PRATIE PLACE

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Buying less, or nothing, or buying used stuff.

The MSNBC article is longer, and more mocking and patronizing, than the excerpts here. I will probably never be as hard-core as these folks, but I certainly prefer the PTA Thrift Shop to the mall. I've been hiding from buying during this holiday season and feel cheerful and peaceful. I don't want to meet up with those angry shoppers we've been reading about, the ones with Tickle-Me-Elmo rage, the ones who are snarling under their breath in the crowded parking lots ... even if they are fulfilling their patriotic duty (to SPEND) while I shirk it.

Extracts from MSNBC's
10 friends live secondhand for a year
Voluntary simplicity also sparks a backlash

Attention holiday shoppers! These people haven't bought anything new in 352 days -- and counting. These 10 friends vowed last year not to purchase a single new thing in 2006 -- except food, the bare necessities for health and safety (toilet paper, brake fluid) and, thankfully, underwear, and maybe socks.

Everything else they bought secondhand. They bartered or borrowed. Recycled. Re-gifted. Reused. Where? Thrift stores and swap meets, friends and Dumpsters, and the Internet, from Craigslist to the Freecycle Network, which includes 3,843 communities and 2.8 million members giving away stuff to one another.

They call their initiative "the Compact," ... and although they say they never intended to spark a mini-movement or appear on the "Today" show, that is exactly what has happened.

Since the San Francisco Chronicle ran an article about them in February, their story of not buying has appeared on media outlets around the world -- everything from Yoga Journal to Martha Stewart's Body + Soul to the London Times. Even Oprah's producers called.

"Suddenly, we decide we're not going to buy a bunch of new stuff for a year? And that's international news? Doesn't that say something?"

Their user group on Yahoo (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thecompact) has grown to 1,800 registered members.

Some have called the Compactors un-American, anti-capitalist, eco-freak poseurs whose defiant act of not-consuming, if it caught on, would destroy the economy and our way of life.

Kalle Lasn, editor of Adbusters magazine, who advocates taking a 24-hour timeout of the consumer merry-go-round, has promoted Buy Nothing Day since 1992, urging citizens to resist the urge to splurge on the day after Thanksgiving, the kickoff to the holiday shopping spree.

"I go on talk radio shows, and I'm amazed by the anger of some people, the Chamber of Commerce president who calls up and says, 'You're trying to ruin the economy,' " Lasn says. "Try to take the larger view. We consume three times more than we did right after World War II. These things are connected."

"We didn't do this to save the world. We did this to improve the quality of our own lives," Perry says. "And what we learned is that we all have a lot of more stuff than you think, and that you can get along on a lot less stuff than you can imagine."


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