[ There's a group in San Francisco called the Compact that evangelizes for this sort of thing (interesting stories about them here and here, plus a listserv). They seem idealistic, nicely pragmatic and not, you know, psychotically dogmatic about it. Also check out "Ask A Brokeass" -- Gristmill's fountain of "cheap green" advice. ]
So, why? Well, obviously I bet we can save a ton of money if we work at it. Plus there's something hard-wired in my brain that thinks landfills and disposable consumer products are pretty-much the dumbest ideas ever. I will walk several miles to find a recyling bin. I mean, what ever happened to using every part of the buffalo? What mega-genius came up with those cheap plastic happy-meal toys? The environmental costs of the American high-consumption lifestyle are bad and bound to get worse. For example, do you know where your old TV ends up once you're done with it? Why not take it to your friendly neighborhood TV repairman (hi Dad!) and get a few more years out of it?
And then there's the psychological aspect to it. Unplugging from commercial culture can be very liberating. There's something eye-opening in thinking hard about what we really need and how much is 'enough' and what a sustainable economy might actually look like. And anybody can do it - you don't have to be able to afford the organic section at Whole Foods to play.
And yet, and yet, disposable stuff is so convenient and useful ... and so easy to get rid of. There is certainly something undeniably exciting about saying: I don't need this anymore and I can just make it disappear! Sigh. Too much stuff is definitely an input and output problem, and this is our current plan to deal with the inputs. *Now, of course, there are caveats:
- Food. This is a clear exception to the rule. The idea of eating 'used' food is gross. (I suppose we could restrict ourselves to dumpster-diving -- and, hey, people do -- but, that doesn't quite seem like our style. Plus, my sister made me promise I wouldn't.)
- Experiences. Movies, concerns, cultural events, video rentals are all exceptions.
- Travel. Gas for the car, plane tickets -- not technically stuff, although it would probably be a good idea to reduce these too.
- Necessity. And of course, if there's a pressing need for something essential that we can't really find a replacement for (I'm thinking ... diapers), then yeah, we'll buy it.
Anyway, between craigslist and freecycle, we seem to be doing pretty well. I got a great used bike a few months ago for a cool hundred bucks from this guy who runs a bike repair business out of his backyard. Now, I really need a new pair of dress shoes, so I expect I'll be checking out the shoe section of the Goodwill soon enough.