Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jenny's One Year Anniversary

Today marks our one year anniversary on the Compact. That’s one year of avoiding the purchase of new items.

(BTW: If the headline caught you, you’ll have to scroll all the way down for the free stuff.)

We’ve done well on the Compact. Really well. And we’ll continue to compact indefinitely though perhaps not with the emphatic and zealous intensity of this past year. It feels nice to have made it to our one-year anniversary.

I’ve kind of lost steam this last month or so. Perhaps it was the anniversary looming in the distance that lessened my resolve. Still, this year I can count the new items we purchased on one hand: a snowboard for my husband, a pressure canner for me, a $10 dress and skirt from a store going out of business ($330 savings! How could I resist?), and an outfit for DS a few days ago when I wasn’t quick enough to take him to the potty. Not bad, though, is it?

The Compact has drawn a lot of criticism recently about its being “elitist.” Indeed the whole green movement has drawn that same criticism.

While detractors might claim that the Compact is elitist in nature, I must think that it is one of the most accessible paths toward green living. After all, avoiding new purchases is a choice that everyone can make. Eco-chic consumerism, by contrast, is accessible only to the wealthy.

Ideally, we should be mindful of our purchases reducing our needs and reusing what we can and that is exactly where the compact can help. After all, it’s estimated that for every $1 you spend on new consumer goods, you put 0.5 lb of CO2 into the atmosphere. That means that the average household spending $10,000 a year on new consumer goods puts 5,000 lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere from their spending habits alone. By contrast, that’s more than half the amount of CO2 put into the atmosphere by driving an average 4-door sedan 12,000 miles each year. Buying something that is used and available locally puts considerably less stress on our environment and our budgets than buying something new, especially something new from a far distance.

The Compact hasn’t been without its detractions. I’ve complained about this before, but the decision to eschew all new purchases not only takes money away from the big boxes, but it also takes money away from small business owners and artisans which is why I ameliorated my compact to include new purchases from artists and crafters. I believe these people need our support and should not be lumped in with the consumerist machine of the big boxes.

On a personal level I imagined that compacting would be a revelation–that I’d come to my year’s end knowing more than I had previously. Silly. There’s been no revelation and little soul-searching. Instead I’ve just been trucking along quietly and joyfully, and learning to ask myself, “Do I really need this?” The answer is almost invariably “No.”

Sure, there’s been tough times.

As a mother who works in an office, I must present a modicum of professionalism in my dress. I am notoriously hard on my clothes and having wonderfully grubby toddler hands hold me has been all the more difficult on my clothing. Understandably, my work wardrobe suffered and no second hand shop seemed to carry anything that met my three simple guidelines: 1) be acceptable office attire, 2) fit and 3) look at least half-way decent on me.

By June I was down to one skirt, one dress and two tops. Soon after, both tops had holes and my dress literally fell apart in the wash. I was close to purchasing a new wardrobe from a company with questionable ethics when a mother from MDC happened to see my plea and generously sent me a box of new-to-me work clothes.

When you make a commitment to something like the Compact people are willing to help you reach your goal and that is beautiful. The compact is worth pursuing even if you only give it a month or a whole year. If you’re interested in signing up for the compact and blogging about it check out Mamas on the Compact and email me at (jenny @ green-mommy . com).

I’ve been recently inspired by gift-giving bloggers like Jen from Only Who I Am and Carrie at Natural Moms Talk Radio (you can still enter her contest for a free pilates DVD here). So, in celebration of our 1-year anniversary I’m giving away a copy of Compact Living, which is not about the Compact, as well as a mystery book from my stash of your choice of fiction, nonfiction or cookery.

Both books will be in excellent used condition because you should know by now that we just don’t do new around here. So comment away on this post to enter in the contest, and if you trackback from your blog to this post you will get two entries. And if you pledge to compact for any length of time at Mamas on the Compact I’ll put your name in the hat three times. I’ll put all names into a hat and the little dude will draw one out next Friday, October 19th.

So comment away, trackback and sign up for the compact. It’s been a wild year.

(X-posted at Green Mommy)

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