TreeHugger has written about The Compact, the un-consumer group which originated in the San Francisco Bay area and whose members pledge to buy nothing new for a year (or more), with a few exceptions allowed for medicines, underwear, and certain other consumable items. As of July of this year the group had 8,000 members.
What brought the group to my attention most recently, just slightly over a week from 'Black Friday' (that orgiastic US shopping ritual previously known simply as 'the day after Thanksgiving') was an interview done back in July in Kiplinger's Personal Finance with The Compact's co-founder John Perry. The interview addresses several important issues, considering the current economic situation:By Not Buying New, You Save Money
When Perry was asked about how much money he was saving by not buying new, he responded:
Before, my family—me, my partner and two kids—probably spent $200 a month on things we bought without thinking. When we stopped doing that, we freed up money for other things. Now we overpay the mortgage every month, and we give more to charity.
For many people, reassessing their impulse purchases is probably something done out of necessity rather than simply proving a point of willpower, but the end result is the same. And at the same time you decreases pressure on the environment by not using as many natural resources to supply your needs.
It's a good intersection of self-interest and environmental benefit, and one that once you begin can carry over to times when you're more flush with cash.
But Won't the Economy Suffer If People Just Stop Buying New Things?
Perry's (very correct) answer:
Runaway consumption and the depletion of natural resources is going to have a worse impact on our economy than some middle-class people like us deciding that enough is enough and that we're going to stop buying things.
Though it may sound like heresy, (and it's certainly easier to said than done) we need to rework the global economy so that economic development can continue (improved quality of life for the millions living on $1 or $2 per day) but overall ecological throughput does not increase and consumption of natural resources can be brought to sustainable levels.
I know I presented that a bit like "All you need to do to create perpetual world peace is..." but considering that we know that the ecological footprint of the average person in the developed world would have devastating ecological consequences if the populations of India, China and other up and coming developing nations consumed like we do, it's something that needs to be addressed.
The solution to economic slowdown can no longer be simply telling people to go shopping.
More on The Compact (Yahoo Group).