A year without (new) stuff

This was written on the 7th June 2017, and posted on my blog (now inactive).

Although renewable energy is front and centre when it comes to mitigating climate change (especially from a policy point of view) mitigating our impact on the environment doesn’t just start and stop there. Because our impact on the environment is the cumulative total of our daily choices; how we travel, what we eat, what we wear, what we use, own, consume, and everything that went into making, packaging, and transporting it, all add up to create our environmental footprint (a.k.a modern-human-shit-baggage).

Unlike the major policies that direct where our energy is sourced, we can’t blame the people in charge for not stopping us from continuing to consume all of the things we don’t actually need. Instead, that’s directly up to us, as individuals. So, or at least as the cynic in me says, we pretend it matters so little it doesn’t matter at all.

But, it does matter. As a culture, we’re addicted to the convenience of single-use items. We’re addicted to plastic. All of our things are made to be disposable (so that we’ll continue to buy them) but nothing truly is disposable: the plastic we’ve produced will outlive us, our kids, and probably theirs as well.

As a whole, the climate challenge often makes us feel powerless, but here is something (albeit a small something) that we can actually do: stop consuming things. Stop mindless, and endless, consumerism that drives the economy and creates nothing but waste.

This has been my challenge: reduce my consumption (and all the embedded energy, water, resources and time that is associated with it) by not buying anything new. This doesn’t include food or necessities (things like soap or toothpaste), but does include everything else.

Spoiler alert: I’ve already failed. It was rightly called a challenge. While I want to blame pervasive advertising, I won’t shirk responsibility; I’ve given in to the negative voice that says “actually who gives a crap if you buy this?”. I wish I could say that I failed on things that were extravagant, but there are no new Apple Watches here, only: a lunchbox, hiking book, pot plants, silicone baking ware, and material for clothes that my sister will make me.

Although new things have found their way into my no-new-things year, it’s been really beneficial as an exercise to ask myself every time I want or need something “where has this come from, what went into it, who made it?”.

If you need more inspiration to (actually) make some changes for the environment, I recommend the following: The Minimalists documentary (2016), they also have a book Everything That Remains (2014); No Impact Man (2009); Merchants of Doubt (2010); This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein (2014); Before the Flood (2016); and, the recent documentary TV series on the ABC War on Waste (2017).

There is plenty of information out there to inform and inspire us, it’s just up to us to do actually do it.