My first month of buying nothing new for a year was a success! I had a few challenging moments but made it out of the month having bought nothing new. This is largely a personal challenge for myself to see if I can make it a year without having to buy (or be given) anything new, but it is also a means to inspire others to be more resourceful and find ways to meet their needs that do not involve going out and buying anything new. This is beneficial in many ways, but my two personal favorites are the reduction of environmental impact and the reduction of money needed to live.
It’s easy to just run out to the store or go online and buy anything we need because we live in a society that has made shopping very convenient, seemingly mentally rewarding, and almost seemingly necessary to just be a “normal” member of society. The problem is that all of this stuff causes real environmental destruction and is the source to many of the most pressing and depressing environmental and social issues of our time. Simply not buying new stuff is one way to live a drastically more environmentally and socially conscious and responsible life. The Story of Stuff does an incredible job of showing how the cost of our cheap stuff is externalized to the natural environment and other people.
So that’s a bit of an explanation of the environmental benefit of not buying new stuff but another huge one is money. I’m not talking about just being frugal and trying to save money, though. I’m talking about rearranging our lives to take the focus away from earning money and instead focus on living a purposeful and passionate life that is beneficial to our earth and humanity. The less stuff you need means the less time you have to spend working to buy that stuff. Instead you can pursue a more meaningful life. Buying nothing new is about going without some stuff, but it’s not about feeling empty. Rather, it is full of love for life and all that exists rather than junk we don’t need and that doesn’t serve us to our fullest potential.
I’ve been simplifying my life since 2011. This project of buying nothing new for a year is not a shocking transition for me. I own very few possessions and have simplified my needs to the point where in 2016 I was rarely buying anything new, but I still did on occasion. Buying very little new and buying absolutely nothing new are two different ball games, and it’s been a great challenge so far. It’s really forced me to stick to my beliefs.
This year, I’ll be keeping track of all the stuff that I get and explaining how I managed to get it without buying something new as well as telling how I managed to make it each month without buying anything new.
Here’s the stuff that I accrued this month:
A tripod, microphone, external lens, battery pack, and a mount for the tripod.
I bought all of this used on eBay. Buying all of this used was challenging because I was trying to find very specific equipment that fit my model of iPod. There were some things that I wanted that I just could not find used, so I had to go with an alternative. It took a bit more time to find everything used, but it did save me a lot of money. I bought this because this year my goal is to tell 100 positive stories and this gear will help me to produce much higher quality videos. This setup will allow me to do live reporting via Facebook Live on stories around the country and around the world as well as put together short films about people making the world a better place.
This month I’ve been staying with my friend Chris Castro, the founder of Fleet Farming, and he wanted to give me a T-shirt. I told him the only way I could accept it is if he gave me a used one. So, he scrounged this one up from his closet.
A few people have tried to give me new stuff this month, and I’ve just had to explain to them what I’m doing and that I couldn’t accept it. A few times people were a bit confused because they’d never encountered it before. My strategy is to always be polite and courteous and stay strong to what I’m trying to achieve. On another other note, in my hand in the photo you’ll see some napkins. That’s to be used as toilet paper. When I am at restaurants I always grab the napkins that people took and didn’t use that will end up in the garbage can. That’s my way of not consuming trees to wipe my butt and using a wasted material instead. See 10 Ways to Wipe Your Butt for Free if you’re interested in not wiping your butt with your money anymore.
Going into this project I had intended to make an exception for toothbrushes and maybe dental floss. However, within the first day I realized I should be resourceful and find an alternative to buying new. Well, on day 10 of the project I found a year’s supply of dental floss and 6 months supply of toothbrushes in a CVS dumpster. Unused of course! They throw away an incredible amount of perfectly good stuff due to damaged packaging or stocking issues. Note: I would not buy plastic toothbrushes nor buy from a corporation such as CVS because I don’t support either, but if it’s going to waste, I think it only makes sense to use it. Bamboo toothbrushes from a company like Brush with Bamboo are a conscious choice to make if purchasing new.
When I’m talking about not buying anything new, I’m talking about stuff, basically, and I’m not counting food. So I am purchasing new food this year. However, a pretty large portion of my diet in January has come from dumpster diving. Here’s a portion of what I found in two days of dumpster diving.
One of the reasons that this challenge is actually really easy for me is because the USA is such a wasteful nation. I can get most of the things I need from a wasted source. With that being said I am not creating a life that is dependent on these things but rather I am just being resourceful while it exists. If the stuff is going to waste, I might as well use it. But at the same time I am learning how to grow food and have grown a lot of food already so that I have many different means of meeting my needs in an environmentally friendly manner and am not dependent on waste.
Cheryl and I went camping for about 10 days near New Smyrna Beach, Florida. We first stayed on an island with our friend Brent where he’s been camping for the last 6 months. Then we paddled out for a few days and camped on 3 different islands. In order to do all of this we bought a used canoe on craigslist that came with used paddles and life vests, all for $275.
Afterward we sold it for $250. I’m all about resources getting used to their maximum potential rather than sitting around. Think about all the stuff that you have that you rarely use. Imagine if we shared our stuff and had community garages, tool libraries, sporting equipment libraries, etc. All that stuff that we want to have but rarely use can instead be used by dozens of people and be there for us when we want it but not when we don’t need it. That’s sort of the idea here with this canoe. We used it for a short period of time. Afterward, rather than having it sit around, found it a new home where it will be used.
Speaking of borrowing, we also borrowed fishing poles from our friend Brent rather than going out and buying new ones. One of the reasons I have just around 100 possessions is because it forces me to share rather than be a hoarder. We also bought a pan, pot, bowl, plate, utensils, blankets, and pillows from the thrift store. Afterward, when we were done camping, donated some of it back to another thrift store and gave the rest to Brent.
Lastly, I got some used hooks and sinkers from a fisherman. I offered to buy them from him but he said, “No way! Out here we help each other out.” Also, I found a comb on the streets and washed it and traded that out for the comb that I’d currently had, which I donated to a thrift shop. I have a comb for when Cheryl cuts my hair.
That’s all the stuff I accumulated this month. This happened to be much more than a normal month actually, but we managed to do it all without getting anything new or spending very much money at all. It was a successful month and I still have 11 more to go!
To read all of the guidelines that I’m following as well as for answers to the most frequently asked questions see my first post: Nothing New for a Year 2017