The Compact en-US The Compact: Mindfulness and Frugality Through Buying Used <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-compact-mindfullness-and-frugality-through-buying-used" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="yard sale" title="yard sale" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>In 2007, I became a member of the environmental movement known as <a target="_blank" href="">The Compact</a>, mainly because everything in my life has to be a dare. The basic idea behind The Compact is to take as few new resources out of the planet as possible. The way that Compactors put this idea into practice is <a target="_blank" href="">by pledging to only buy used</a> products for one calendar year, with obvious exceptions for things like food, heath care products, and services.</p> <p>I started The Compact because I like to test myself, but many people come to The Compact for the same reason people get involved in the voluntary simplicity movement &mdash; they are broke. And this is totally OK because frugality is often the way that people lower their carbon footprint. So the motive for pledging to buy nothing new isn&rsquo;t really important. Learning to be aware of the environmental costs of every purchase is. (See also:&nbsp;<a href="">Simple-Living Lessons&nbsp;I Learned From&nbsp;&quot;Hoarders&quot;</a>)</p> <h2>Saving Money vs. Conserving Resources</h2> <p>While I have yet to hear of anyone who has joined The Compact and not saved thousands of dollars, The Compact is about environmental responsibility, NOT personal frugality. Depending on how you define frugality, how you spend money versus how you spend resources can be very different things.</p> <p><b>Is Couponing Bad for the Planet?</b></p> <p>For example, a long-running discussion on <a target="_blank" href="">The Compact&rsquo;s message board</a> is on the subject of <a href="">how to use coupons responsibly</a>. While there are several Compactors who are black-belt coupon masters (one member uses her ninja couponing powers to save her local food bank thousands of dollars a year), a number of standard couponing maxims are terrible for the environment.</p> <p>One of the first lessons that most people learn about shopping with coupons is that you should use your largest denomination of coupon to buy the smallest size of an item in order to lower the cost per ounce. While this strategy, when used properly, can save the couponer money, alas, it&rsquo;s horrible for the planet. Buying ten small four ounce containers of say, lotion, not only generates more trash, it takes more resources (plastic, water, electricity, gasoline, etc.) to create ten small containers than it does to create one twenty ounce bottle.</p> <h2>Buying Local Is Not Always Buying Cheap</h2> <p>Another core principle of The Compact is &ldquo;<a href="">buy local</a>.&rdquo; This is where The Compact can get complicated. Because it&rsquo;s really important to me to have a good used bookstore in my town (Los Angeles), it is worth it to me to spend, on average, $2.00 more per book at my brick and mortar bookstore than I would spend for the same book on</p> <p>Because the 10,000 members of The Compact live all over the place, the principles of buying used and buying local often come into conflict with each other. For example:</p> <ul> <li>What happens if you live in a small, rural town, where the closest store is the Walmart the next town over?<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Is it more environmentally responsible to buy the greenest possible new goods from a store that&rsquo;s become synonymous with exploitation or buy probably more expensive used items from eBay or that will have to be shipped hundreds of miles to your doorstep?</li> </ul> <p>While frugality often has an immediate reward &mdash; more money in your pocket &mdash; automatically looking for the best deal might have long-term negative repercussions for the environment and for your neighbors.</p> <p>There are two selfish reasons why I go out of my way to try and buy locally even if it means spending more money up front:</p> <p><b>Supporting the Local Economy</b></p> <p>By buying used and buying local in my neighborhood, I am supporting the local economy, not some multinational corporation that doesn&rsquo;t care about maintaining a high quality of life. This positively impacts the value of my home. Target couldn't care less if their store results in traffic gridlock for my neighbors or makes our Main Street less attractive. By patronizing local establishments, I&rsquo;m helping to create and maintain a vibrant consumer experience that is tailored to the needs of local residents.</p> <p><b>Supporting the Health of Locals</b></p> <p>The sprawling ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the largest in the nation and basically serve as the mouth of America&rsquo;s consumerist habit. The combined ports are also the <a target="_blank" href="">largest single contributor to air pollution in Southern California</a>. Because we cannot break our addiction to cheap goods from China, people who live in Long Beach and San Pedro suffer from elevated levels of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. They are literally subsidizing other people&rsquo;s purchases with their health.</p> <h2>The Compact Is a Journey</h2> <p>The Compact is about the journey and not the destination.</p> <p>The process is ultimately fun, which is why most Compactors tend to stay with their pledge long after the first twelve months. And while all Compactors not-so-secretly strive for perfection, every Compactor eventually has to buy something new. Not surprisingly, most Compactors end up subscribing to the &ldquo;<a href="">you get what you pay for</a>&rdquo; school of thought. Socks and underwear are a Compact exemption and can be purchased new without breaking the pledge.</p> <p>But, even with exemptions, Compactors generally will pay top dollar in order to buy high quality undies that will stand the test of time over a multi-pack of cheap knickers that will fall apart after a few trips through the wash. Sometimes new really is better for the environment. And sometimes more expensive can be better for the budget.</p> <p><em>How do you define frugalness vs. mindfulness? Are they the same thing? Can one be truly mindful without being frugal? Do you think you could step away from the consumer grind for 12 months?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Max Wong</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">15 Ways to Recycle and Reuse Old T-shirts</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">15 Wonderful Uses for Witch Hazel</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">How Baking Soda Took My Bathroom from “Yuck” to Yes!</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">8 Ways You&#039;re Wasting Electricity Without Realizing It</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">4 Cheap and Easy Homemade Mosquito Repellents</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Green Living buying local environmentalism mindfulness The Compact Thu, 24 Jan 2013 11:24:31 +0000 Max Wong 966270 at Life Without Toiletpaper - Bum Deal? <p><img src="" alt=" " width="180" height="200" /></p> <p>How far would you go to save the world?</p> <p>Upon reading the <a href=";_r=2">New York Times article</a> about the Beaven-Conlin household in Manhattan, I started to get a little queasy. The article delves a bit into the lives of a couple and their young daughter, yuppies who live affluent lives in New York City. They&#39;ve taken the idea behind <a href="">The Compact</a>, and then taken it a LOT farther. They are trying to live for one year with absolute minimal impact on the environment.</p> <p>Their toddler wears organic cotton diapers. The family eats all organic food, grown within a 250-mile radius of the city. They bake their own bread, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and don&#39;t buy much outside of groceries.</p> <p>That sounds responsible, right? Then it gets better. They don&#39;t use toilet paper (the details of how they avoid this are not pretty, and no, they did not have the good sense to invest in a bidet). They compost INSIDE their apartment. They use no spices but have made an exception for salt, which they apparently think of as an indulgence in baking rather than something that <a href="">humans need in order to survive</a>.</p> <p>I think that the idea behind what the Beaven-Conlin family is trying is wonderful. And even though we all agree that we should use less, buy less, and pollute less, how many of us really <strong>do much of anything to accomplish this</strong>? </p> <p class="blockquote">The dishwasher is off, along with the microwave, the coffee machine and the food processor. Planes, trains, automobiles and that elevator are out, but the family is still doing laundry in the washing machines in the basement of the building. And they have not had the heart to take away the vacuum from their cleaning lady, who comes weekly (this week they took away her paper towels).</p> <p>I consider myself an environmentalist, but I just ate a sandwich out of a styrofoam container and then threw it away, because you can&#39;t recycle styrofoam in Seattle and I got tired of hauling bags of it to my parents&#39; place across the mountains for recycling. </p> <p>I drive 20 miles to work, because my job is located quite far from the job that I had when I bought my home (telecommuting is not an option with this firm, and taking the bus would take me close to 2.5 hours each way). If there is anyone who eats food grown farther from where they live, I don&#39;t know who it could be. I have a ridiculous appetite for tropical fruit and exotic spices.</p> <p>In the NY Times article, Colin Beaven states that the experiment that his family is trying is &quot;also very urban. It’s a critical twist in the old wilderness adage: Leave only footprints, take only photographs. But how do you translate that into Manhattan?&quot;</p> <p>Well, I&#39;d argue that that&#39;s easier in Manhattan than a lot of other places. Because Manhattan is rife with foodies, you can find farmers markets open year-round. You can buy organic milk in reusable glass bottles. There aren&#39;t many places in the five boroughs that you can&#39;t walk or bike to. I used to live in Brooklyn and work in Chelsea, and I would walk from dinner with friends in Midtown back home. It took a while (and wasn&#39;t always voluntary; sometimes I&#39;d run out of money and not be able to get subway fair), but it was very doable. Come to think of it, I never went to Staten Island, so maybe you can&#39;t get there by bike or on foot.</p> <p>People who live outside of large metropolitan areas with stellar public transportation (you know, normal people who can&#39;t afford huge apartments, or even studios, in swanky downtown areas) don&#39;t have the luxury of riding their Razor scooters to work. Not only would that be impossible, but they&#39;d probably get their butts kicked by their work buddies. Hell, my neighbors are very swishy, and I think they&#39;d probably call me a sissy if I broke out a Razor scooter and started scooting around Seattle.</p> <p>Now, the No Impact Family is not saying that everyone else has to live like this, and they are obviously trying it as an experiment. I think these kinds of revolutionary try-it-and-see experiments are brilliant, and I certainly applaud their efforts, even if I think the lifestyle might be too extreme for many of us (I am NOT making my own vinegar, thank you).</p> <p>Also, I think some of the moves are a little odd. For instance, <em>Ms. Conlin takes her lunch to work every day in a mason jar</em>. </p> <p>A mason jar. </p> <p>What&#39;s wrong with Tupperware? Yes, it&#39;s plastic, but it&#39;s not like you throw it out. A mason jar is heavy and awkward and breakable. I love using mason jars for preserves and pickles, but it&#39;s not up there on my list of potential lunchboxes. Why stop at a mason jar? Why not just put your lunch in a soapstone box that you carved yourself and tie it up in leather than you tanned out of from Central Park squirrel hides? Think of the shoulder muscles you&#39;d develop!</p> <p>Also, she gave up coffee. Well, that&#39;s just plain sick. I mean, if you don&#39;t want to go to Starbucks or even an independent coffeshop every day, that&#39;s fine. But there&#39;s nothing wrong with a French press. It&#39;s French! The French love suffering (or is that Russians?), so it totally fits in with the lifestyle.</p> <p>There was a telling little bit of the story that got me thinking, though:</p> <p class="blockquote">Ms. Conlin... did describe, in loving detail, a serious shopping binge that predated No Impact and made the whole thing doable, she said. “It was my last hurrah,” she explained. It included two pairs of calf-high Chloe boots (one of which was paid for, she said, with her mother’s bingo winnings) and added up to two weeks’ salary, after taxes and her 401(k) contribution. </p> <p>What? You know, maybe these people really need to try this. I don&#39;t know how much Conlin makes at Business Week, because she could be an intern, but I&#39;m guessing from her apartment location and her good taste in boots that that was pretty much a $3000 shopping spree. That&#39;s a guess, yes, but still. Two weeks salary? Doesn&#39;t something like that sort of defeat the purpose of no impact living?</p> <p>Perhaps I&#39;m being too touchy on the subject because I realize that if I used one-tenth of the discipline that this family is showing, I could make a major impact on my life, but by golly, I hate the stairs. </p> <p>And bidets are really, really pricey. </p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Andrea Karim</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-8"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">47 Simple Ways To Waste Money</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Only Celebrate A Few Select Birthdays</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">8 Things We Keep Buying That Are Killing the Planet</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">A year without toilet paper - The Interview</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">11 Ways the Government Pays You to Live Green</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Lifestyle An Incovenient Truth compost environment no impact reduce reuse recycle The Compact toilet paper Walden waste Thu, 22 Mar 2007 19:53:53 +0000 Andrea Karim 384 at