washingtonpost.com on a group of people who call themselves Compactors — citizens who have made a compact amongst themselves not to buy anything new for a year, except food and safety items (e.g. toilet paper, brake fluid). Everything else they obtain used, or make do with what they have. The group’s mission: “To go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of U.S. consumer culture, to resist global corporatism, and to support local businesses, farms, etc. — a step, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact.” Predictably:
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.
But of course most Compactors have moments when there’s something they really need and don’t have the time or patience to scrounge, and they give themselves permission to slip when necessary. One member’s “drill bit moment”: “I needed it, and I don’t feel bad about it.”
I don’t think Amy and I are quite ready for Compacting, but we did join the Freecycle network last year, and have had great success getting our used stuff into the hands of people who need it, no commerce involved. And I’ve come up with some great entertainment for Miles through Freecycle — when I realized a few months ago that Mattell no longer made the simple, classic, orange Hot Wheels tracks and clamps, posted to Freecycle about it and by the weekend had not one but two complete sets of 1970s Hot Wheels tracks, cars, clamps, and jumps. Kept all that plastic out of landfills, had a great time with my son, spent $0, and felt great about it.
Some Compactors have said it’s tricky explaining to their kids why Santa traffics in used toys, but they’re not trying to make overtly political statements:
“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.”