a place like Berkeley would think that this is somehow revolutionary. Maybe I'm just being poopy.
posted by billysumday at 6:38 PM on February 13, 2006


I already typed what Trey said, but I said it way better and without the spurious comma and really unneeded capitalization.
posted by freebird at 6:39 PM on February 13, 2006


Trey - Aren't you a denizen of MeFi? Looking at your history, it would seem to indicate that.

I think this is a well-intentioned plan that doesn't really accomplish anything. The fact that they're so boastful about it makes it all the more...comedic, I guess.

Sometimes criticism is warranted.
posted by ryanhealy at 6:39 PM on February 13, 2006


trey : "The denizens of MeFi are perfect in every way at every task -- past threads bear the proof of it. If someone can do something, rest assured that MeFi users can sit and chuckle at how THEY'VE been doing that particular task (and much better, mind you) for years and can't believe the pathetic manner in which those other people are attempting to do it."

Hmm...I don't see that very much.
posted by Bugbread at 6:43 PM on February 13, 2006


Sometimes criticism is warranted.

Absolutely. I agree that criticism is warranted and that this is not a breaktakingly revolutionary act of sticking it to the man, but I think that it is good-spirited, well-intentioned act. I do believe that it will make a large difference in the lives of all those who participate and maybe send a few ripples out to the rest of us. I'm not really an idealist, but I really respect people who try to make a difference.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:45 PM on February 13, 2006


What MeFi doesn't like isn't so much the action or the intention, but the making of a website and the giving themselves a name. Without the gimick you're just left with the typical buying habits of most non-trust fund college students.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:46 PM on February 13, 2006


However, eggs are not animals, because they're unfertilized. Basically, they're chicken menstruation.

Now I won't touch an egg ever again. Thanks a fucking lot.
posted by c13 at 6:51 PM on February 13, 2006


"...However, eggs are not animals, because they're unfertilized. Basically, they're chicken menstruation."

Until the moment I read that, I had never bothered to come up with a good reason that I didn't eat eggs, I just didn't much like 'em.

Now I have a pretty good response to those who would question my egg-less Sausage McMuffin.

Don't you even think of telling me what's in the sausage.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:54 PM on February 13, 2006


What do these people do with all the money they save? Stuff it under their dirty, recycled mattresses?
posted by brain_drain at 6:55 PM on February 13, 2006


What do these people do with all the money they save?
They're putting it in a savings account so they can go on a GREAT BIG shopping spree the minute their year without buying stuff is over.
Either that or they invested it in some company that makes the consumer junk they claim to have liberated themselves from, but really seem to be accumulating second-hand at the same rate at which they previously accumulated new stuff.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 7:01 PM on February 13, 2006


This sounds like my average year (including thrift store runs), barring business expenditures, and you can bet that if any of these folks are business owners/freelancers, those purchases don't count in their Grand Statement. The first time a printer breaks, these folks will be at Circuit City.

This is a ridiculous "gesture," made remarkable only by the confessed shopaholic tendencies of the participants. If you want to view this as some sort of Shoppers Anonymous, sans anonymity, that's fine, but it's meaningless otherwise.
posted by brundlefly at 7:04 PM on February 13, 2006


if meat is murder are eggs abortion?
posted by Gungho at 7:07 PM on February 13, 2006


What's the big deal? I haven't bought any underwear in over a year.
posted by Gungho at 7:07 PM on February 13, 2006


"We're trying to get off the first-market consumerism grid, because consumer culture is destroying the world."

This is what's weird to me. If you buy a couch off craigslist, that's still supporting consumer culture. Someone had to make that couch, and sell it to the first guy. Same goes for ebay, or thrift stores, or anything else. Second-hand items are part of consumer culture.

Is it a good experiment to see if you can live only on non-new items? Sure. But it doesn't do a thing to destroy the culture of consumerism.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:13 PM on February 13, 2006


Gungho writes "if meat is murder are eggs abortion?"

No. They're more like the morning after pill. Which is still evil, even though it circumvents the supposed objections to abortion.
posted by brundlefly at 7:15 PM on February 13, 2006


I'm gonna save the planet by moving into a three star hotel and living on ribeyes and gin.

I could totally do this, I would just need exceptions for beer, gasoline, ammo, cigarettes, Apple products, frozen margaritas, cover charges, gumballs, plush toys from robot claw games, RAM, fancy coffee, birthday cake, blank CDs, school supplies for the kids, TP, charcoal, fake tattoos, and the occasional book.

Well...this all assumes that my TiVo doesn't give out. If that happens, I want out.
posted by popechunk at 7:20 PM on February 13, 2006


This is what's weird to me. If you buy a couch off craigslist, that's still supporting consumer culture. Someone had to make that couch, and sell it to the first guy. Same goes for ebay, or thrift stores, or anything else. Second-hand items are part of consumer culture.

Heck yeah. And once they've gotten rid of their old couch, I'm guessing they're going to buy a new one.
posted by codswallop at 7:37 PM on February 13, 2006


iamck (and other comparable posts, but I only have 1 clipboard): ... [1] You can and you should cut down on what you consume, and [2] it's good that people are doing this (I buy all my shit at Goodwill, [3] I feel good about it...

As to 1, no you shouldn't, as to 2, no it's not, and as to 3, that must be nice for you but it's not based on anything rational. This "Compact" idea is ridiculous because it's pointless. It's also affirmatively bad but I'll deal with the "pointless" arguments first because they're the ones I feel people here might actually be open to.

"You can and you should cut down on what you consume" -- Why? Because it makes one poor? Over-consumption is not a problem in the US (or anywhere else, but this is the place where we seem to get most het up about it), there are much deeper structural problems with the economy and the education system that lead to poverty. Go get The Two-Income Trap, from the library if you have to, and actually read it. Even as family incomes have risen dramatically since the 60s or so, fixed expenses like housing and medical insurance have increased even more quickly. Aggregate spending on "discretionary" things like clothing and even appliances has decreased, because the processes for producing these things has become so much more efficient. Seriously, read that book, or at least the first couple of chapters. Over consumption is not a significant cause of poverty in this country.

As to it being "good that people are doing this" and your feeling "good about [doing] it", again why? Do you want the people who work at Wal-Mart or GM to lose their jobs? Or your local lawn mower manufacturer, if that does more for you. Lack of consumption leads to lack of demand leads to firm closures leads to lack of innovation. Now, I'm no George Bush, I'm not going to tell you to save the nation by going to the mall, but what exactly do you hope to accomplish by reducing your connection to "the grid"? No one I talk to about this has a good answer; they've never thought it through. Which leads me to believe that in the end, it's not about anything practical. It's about a smug sense of self-satisfaction that relatively well-off people feel about this casual asceticism.

Look, if your life is really that empty, take a few days off and read some books or find a new church or something. And then when you can deign to think about your fellow citizens again, get to work creating opportunities for people who must shop at goodwill all year to advance their careers and live a better life in turn. Or if you really can't stand "the grid", for chrissake do some research and come up with an alternative. But it doesn't do anyone a damn bit of good for you to just check out.
posted by rkent at 7:38 PM on February 13, 2006


To be fair, the concept (regardless of whether these people are wise, foolish, or in the middle) of relying on used stuff instead of new stuff is, I'd say, a sound idea. True, it doesn't satisfy their stated goal of "getting off the grid of consumption", but it does conserve resources by extending the life of resources that have already be used. It may not destroy consumer culture, but if everyone used their products until the things were completely unusable, it would definitely weaken consumer culture.
posted by Bugbread at 7:40 PM on February 13, 2006


Oh, and if it's about Hummers and other gas-guzzlers, keep in mind that automotive expenses have risen primarily because oil prices have gone up, because most households have 2 workers now instead of 1, and because most people in most parts of the country need to drive to work and cannot feasibly walk, bike, or take public transit. Again, we need better solutions than turning up our noses and checking out.
posted by rkent at 7:41 PM on February 13, 2006


rkent : "Why? Because it makes one poor?"

No, because of environmental impact.
posted by Bugbread at 7:42 PM on February 13, 2006


I hope more people try and adopt similar patterns, minus the attempt at absolutism, since it would mean reducing the amount of stuff that gets thrown out. Even if the people doing this don't measure up to MeFi's coolness bar, what they're trying is still a good thing.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:42 PM on February 13, 2006


Tangential, but since no one has yet pointed this out: Vegetarians aren't, uniformly, people who are opposed to killing animals. Vegetarians are also people who think that killing animals isn't wrong but factory farming is unnecessary cruelty, and aren't able to get free-range meat; people who don't eat meat for health reasons; and people who don't eat meat for other reasons. Some of those purposes are compatible with eating jello and wearing leather, some aren't. (Some are compatible with eating seafood, but you're eating meat, so I really don't think you're technically a vegetarian there).
posted by Jeanne at 7:49 PM on February 13, 2006


What kills me is (at least) two of the people work in MARKETING, which is the art / science / knack of getting people to buy stuff they don't need.
posted by keswick at 7:56 PM on February 13, 2006


arcticwoman got it. I don't understand why people are being so down on them for trying to make a difference (I agree trumpeting it to the world is unnecessary, but that's besides the point). They may not have completely thought it through, but at least they are thinking, and I'd rather see someone trying to consume less, than not bothering at all because they can't find a way to do it perfectly.
posted by Meredith at 8:03 PM on February 13, 2006


You're right Jeanne. I for one am a pescetarian, and am so because of of the health thing (plus the being squeamish thing), and I don't think I'm alone. That includes actual vegetarians. Killing animals is not the issue, except for those who don't recognize the hypocrisy of eating living plants.

Killing other animals is how animals have survived for 6000* years.

*Just throwing a bone to bevets.
posted by brundlefly at 8:10 PM on February 13, 2006


I would be impressed if they didn't buy any food.

(I'm reading "The Story of B")
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:19 PM on February 13, 2006


Vegetarians are folks who don't support killing animals.

I'm vegetarian, and I'm all about killing animals. So much so that I think they should starve to death, so I'm eating all their food.

Is it a good experiment to see if you can live only on non-new items? Sure. But it doesn't do a thing to destroy the culture of consumerism.

I think anything that causes people to stop and think before consuming is an effective act against consumerism. Of course, some people can do that without being all show-offy about it. But to me, that doesn't make the act any less substantial - it just makes those particular people more show-offy.
posted by scottreynen at 8:35 PM on February 13, 2006


I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:38 PM on February 13, 2006


Wow, rkent, you got quite an ax to grind on this subject...

Why? Because it makes one poor?

First off, buying used items is cheaper. Therefore I spend less then I would spend on these items. Therefore I have more money. This isn't a difficult concept.

As to it being "good that people are doing this" and your feeling "good about [doing] it", again why?

Because the shit I buy would go into a landfill otherwise. Because the Goodwill has a job center and helps people get jobs. Moving on...

get to work creating opportunities for people who must shop at goodwill all year to advance their careers and live a better life in turn.

A better life = not having to buy used things. Jesus man, you're so "checked into the grid" that you can't even imagine living outside of it. Since you gave me some advice, I'll give you some in turn:

Get outside. Go for a hike. See some nature. Take a good look at all the things that your "grid" is designed to ignore.
posted by iamck at 9:03 PM on February 13, 2006


But it doesn't do anyone a damn bit of good for you to just check out.
posted by rkent at 7:38 PM PST on February 13 [!]


Huh. Lets see - growing my own veggies from seeds I saved means better tasting tomatoes.

Looks like *I* get some good from that decision. And my tomato sauce tastes good and lacks high fructose corn sugar.

I'm so cruel imposing on con-agra like that.


arcticwoman : "It doesn't look like an easy lifestyle, I challenge you to try it for a week."

Perhaps it is hard for people who shop as therapy or something to do. But I can go a week w/o buying anything easy. Going 2 months w/o any transactions involving FRN's - now that gets harder.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:10 PM on February 13, 2006


I have one question: Is beer outside the equation? If so, you can count me out.
posted by ed at 9:15 PM on February 13, 2006


This is so easy. You just go to the store with a friend who buys what you want and then resells it to you.

And aren't a certain number of eggs that make it to supermarkets fertilized?
posted by ODiV at 9:16 PM on February 13, 2006


Is it a good experiment to see if you can live only on non-new items? Sure. But it doesn't do a thing to destroy the culture of consumerism.

Eh, yes it does. One of the core concepts of consumerism is that "the latest == the greatest." This is pretty much the essential technology of consumerism. It's why the computer software industry exists, it's why there are new fashion "collections" each season, and it's why people make big luxury purchases they don't really need. So yeah, these people are making a statement against one of the core tenets of consumerism and good on them. If that makes you uncomfortable it's your problem not theirs.

I, of course, always buy the latest, greatest new shit. Cost is nothing compared to being and having the best of the best. I just wish there was a cool name and web site for people like me.
posted by nixerman at 9:27 PM on February 13, 2006


This is what happens when you live in a society where the poorest citizens suffer from obesity-related illnesses.

Sheesh.

And trey: I'm not perfect at every task, but poverty?
That's where I'm a lion.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:27 PM on February 13, 2006


These guys appear to be buying gasoline. And not from craistlist, but gas stations!
posted by rajbot at 11:39 PM on February 13, 2006


I'm with rkent. Sure, on the one hand, environmental impact, etc., are reduced when you don't buy as many unused products. On the other hand, what these people are basically saying to the world is something like: "I will continue to earn money for the goods and services I provide; but I will not spend money on the goods and services you provide." They are basically breaking the economic contract on which capitalist civil society is based. It has to go both ways for it to work.

Now, as an alternative: what if they had decided to buy everything from local producers - e.g., patronize their local farmstands, buy furniture from artisinal furniture-makers, get bread from the baker, and so on? This is certainly possible in Berkeley with a wide variety of items. Well, as rkent tangentially points out, this is a serious undertaking because non-massed-produced items are unbelievably expensive relative to mass-produced ones. But that's a lot closer to the kind of good I imagine they'd like to be creating, because it supports other people and creates jobs and prosperity on a local scale while also avoiding the mass-consumer "grid" whenever possible. Obviously you can't do this with your TV, gas, and so on; but you could make decisions there along other metrics. Wouldn't this do a lot more good than simply buying nothing at all and hoarding your money? Hoarding money is a big, big problem. It's not what money is for.

It's possible to be anti-consumerist without being, in effect, anti-social. But getting "off the grid," whatever that means, is just being anti-social. Economies are good for everyone, and taking yourself out of the economy to make a point is silly; they should be trying to build a less wasteful, more local economy instead.

My take: this is about reducing a 'shopping addiction' more than it is about any larger principle or desired social outcome. If you want to create a good social outcome, there are lots of other ways to do it.
posted by josh at 5:12 AM on February 14, 2006


"I will continue to earn money for the goods and services I provide; but I will not spend money on the goods and services you provide." They are basically breaking the economic contract on which capitalist civil society is based. It has to go both ways for it to work.

You know, it's morally okay for people to save money. There's no obligation for us to just spend spend spend at 5:01 every other Friday.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:10 AM on February 14, 2006


You know, it's morally okay for people to save money. There's no obligation for us to just spend spend spend at 5:01 every other Friday.

Sure--but it's not morally good to save money either. And I'm not saying that there's an obliiigation to "spend spend spend at 5:01," obviously.
posted by josh at 6:19 AM on February 14, 2006


So the social contract reqiures to buy globally traded mass produced crap that exploits workers, damages environment, and concentrates wealth - this is far more damning and poverty producing then not spending money. And while refusing to buy these tainted goods while still existing in the society is not a perfect solution, it's an attempt to make some sort of a change, which is commendable

As for sustainable solutions, I think josh hit the "locally produced" nail on the head. A majority of the social ills that result from consumption are a direct result of cost externalization, and while it's always possible to externalize the cost to some extent, it is harder to do this in a localized small community. I have no problem paying for an item if I am paying the actual cost. If that means I live in a society where I can never fly in an airplane, then so be it.
posted by iamck at 6:28 AM on February 14, 2006


The production of new products consumes tremendously more materials and energy than the refurbish/sale of old ones (some products more so than others). Far too much of our society throws things out when they become worn, broken or unfashionable.

If more people did this, there would be reduced demand for new goods, increased demand for used products, and decreased consumption of fossil fuels.

(Sorry, I know this was supposed to be a snark thread, but I wanted to say something nice about people trying to make a difference.)
posted by justkevin at 6:38 AM on February 14, 2006


Hoarding money is a big, big problem.

It certainly isn't a problem for the average American. The houshold savings rate is negative. Over the past year or two, people have been spending, on average, a little more than their income. This is probably not going to be good for this "economy" you speak of, in the long run.
posted by sfenders at 7:10 AM on February 14, 2006


After reading "That Might Be Useful" I was inspired to try something similar. As much as possible I try to thrift or junk the things I need. The only problem I have with groups like the one link is the desire (especially among Gen Xers) to make everything a movement or manifesto rather than a personal decision.

Granted, I don't have much money, so my effect on the economy is minimal but the idea that it's breaking the capitalist compact is foolish. Currently our economic system creates a lot of useless cruft that clogs are landfills. keeping people employed in the creation and sales of these useless items might be necessary in the short term, but is leading to long term rot. It doesn't address any long term solution to the problem of what to do with unskilled labor or environmental protection.
posted by drezdn at 7:12 AM on February 14, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well, all I sure hope they can restrain their impulses when Apple comes out with a new iPod. But also, more power to them! This whole idea appeals to my inner-hippy, even though I would probably have trouble doing it.

And I agree with whomever up there mentioned the absolutionism. If 1000 of us cut our consumeristic tendencies by 25%, I suspect it would have more of a global impact than 100 doing 100%.

Here's to the hope that the awareness this brings can induce 1000 people to change a little.
posted by crunchland at 7:43 AM on February 14, 2006


It certainly isn't a problem for the average American. The houshold savings rate is negative. Over the past year or two, people have been spending, on average, a little more than their income. This is probably not going to be good for this "economy" you speak of, in the long run.

Sure--but if everyone did what the people in this 'compact' did, that wouldn't be very good for the economy either. Saving your money and only buying used goods isn't good for anyone.

As usual, it's more fun to take an extreme position than it is to go down the middle. Of course our economy produces a lot of worthless, disposable junk--so, don't buy worthless, disposable junk. And of course many mass-produced products externalize the costs onto the environment and society as a whole--so, as much as possible, don't buy mass-produced products.

But all of that is a negative good. How about a positive good--buying local? Or investing your money in publicly traded companies whose policies you admire? This just isn't a rational or sensible solution.
posted by josh at 7:55 AM on February 14, 2006


billysumday writes "My grandpa used to do stuff like this. It was called BEING SHIT POOR"

Being poor is good practise for being environmentally responsible.

brundlefly writes "This is a ridiculous 'gesture,' made remarkable only by the confessed shopaholic tendencies of the participants."

I don't think this gesture is ridiculous at all. The first world continually wastes resources by not making durable goods and not reusing then recycling. Prime example: Most of my hand planes are 80-100 years old. With the exception of replacing the blade (a wear item) they needed minimal tuning or repair and I'll probably be selling them on e-bay 60 years from now. What isn't made of cast iron or brass is made out of repairable wood. The modern mass market equivalents are poorly constructed and contain stamped aluminium, plastic and pot metal. All of which is cheaper to make but less suitable for the job and impossible to repair. And it'll need repair much sooner. But hey it is a 1/4 of the price so who cares if it won't be useful in five years.

And we don't recycle like we should and are discouraged from doing so. This weekend I pulled three solid core, stain grade wood doors with their jambs from a dumpster. The doors were dirty but otherwise in perfect shape, they were thrown out to make way for doors with lites. I'm going to have zero problem getting $100 a piece. But I risked a $150 ticket for dumpster diving to pull them out of the waste stream. The people buying these doors are going to be reducing consumption of new material. All this talk about "well someone had to buy them originally" is obscuring the issue. As a society we look down on people for buying a used car, a used house, used anything really. We waste an incredible amount of resources over fashion and style (for example replacing perfectly fine clothing with new stuff because the old stuff is dated) and keeping up with the Jones.

Every time I walk past a 6000 sq ft McMansion (despite only two residents) with two current year, 1 ton 4X4s (the beds of which are shiny 'cause they've never had anything more strenuous than a bag of groceries within) in the driveway it makes me angry. Many of the people in the best position to reduce their impact on the environment by investing in eco-friendly capital equipment are instead flaunting their ability to waste resources.

The people in the Compact are at least trying, we shouldn't be cutting them down just because they aren't pledging to living in a cave surviving on nuts and berries.
posted by Mitheral at 8:05 AM on February 14, 2006


Well said, Mitheral.
posted by drezdn at 8:29 AM on February 14, 2006


You know, Jesus and Buddha were pretty big on that whole "vow of poverty" thing, and in doing so probably forced a lot of people out of their jobs at Wal-Mart.
posted by iamck at 8:43 AM on February 14, 2006


how about a throw away nothing day?

how about a bomb nothing day?

i know, crazy hippie.
posted by Miles Long at 9:08 AM on February 14, 2006


In my experience, limiting your shopping to thrift stores, garage sales, and the like really does nothing to limit the amount of crap you bring home. The "I'm living off the grid/recycling second hand goods" party line is really only useful when you're trying to make yourself feel better about bringing home yet another bag of 25cent cherub festooned candelabras, 50cent velvet paintings, two for a dollar ironic t-shirts, and some sparkly spandex circa 1975 cocktail dress that, practically speaking, you have little opportunity to wear. And when your significant other splits a fearful gaze between you and the decreased amount of storage space in your cocoon sized, overpriced two bedroom apartment, you find all you have to say is "But honey, it only cost four dollars." Buying second hand does nothing to cure a shopping addiction. I have a packed house and a gi-normous record collection that says quite the opposite. Now, limititing yourself to buying only really expensive shit . . . maybe that would work.
posted by thivaia at 9:12 AM on February 14, 2006


thivaia - however, the money you spend is donated, and you also don't (or shouldn't) feel bad about donating it back when you're done with it. What we do to limit this is exchange things - we have so many dishes, so if we see new ones we want, we get rid of one in return.
posted by iamck at 9:22 AM on February 14, 2006


arcticwoman : "It doesn't look like an easy lifestyle, I challenge you to try it for a week."

I'm also amazed that a week without buying stuff would be difficult. I'm not saying I never buy stuff, but it's usually an errand I have to run - like at some point I have to go buy some new work clothes; I've been meaning to since the beginning of the year but haven't gotten around to it yet. It's on my list. I also really should get some kind of couch/futon type thing for my living room, but that is lower on the list. But I mean, it is super easy to not buy these things! I would have more trouble if it included going out to eat. ..

However, I will give these people credit because it does not seem to be, as my first impression was, just a "do this for a year" thing, but rather has been the lifestyle of some members for a number of years already. It is nearly unfathomable to me that someone could brag of having resisted buying a $300 pair of shoes, and could consider shopping so central to their lives that not doing it is a major source of pride in general, but if that's the case, then all the better that they've found their own version of AA. Some of us just have a drink with dinner, but that doesn't mean people who've overcome what they consider a negative habit should be scorned.
posted by mdn at 9:50 AM on February 14, 2006


Eh, yes it does. One of the core concepts of consumerism is that "the latest == the greatest." This is pretty much the essential technology of consumerism. It's why the computer software industry exists, it's why there are new fashion "collections" each season, and it's why people make big luxury purchases they don't really need. So yeah, these people are making a statement against one of the core tenets of consumerism and good on them. If that makes you uncomfortable it's your problem not theirs.

Err, I have no problem with them. They don't make me uncomfortable. In fact, I'm sure I'd fit right in. The only time I buy something new is 1) food, 2)when I get a gift card that must be used at a specific location, 3) shopping for gifts to give to other people, and 4) socks and underwear. While "latest == greatest" may be one of the core tenets of consumerism, I think a more defining characteristic is that people think that either buying things will make them happy, or that owning specific things speaks to your personal character. They're not doing anything to break down that way of thinking: as others have said, you can buy just as much unnecessary things second-hand as you can brand new. God, I'd say it's easier to buy something unnecessary when it's so cheap. I've really had to train myself to think: "Why am I buying this?" before every thrift store purchase. It's too easy to buy something you don't need, just because it's cheap.

And these people are attempting to score cool points based on their purchases, just like people who want the latest and greatest are trying to be cool based upon what they buy.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:20 AM on February 14, 2006


Let me say this again, because some of you aren't seeing it:

THEY WORK IN M A R K E T I N G!!!


It's like being a pimp who promotes abstinence!
posted by keswick at 11:00 AM on February 14, 2006


I'm a couple of months ahead of these guys. This was my new year's resolution this year, though my motives are perhaps more pragmatic rather than idealistic:

Resolution 1
No More Shit. Quit buying stuff. Stop it! Now! Just - No! No More! Nothing! You have more stuff than space already so QUIT IT! Or Else!

Violation of above resolution incurs penalty 27b and possibly 27c, unless violating item/s appear on the Exceptional Items list.

Penalty 27b: The fine for bringing an item into the apartment in violation of Resolution 1 shall be twice the volume of the offending item, paid in other items. This volume must be removed from the apartment in compliance with penalty 27c, except in the case of extreme circumstances, as defined by clause 17a.

Penalty 27c: Penalty 27b must be completely fulfilled before offending item is opened/unwrapped/set up, or otherwise played with.

Clause 15d: Exceptional Items List.
For the duration of 2006 only, the following items are exempt from Resolution 1.

1 (one) new desktop computer. LCD screen and miniature (shuttle) size case only.
1 (one) multimedia projector for above computer. (haha yeah right)
1 (one) full length umbrella
3 (three) DVD sets (TV series only, no feature films)
Food (as necessary)
Clothes (as necessary)
2 (two) Books, fiction.
Books, non-fiction (as necessary)
All gifts (to or from me)
Equipment and supplies required for work (as necessary)

Clause 17a: Classified. Insufficient authorisation.



So far, I'm still on track. But I'm running out of things to get rid of for Penalty 27b... :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 11:14 AM on February 14, 2006


It's like being a pimp who promotes abstinence!

Or a sinner doing penitence. Who has a better reason to try to live this sort of life?
posted by crunchland at 12:04 PM on February 14, 2006


I think the people in the Compact have their hearts in the right place but they seem a little flighty with their methods. Blind consumerism is a bad thing. But I agree with others that just buying used things isn't the best possible solution. I agree with people who trash dive and think that is a noble solution. But there are other ways doing things to get off the grid.

Buying things prepackaged or premade can be negative. I prefer to do things myself whenever possible. It is always better to buy the basic ingredients and DIY. Before Make, there were magazines like Popular Mechanics or Mechanix Illustrated which told you how to build things from scratch. Even today, there is still a great magazine, Mother Earth News, which started back in the 70's. It specializes in an off the grid rural lifestyle but can be modified for urban living in many ways. One of the economies they promote is a barter economy which can be used for both goods and services.
posted by JJ86 at 12:13 PM on February 14, 2006


But I agree with others that just buying used things isn't the best possible solution.

Keep in mind that used things don't come in a package.
posted by iamck at 12:33 PM on February 14, 2006


you've apparently never bought anything from ebay.
posted by crunchland at 12:36 PM on February 14, 2006


Hah, you actually thought I meant mailorder was sustainable?!?!?!?
posted by iamck at 1:02 PM on February 14, 2006


Update. Keswick & Crunchland, take note: you're paraphrased.
posted by obloquy at 8:45 PM on February 16, 2006


sweet. i notice he didn't address the substance of my critique though

oh, crunchland, i finally figured out what bothered me about your analogy. a sinner doing penitence is generally supposed to stop sinning while doing so.
posted by keswick at 10:09 PM on February 16, 2006


The production of new products consumes tremendously more materials and energy than the refurbish/sale of old ones (some products more so than others)

It's possible to quantify this through economic input-output lifecycle analysis (EIOLCA), which combines department of commerce economic models with data on how economic activity is tied to downstream resource consumption in various industrial sectors.

Enter something like "sofa" in the linked form (which returns upholstered household furniture manufacturing), and the value (not retail, but what it costs to make), and you get tables of the downstream economic activity, energy use, greenhouse gases, and toxic releases.

Since the Dept. of Commerce data is the scale of large economic transactions, you get results in units of terajoules and tons of CO2 equivalent; enter $1 million when you mean $1, and divide down the results. You can see, for instance, that that $100 sofa out on the street stimulated about $250 in downstream mill economic activity, connecting it to 132 lbs of released CO2 and nearly 1GJ of energy.
posted by eddydamascene at 10:54 AM on February 17, 2006


pffp. I haven't bought underwear in like five years.
posted by Football Bat at 4:37 PM on February 18, 2006


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