Saturday, August 05, 2006

Buying Stuff

I was browsing around and came upon the site of the Ethical Consumer.

It's based in the UK - and yet there is a page dedicated to the Boycott Bush campaign. Of course the Bush policies affect people all over the world.

I rarely buy "things" anymore. But there are food choices to make (I went vegetarian a few months back), and there is shampoo and such, gasoline, and art supplies. And if I want to sell art - I can't very well discourage people from buying it.

Recently more people have been consciousIy choosing not to buy stuff at all - or at least not new stuff. I found this article on The Compact - a grassroots effort - to encourage people to not buy things. (Like most articles on news sites - it is surrounded by ads imploring people to buy things).

It began as a simple, or simply terrifying, pledge taken by a small group of friends feeling overwhelmed by all the things in their lives. Over a potluck dinner two years ago, they made a pact: Buy nothing new except food, medicine and toiletries for six months.

The effort lasted a year before falling victim to the demands of modern life. But the commercial craziness of the Christmas season brought the group back together a few months ago.

And as the article notes:

Religious groups such as the Shakers, the Mennonites, the Amish and some Quakers have long embraced the notion of living a simpler life. Writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau idealized it.

And there are religious people of all sorts who have abandoned things throughout the ages - like some gnostics, sufis, and yogis. The wikipedia page on Asceticism mentions "starving artists" and "hackers" as examples of people who choose to do without stuff for reasons other than religion. The Compact group - does not seem to be motivated by religion but a desire to not be controlled by things. Though the results may be similar.

There are many things to consider about consuming ethically. But buying less - whether it is less food, less clothes, less whatever it is, means less energy is used in production, in shipping, which means less junk in the oceans, in the air. Buy local - when possible.

And if you are going to buy things - buy art. :) That would be original, one of a kind, handmade art - not reproductions that are created halfway around the world. (That could be a handmade mug at the local art gallery/craft store/art fair - I'm not suggesting that the only art people buy cost thousands of dollars).

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