The Idea (“We Have Enough Stuff”)
Not too long ago, we (Grant and Jen) cycled down the Pacific Coast of the United States. And when we got home, after months of carrying everything we needed on our bicycles, we thought “we have too much stuff”. In fact there was an entire house filled with all sorts of things that we hadn’t missed at all while we were away.
This led us to believe that maybe we didn’t need all those things in the first place and that definitely we didn’t need to keep buying more things that were just going to end up in the landfill. We figured they could go for days or even weeks without buying more “stuff”. Heck, why not a year?
Starting on Canada Day, July 1, 2008, we (Grant and Jen and our roommate Rhyannon) pledged to try to buy no more “stuff” and produce zero landfill waste for one year. No buying clothing or DVDs, no make-up or i-pods, no fancy running shoes, sparkley headbands or duct tape, no plastic patio lanterns, saran wrap or handmade pottery mugs. . . . you get the idea.
The zero waste idea came from the idea that packaging is also “stuff”. After all, it’s the goods we want, not the plastic or styrofoam surrounding it. We’re trying to reduce packaging wherever we can and to make sure that packaging we do get is either compostable or recyclable. No buying individually wrapped granola bars or foil lined boxes of cookies, no tomatoes in plastic clamshells or take-out containers, no frozen pizzas wrapped in plastic followed by cardboard followed by plastic. We know what you’re thinking: “what about toilet paper?” Yes, we can buy it. Check out The Rules for, well, the rules.
- The bottom line is this: by bringing less stuff into our house, we’ll have less stuff going out of our house and into the landfill.
Lets just clarify some things here. We are did this project for our own entertainment and satisfaction. We are not unemployed hippies trying to collapse the North American economy nor are we under the impression that recycling our yogurt containers will save the world. We just figured that we have done more than our share of buying crap in the past few years, and we could stand to cut down on the purchases. Also, we like a little competitive challenge.
Trying to be a responsible consumer entails so many choices and so much responsible research. How was the product made? What were the living conditions of the workers? What is the packaging like? Was it fairly traded? Organically grown? Ethically sourced? On sale? For us, it was much easier to decide to just not buy it. We are not advocating not buying as a sustainable lifestyle (eventually my underwear will wear out and I’ll buy new ones), but for a year we challenged ourselves to make do.
This was not a project in reducing greenhouse gases, living without plastic, eating locally, taking transit, riding bicycles, living off the land, making toothpaste, or saving the world; although, we may coincidentally do a few of these things. There are many other people successfully doing and writing about these activities, and you should definitely check them out. But for us, we were just trying to buy less stuff and make less garbage.
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