Tuesday, 30 October 2007

buy bye

Ever felt like you've accumulated too much stuff, and it's just getting in the way? Does Xmas shopping take away your peace of mind? Or have you ever bought something you didn't really need, or even want all that much?

You're not alone.

But doing something about it is another thing. It's simply hard to break out. But there are people taking a stand against corporate consumerism.

Compact is one such group. It was formed by a group of friends in San Francisco who were concerned about the environmental damage of the enormous amounts of waste we generate in western societies. So they did something very radical.

They agreed to not buy any new stuff for a whole year, except for a few important items such as medicines, food and safety items. Instead, they would buy second-hand, borrow/lend, barter or make what they needed.

The idea caught on, and thousands of people have joined the Compact Yahoo Group, and Compact Groups have started around the world. People have found the freedom from consumerism to be very liberating, sometimes even helping to create new community feeling. But not everyone is impressed - some have labelled these ideas as "unAmerican" and undermining economic growth.

The Sydney Morning Herald recently (They're just not buying it, Jacqui Taffel, Oct 27-28) reviewed the efforts of several people trying to live by the Compact principles in Australia. It seems that not everyone is able to keep it up, and some live by less stringent principles. But as with the original San Fransisco group, most do not miss the products they are doing without, and feel positive about the idea.

One said: "It made me think about what is our purpose - is it just to go and buy stuff? And I don't think I've worked that out yet."

I find it ironic that America is at the same time both the world's strongest exponent of capitalism, and supposedly the world's most christian nation. Yet Jesus warned against excessive consumption: ".... guard yourselves from all kinds of greed, because a man's true life is not made up of the things he owns, no matter how rich he may be." (Luke 12:13).

What do you think? Do we consume too much? Have we been conned by advertising to do what doesn't make us more fulfilled and happy? What can/should we do about it? Do we need to go to such lengths, or is there a more moderate approach to resisting consumerism?

Read more about Compact from the SMH; read an interview with one of the founders; or read the Compact blog.


  1. FASCINATING. I don't shop that much outside of food and necessities, but when I can afford to splurge it's fun. There is no doubt America has become entirely carried away with itself (ourselves, rather), and especially with shopping. Even holidays lose all meaning ourside of the corporate.
    Anyway, I think that's a great idea. I am seriously contemplating it for the new year. Hopefully I can find someone else too, to help keep things in check.

  2. my wife and i are going to attempt to free ourselves from the consumer christmas this year.

  3. I think there's much that we can all do without necessarily going as far as the Compact people.

    Consciously separating out the advertising hype and only shopping for what we know we need is one.

    Recovering Christmas is another. When our children were younger, we used to go away with other relatives and stay in a big house just the week before Christmas and have a family non-consumer Christmas where we made our presents, cooked, did activities with the children, etc - it was good.

    Thanks for comments.


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