Is it Possible Not to Buy Anything New?

I just spent two days at a workshop on sustainability at which I announced I am going to try not to buy anything new.  Now I know this is going to be an imperfect system, so “try” is the operative word here.  I’ve already done this a lot with clothes.  It started because I hate sweatshop labour, but since I live in an urban environment, consignment and thrift stores are abundant.  Furniture is also an easy used purchase (I love vintage things and antiques anyway).

However, right away I can identify a few obstacles to my plan.  When a person has, as I do, two uniquely flawed eyes, that person has to purchase properly made prescription lenses.  Strike one.  Years of wearing used shoes have caused me to have serious foot problems so now, if I intend to be able to walk for the rest of my life, I need to buy specifically designed new shoes.  Strike two.

Unless I grow all my own food, food must be left out of this equation, including pet food and alcohol (although at least I can buy local at farmers’ markets).  Pet toys and supplies are another thing difficult to acquire used and you have to be careful about fleas and disease.  Our garden seeds itself more and more each year, so perhaps I can one day dispense with buying plants and flowers each spring.  I guess I could take up guerrilla gardening.  A lot of the garden decor comes from thrift shops, and all the back yard slate came cheap from the demolition man.

Strike three really involves those things that are impossible to avoid: light bulbs, batteries (although we have a recharger), paper products, household cleansers (although we could learn to make our own), etc.

Of course it is always okay to buy new if it is hand-crafted and sustainable.  This makes buying things like soap, scarves, and socks easier though more costly.  I have yet to meet anyone who can boast excellent homemade beer.

If any of you out there have any tips, I’d appreciate some pointers!


Tracks, Traces, Stuff

The weight of stuff can be heavy and oppressive. Clutter in my environment can mirror the chaos in my head. However, discovered and surprising things pull on me. Odd items found on the beach (I’m working on a photo project of Things I’ve Found on the Beach), things scarred and weathered by life and the elements, those are the types of objects I mean. It’s not nostalgia – I’ve never seen the items before  – it’s the idea that they’ve come from somewhere else with information, data, in the form of rust, barnacles, decay.  Or it could be the tracks left in the sand by animals or machinery.  We occupy space and that space is shared with organisms and with objects.  The most provocative and unsettling sculptures are often those made from society’s detritus, the cast-offs, junk, discarded and unwanted.