Wednesday, August 08, 2007

4 months in: not exactly buying nothing, but...

With my six month experiment two-thirds over, I figure it’s a good time to evaluate my success.

My original goal was to buy nothing. Absolutely nothing. No exceptions.

Then I realized that my family needed more food than I could grow, so I compromised by buying locally as much as possible and allowing eco-responsible organic brands when local was not available. We are now a healthier family and I have learned to walk right past a display of boxed macaroni and cheese. Even if they’re four for a dollar. Not exactly buying nothing, but an improvement.

Then I realized that I was about to have a baby (well, okay, I already knew that) and that she would require all of the pastel accoutrements we buy for our little bundles of need. I found almost everything used and tried with varying success to nudge gift-givers toward more practical items. Not exactly buying nothing, but I prevented a lot of waste and saved a ton of money.

I originally planned to drive one day a week only and either walk or take the bus on the other days. This was a stupid plan. Have you ever lugged a baby carrier, stroller, and two preschoolers onto a bus? With stitches down under? Cripes. They don’t make stiff enough drinks for that. I have, however, cut my driving by about half—just in time, with gas prices so absurdly high—and started walking when possible. As for public transportation… someday. But not today, or tomorrow, or any day this week.

It sounds like my buy-nothing plan was a failure, yet it feels like an extraordinary success. What began as a protest against the bloated American economic system has became a paradigm shift for my family. The farmer’s market used to be an outing for a lazy Sunday; now it’s our primary source of sustenance. We have favorite vendors and a baker who remembers what cookies we like best. Our garden is perhaps not thriving, but it’s at least producing. We’ve stopped feeling that we need to run to Target every time a new and improved piece of plastic dances across the TV screen. Our carbon footprint is at least a shoe size or two smaller, and we’ve began to let our roots spread in our new hometown. Our impact on the earth is far from zero, but it’s getting smaller every week.

A failure, but one I can be proud of.