I read about the concept of “No buy July” on one of the zero waste groups I’ve joined on Facebook. The full concept as discussed in the group seemed quite extreme to me – not buying anything at all, including food, and just using up whatever you have in the freezer and cupboards. I knew we couldn’t manage this, as fresh fruit and vegetables is important to us as well as a fair bit of dairy. But I decided to have a crack at it – buy no stuff, with the exclusion of food and fuel. (To be fair, there are plenty of months where we don’t buy diesel for the car, as we hardly every use it, but we needed some for the Center Parcs trip and next week’s camping extravaganza).
So why stop buying stuff? Let’s start with clothes.
It’s widely held that the fashion industry is the second most polluting global industry after oil. This might not actually be true, but it’s clear there’s still a major impact.
Extinction Rebellion are calling on us all to pledge to buy no new clothing for a year, from April 2019-April 2020, in a bid to disrupt the fashion industry and reduce the ecological impact of clothing manufacture. Key wording from the pledge:
“We can no longer afford to use land to grow crops for producing clothes and extract oil to produce synthetic fibres. Enough is enough. Business as usual is leading us towards extinction.
For the next year, we will engage in a boycott of the fashion industry and its ecocidal, unethical system of pointless production. We will take joy in making do with what we, collectively, already have, and learn to share, repair, rewear and relove. We challenge ourselves to radically change our relationships with clothes.”
Buying no new clothes for myself is not a huge challenge really – I’m not much of a fashionista, and we haven’t got a ton of spare cash for these things. I have bought some leggings on eBay this month though, including some Boden ones, so I’m officially a yummy mummy now. I was initially a bit squeamish about second hand leggings, but they’re actually fine. I will do another post in due course about our adventures with eBay and why patience is a virtue!
Removing temptation is a good move – I rarely go High Street shopping, because it’s not very fun with a toddler. There are some good tips here about deleting marketing emails before read them – they’re designed to tempt you to buy stuff which you probably don’t need, and it’s so easy to buy online for that quick one-click endorphin hit. I’ve gone a step further and unsubscribed from a load of mailing lists. I know where the Mothercare website is if I ever need it, but I don’t need to see the cute new Mylene Klass range of kids clothes that my son DOES NOT NEED (sigh). Baby clothes (toddler clothes? boy’s clothes? He’s not really a baby any more… *sobs*) are my weakness though and I’m promising to make a concerted effort to get the majority of his next batch second hand.
Other stuff – well, it’s just more stuff, isn’t it, really? The manufacture and distribution of everything has a carbon footprint, and it all will have to be disposed of eventually. There’s probably enough stuff already in existence to go round for the whole planet for a good few centuries. There’s not much that can’t be borrowed or obtained second hand.
So far so good, until the camping trip planning began in earnest…
The sum total of new things we have bought in July are as follows, all directly related to our upcoming holiday:
- A roof box for the car – we did try and find one on eBay but it’s super complicated getting one with the right roof bars for your car. I feel like this is a pretty major long-term investment though, and does not count as a disposable, frivolous purchase.
- A feed bucket – sounds mad, but I think it will work as a good travel bath tub for the small person, I know he can’t go 10 days without a few scrubs. Plus it’s squashable so will fit more easily in the car than a normal bucket. Again, I think this will get a lot of use over the years on camping trips, for fetching water, washing up etc., and can be used as a storage receptacle too.
- An LED camping light – tried to borrow one from various friends and family without success. Again, will have a long life with us over the years/decades and will be looked after (and NOT trashed by a small person obsessed with switching lights on and off, definitely not).
So we haven’t quite pulled off No Buy July, but I’m interested in a longer-term lifestyle change. As a friend of mine put it recently when she signed the fashion pledge:
BUY NOTHING NEW.
I reckon unless you’re gifted something, or its absolutely essential, it’s hard to justify having new stuff these days. I think a challenge such as that suggested by Extinction Rebellion, gets you to really think every time you make a purchase. “Do I really need this? Can I find it second hand anywhere else? If I have to buy it can I make sure it doesn’t end up in land fill when I’m done?”
I’m certainly not going to get all militant about it. But I’ve most definitely reached a turning point where buying new really jars with me.
Less stuff. Reduce, reuse. Rebel against the consumer machine. That feels more radical than buying leggings on eBay, but that’s what it is, and I think that’s what we have to do to save the world. Super rad.