Dec 31, 2006

thoughts on simplicity movements

Took some stuff to the Really Really Free Market yesterday, which has moved indoors (780 Valencia) for the winter. Ran into a good friend, unloaded a few items and took a few home as well.

I was asked by one of the better journalists how I feel about some of the simplicity movements that don't get as much media coverage as this crazy compact. In some ways this was a method of questioning the media's interest in the compact rather than these other groups. I've always found that interesting myself.
I've been aware of other ways of approaching simplicity/consumption issues, and I think most people in the compact have. Clearly, this is not something new (second hand ideas are often best, too!). I only hope that the coverage given to the compact makes people more aware of resources and groups like the Really Really Free Market.
It seems that the fringier movements are perceived (often erroneously) as somewhat exclusive. I can see how getting involved could be intimidating, and perhaps it comes down to what motivates different simplicity groups, often motivation is the unifying factor for the people involved. I'm fairly assertive and have yet found myself feeling shy or lacking in requisite hipness to effectively contribute to established activist groups. My problem or the organization's problem? Likely both.
With the compact, the challenge is the unifying factor, making it a more disparate population with varying motivations. But it comes w/ the same accusations of pretentiousness and the same subset of purists to vociferously judge those less hardcore than themselves. Considering the lighthearted and humble origins of the compact, this has been a surprising outcome. This commitment was made among friends and remains a friendly venture. It's been a rockin' year compacter's. way to go!

Dec 28, 2006

2007 & Christmas Recap

With 4 compacting days left of 2006, I'm constantly being asked if I'm going to do this for another year. I think some folks in the original group are up for another year, minus one crazy day, currently dubbed the "jubilee day".

I don't know if I can commit to another full year right now, so I'm going month to month. January 2007 is going to be a compact month for me, though I might also participate in the jubilee day.

On another note, I wanted to share some of the clever Christmas gifts I got this year.

I'd heard of before, but am learning more about this organization that gives micro loans to small businesses. My brother made me a lender by contributing in my name.

A contribution to Family Builders by Adoption in my name has given me a great opportunity to talk my friends (not a few of whom are newly weds) about the option for adoption.

Perhaps that's one of the coolest things about donation gifts: you get to talk to folks about the organizations or the purpose that the money will serve.

My sister gave me " a day of culture" with her. She's provided ideas but in the end anything is possible. I really like this gift, time is a very valuable commodity.

The compact really made Christmas easier for me. After a whole year of telling people about it, my friends and family really thought about giving me (and presumably others) something that isn't a thing at all. Thanks folks!

Dec 18, 2006

Last Minute Christmas Gifts!

So I'm a big fan of the non-thing Christmas gift. Mostly because the things I give or get are usually ... wow, useless. So that's how my association w/ the Compact began, with last year's Kyoto Christmas (see below for those ideas). This year I'm recycling some of those gifts but trying not to be entirely predictable.

So here are some other gifts that I'm giving this year.
For the boss ladies: a block from our local dvd rental shop. So that's 20 or 25 rentals, I know they go there, they'll appreciate it.

For the extended Fam
(which is really really large): One cd of pics from my travels to the Middle East, including sites relevant to Christianity/Christmas. They'll dig it, even if it takes until next Christmas to pass the thing around to everyone.

For the folks
: Similar but also including some books I've picked up, and some ink for printing the pictures. I had the same printer as my dad and have a left over cartridge. Also including pix that I took at home w/ them before I set out for more extended travels.

But perhaps my favorite gift this year is the one for my sister and her new husband:
Damn I hope she doesn't read this. Ok, so they really really want a dog but they're not allowed to have one in their apartment. So they're very casually looking for a new apartment. I'm making a certificate that states that I'll pay the adoption fee for any rescue dog that they choose. I'll screen him for health and tempermant (I'm a dog care professional). To help them adjust, I'll come over every work day for 2 weeks to encourage potty training and provide exercise. And they get one free weekend of house sitting, though I hope to always be able to take care of their pooch.
NOTE: One should never ever give an actual dog, cat, pony as a gift unless the giver is prepared to lovingly care for said animal until he or she dies. Seriously. This gift is just an illustration of thinking about the gift's recipient, not wanting to give some piece of crap. It's not a suggestion that giving people animals is Compact friendly or a good idea.

I also think services make awesome gifts. Give your friends a free night of babysitting or an evening walk for their dog so they can go out. Haircuts and massages also rock, god knows I love them. Oh, and I'd love for someone to get me an online subscription to MidEast News if someone insists on spending, oh, $150 bucks on me for the year. Landfill free, baby!

Dec 17, 2006

I bought a new coffee cup

Yup, I bought a new coffee cup today, but I don’t feel awful about it. I had the same coffee cup for 5 years until a couple of days after Thanksgiving. It was a warming red Yosemite souvenir that rode on the upright cup holder on my bike. For the past two years it’s been a cracked but functional symbol of my commitment to both the environment and caffeine. It flew off my bike about 50 times in the past few years and I dodged traffic to collect it, inspecting the damage, and choosing to refill it.

But a few weeks ago it took a fatal fall, not just cracking but indeed the plastic shell broke, leaving the aluminum innards exposed through its sharp edges. Ugh, I finally threw it out. Baristas knew this cup, I tell you. They started to inquire as to its whereabouts as I ordered coffee in paper cups (w/ plastic lids and cardboard sleeves!!!) as I waited patiently for a used cup (w/ no handle, and the right shape for a bicycle water bottle holder) to come into my life.

Through the Compact I’ve become patient about receiving goods. And yeah, I did what I could to mitigate the coffee buying. Having just returned from the Middle East I’ve been making that rocket fuel known as Arabic coffee at home quite a bit anyway. But I’ll be damned if I don’t need a cup of coffee while I’m out and about at least three times a week. So that’s about 20 paper cups since my cup broke. Today I sucked it up, broke my commitment to the Compact and bought a cup at a coffee shop.

Yeah, I could have found one used if I had tried harder or asked some friends. But that wasn’t happening so I took one for the environment today by breaking the Compact. People keep asking if I’ll be compacting in 2007. Barring sudden fame, fortune, or personality disorder, I think my low consumption lifestyle is at the very least a semi-permanent aspect of my existence. Perhaps the change would be that in 2007, I’m less likely to wait 4 weeks to decide to replace a coffee cup, given that I can’t seem to give up coffee.

Oct 21, 2006

Compacting Travel Part 2

Preparing to take a long trip, I've made some amazing compact finds! I've also made some interesting decisions about souvenirs. Because I'll be gone for over 3 weeks, some of these decisions are necessary for space, I'm using the backpack I got for camping in January.

Finds: I scored an amazing, $500 camera, only 2months old, for $250! I've always used my roommate's camera but it's bulky ... and it's his so he should have it here.

Before I even bought the camera, I started looking for memory cards w/ a post on craigslist. Confident that I wasn't going to find one used, I went out and bought a memory card from Radio Shack. I kept the receipt and didn't open it. The owner of the camera contacted me the day after she sold it to me to offer me some memory cards and spare batteries (rechargeable), which I bought as well. Yay! Just realizing how cool this camera is, it tells me how many pictures I can take w/ the memory card, I'll need another one. Luckily I have 2 offers from craigslist.

So now I have to return the impatience card to Radio Shack and meet folks to get the other memory cards. I realize the ease of consumerism: I have 487 things to do before I leave, shopping sucks.

Some friends gave me a map of one of my destinations. I found a used guidebook that wasn't so useful as it was from 1989. Hooray for the internet.

I found 5 fabulous books at Red Hill Books, all used. These are for light reading. They're the kind of books you can leave behind or give to someone else. Except the 1965 copy of a Philip K Dick book (yes it's pulp but I love him). And since I'm going to look into a grad school program in London, I went to the library yesterday to run off some journal articles relevant to my field.

And there are some things that I need that I'm going to get while I'm away, making the whole souvenir aspect kinda fun. So I'm hosteling in London and the Middle East, at least 6 different spots. So I need shower shoes. I'm buying flip flops for health, in London, perfect souvenir. Might have to get an umbrella there, too. I wear rain gear here, which I'm taking but not sure if it's going to be a good choice.

I might need a hat or a scarf for some places. I don't have one to take. A nice scarf could be a pretty wall hanging later.

And to give to other folks I'm buying coffee and soap. These are locally made products in the cities I'll be visiting. I would buy chocolate but I'd just eat it all on the 17 hour plane ride home so coffee beans are safer.

Oct 18, 2006

Oct 12, 2006

Compacting Halloween

Yep, it's October and I'm still compacting. Most of us are, I think.

Halloween is one of my favorite times of year, my housemate and I go all out. We decorate, I send cards to my friends and family, and we have the coolest pumpkin carving party.

Last year I stopped buying extra decorations and simply mended what we have, same this year. I had some cards left (and plenty of confetti and stickers to spice them up). My mailing list is huge though. Because of the compact, one of my aunts brought me her left over graduation announcement cards, which she was handwriting. So it was just a blank card w/ the seal on the front. I covered those w/ pictures of last year's pumpkins, which I already had printed out.

The pumpkins might be contentious for some folks, but my family is ok w/ it. We have 7 of them. We eat all of the seeds, and keep the guts to puree for either dogs or cats who have upset tummies (wonderful source of fiber, great for my cat). And of course we compost them when it's time.

We carve on a theme. We've done peace pumpkins, carving that word in 6 different languages. Last year we did political themes. We put words into the outline of countries (peace in Iraq, hope in Afghanistan, truth in the U.S.). We also made one for marriage equality.

This year it's environmental pumpkins. 3 arrows, a bike, the Pitch In guy, a Jesus fish w/ "veg" inside, Buy Nothing 11/25, etc.

Perhaps that's my attempt to mitigate the buying of all these pumpkins :)

Jun 8, 2006

My second hand/ part time pooch

Roxy, my part time foster dog, is the epitome of a Compacter. She's been at the dog daycare where I work for at least 3 months. She's an aged pug, waiting for a forever home and she doesn't care if all her toys, bedding, collars, leashes are used, as long as her food is fresh and plentiful.
She does require medication, but that's Compact friendly, too. She's happy to sleep on the used couch and prefers used rawhide (already softened by another dog, she's got little bitty teeth). Roxy prefers love and friendship over new things. I'm surprised that I don't want to run out and buy her a new collar, but seeing how content she is, I know that I don't need to do that.

May 19, 2006

Compacting Thievery

On Monday, I was an excited Compacter, having acquired a wonderful new (used) vacuum cleaner. On Thursday afternoon I was equally enthused, having bartered a new (used) laptop into my home and subsequently passed on another computer to a person in need. "Wow, this is easy," is what I was thinking around 3:00 PM. Then I went to my last class of my undergraduate career.

So we geography seniors thought a fieldtrip to a Mission bar would nicely round out our semester. I rode down on my bike, of course. By drink 3, someone had jacked my seat, one of the finer components of my favorite bike. Along with the seat went the mount for my rear light. I always check on my bike, and my frustration upon discovering this theft led me to consume drinks 4 and 5 rather quickly.

Despite the drama, I maintain that compacting is easy, and as pointed out by a friend, leads to good product karma. A classmate, Joey, happened to come to the bar in a friend's car- for reasons still unclear to me, Joey kept his bike seat in this friend's car. I gave him my graduation tickets, for his saddle! This seat carried him across the country, and might still be on my bike when I head to Mexico this summer. So far it seems like a nice saddle, though it lacks suspension and the nifty little tear that mine had from one of my more explosive accidents.

I do admit that I am really really struggling to not buy the perfect saddle. I hate the seats on my other bikes, and it's an incredibly important component of any great bicycle. If I break on this one, I'll let you know. No promises, as of yet!

May 15, 2006

Vacuum Cleaners In SF

Today was a good day to be a Compacter! My vacuum cleaner broke for the 3rd time, and it had been far too long since we rid the carpet of cat hair. I put an ad on Craigslist, checked the free section, the household section, and posted on Freecycle. Then I looked at my carpet again.

Tumbleweeds still rolling, I called The Place That Sells Sewing Machines and Vacuums in Daly City. I asked if they had any used vacuums and they did, though they were all a bit larger than the one that I have. I was able to get a better powered machine and to drop off my old one, which they will try to fix and sell, or use for parts. Yay! I also got a 90 day warranty. And it's a locally run shop w/ well informed employees/owners. Great deal!

Apr 24, 2006

Confession before Beatification

In beginning the Compact I assumed that I’d find some release from materialism. I got a bit ... high on things at times, usually bikes and jackets. Cleaning out my apartment, calm-pacting, I felt like I was purging some of those societally constructed emotions.

But I’m starting to see a new materialism in myself: I’m a bit possessive over my stuff. The best example is a mishap with my cycling jacket. My best friend was wearing it and within 10 minutes, managed to jam both of the zippers on the pockets, one of which broke. I was seriously (and publicly) mad about this. I was thinking about replacing that jacket and groaning to myself about the hours that I would spend finding a good substitute. The jacket’s 2 years old, my friend pointed out, and it was only the zippers on the pockets. But I was pissed.

Another friend thought it was out of character for me to get so bent out of shape over a thing, but it’s not just the jacket. I’m hesitant to loan out some of my things. Especially if they were selected to because of their ergonomic prowess (vacuum cleaner, office chair). So far I’ve not refused anyone, but have cycled through the steps that replacing the item would require: internet/Goodwill search, borrow a car, coordinate time, drop cash, etc. It’s a panicky reaction, and a very interesting result of my commitment. I hope it’s a phase.

Mar 29, 2006

Compacting My Cold

My brain is committed to the principles behind the Compact, and thus is my wallet. But I’ve come to discover that my body is revolting against my decision to not acquire new things. The strategy is genius: It’s acquired a brand new virus without my consent. Though I could pretend, this is NOT the virus we picked up in December. At least I didn't have to pay for it.
Could this be a physical manifestation of withdrawal from the consumer grid? Was I that addicted?
As I wiped my nose in the tea aisle at GoodLife, I felt guilty about my decision to buy individually packaged cough drops and tea bags. I’ll need them in bulk anyway. Using handkerchiefs will have to be my remediation. But just walking away with them, my body began to respond. Suddenly I wanted some DayQuil, TheraFlu, Vick’s, anything with any hope of making me feel less like crap. Or maybe just buying them would make me feel less like crap.
Ugh, maybe I have a fever. Or maybe my body is trying to lure me back into an overly consumptive lifestyle, after only 3 months. I’ll only know for sure if I make it through this cold without a new humidifier.
For the love of science, Cold, GO AWAY!
***Note: The Compact is medication friendly. Dogma above assumed for dramatic effect.***

Mar 3, 2006

Receiptless Refund

I just checked the irs website regarding my refund: Will be mailed shortly with a letter explaining why I’m getting less than I calculated. They could just save that paper: I am terrible at math. Just thinking about that check makes me want to do a consumer circuit from Cortland to Valencia to 24th St. Anyway, here are 3 things that I swear I am not buying with this check.

1) A New Bike or Components to Build One
Instead I’m going to replace some rusty bolts after the rainy season, touch up some scratches, and just attempt to maintain the 3 bikes I have. And I’ll give some of the money I’m saving to the SF Bike Coalition to say thanks for those awesome bike lanes on Alemany!

2) A New Subwoofer for My Mac
I found used speakers, took them home and they don’t fit with my woofer. I desperately want to run out and buy a woofer that works. So easy at the Mac Store!!!

3) A Slew of Books, Cat Toys, a Jacket or Bag
Ok, that’s 4 things right there but those are my basic money blowin’ items. Oh and cards to send to the family.

What won’t you buy?

Feb 23, 2006

Meditations on Travel

Six weeks into the Compact I’m challenged by thoughts of post-graduation travel. My summer bike tour (SF to Mexico) requires sturdy gear, some of which I’m slowly acquiring or building, and some that I’m just deciding to abandon. In much the same way, my home’s reflecting these same choices. While a lot of folks seem to think that we shop like crazy, only buying used, it’s silly to presume that any of us can engage in the Compact without reducing our overall hoard of crap.
Regarding travel, I do have an idea for postcards, as I’m a prolific penpal and postcard lover myself. How about taking along a glue stick and scissors and cutting out pix from the local paper or tourist maps, etc. Then glue them to a cereal box or something similarly sturdy.
I’m still on a mad quest for suitable maps, wouldn’t be so difficult if I wasn’t a geographer. That’s right, I’m picky. Where are the used USGS 7.5 minute quadrangles? So far I’m finding the map library at SFSU quite handy, photocopies are my best bet so far with respect to hiking maps. Road maps are easier to find, but they rarely have the detailed contour lines that are so helpful for planning a bike trip.

Feb 8, 2006

Recent Queries


Here's a list of recent queries and the responses that the group tossed around--also some random tips and reminders thrown in:

-- What about new shoes for children and folks whose professional lives call for a great deal of walking (i.e., dogwalkers):

Acceptable as needed. The shoe exception has been made to support health and safety. It's not a loophole to buy Manolos. (And some of us throw orthopedic concerns to the wind for ourselves and our children, purchasing "like-new" used shoes. )

-- What about purchases required by our jobs or businesses?

Acceptable when necessary, but this exception should not be seen as an free pass to transact simply for the sensation.

-- Remember: Buying local is critical and should be followed whenever possible.

-- Tip: Food & wine are okay for gifts if you choose not to go for services or charitable donations. But food & wine are an important opportunity to shop & support local.

Jan 23, 2006

Kyoto Christmas (or Birthday)

Compacter RK created a very cool way to dodge holiday consumerism this past year with "Kyoto Christmas." She explains, "This year I'm not buying gifts but giving out coupons for the environment instead. This means that I'm doing something positive for the planet (and every living thing on it) in honor of the recipient.... Folks are getting into it so it becomes like Kyoto [global summit and treaty--get it?], we exchange credits for shower time, meat consumption, car usage, etc."

RK may compile a list of the clever "treaties" struck between Kyoto Christmas participants.

Recycled Art Show at SF Dump

Team Compact,

The Art Show at the Dump last Friday was awesome. The work by the latest resident artist was really terrific, and he assesmbled a huge array of found objects that he didn't use. The crowd at the opening was encouraged to scavenge through his cast-offs, and Ben came home with two red metal Tonka fire trucks (direct from our childhoods). Very cool.

We'd love to get a group together for a tour of the Dump Sculpture Garden (third Saturday of the month)--so maybe a Compact tour preceded or followed by lunch on Saturday, Feb. 25?

Jan 20, 2006

What About Wiper Blades?

Hey there compactors -I've been enjoying all the "chatter"We are the kind of security threats that Bush should be spying on - if our movement grows we could take this country down.But on a more realistic note - I need new windshield wiper blades. Does that count as a consumable item like shampoo?

Even When Traveling

From a new Compacter:

I'm preparing for a backpacking trip in Joshua Tree and procurring the necessities has been easy enough w/o buying anything new, and simply borrowing in many cases. Just need some maps but I have good lead on that.

Jan 6, 2006

What about eBay?

Question: This brings up the question – are things available through eBay that are advertised as “New” actually compact-friendly? Certainly it isn’t promoting the construction of new mega-stores, but…

One answer:
Good question. I tend to think of this as a slippery slope (particularly eBay and Amazon "new and used.") Maybe we can set some kind of standard specifying that the seller through these venues must be a private citizen and not a retailer (?)

Shower curtain

-Rob and I have an extra still-wrapped shower curtain liner (pretty low-end) that we can give you! Just need to retrieve from Caz this weekend.
or, if this hadn't been true...
-eBay search on "shower curtain liner" -- here's just one example that came back.
-to avoid cost of postage, tax, etc., enter a WANTED email on freecycle

Glad you're compacting! I need to circulate my impressions/findings of posting giveaways on Freecycle after a couple of experiences this past weekend.
Let's organize a post-month-one potluck at our place--How's Sunday, Feb 5, work?

New Year's Resolution

Greetings, Compact-wegians,
Tomorrow is the start of our 12-month flight from the consumer grid. To aid us all in getting started and sticking to the regime, I've compiled the guidelines we set in stone at our great dinner a few weeks back.
As agreed, The Compact has several aims (more or less prioritized below):
1) 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
2) to reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er)
3) to simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)
So, here goes for the rules:
  • First principle - don't buy new products of any kind (from stores, web sites, etc.)
  • Second principle - borrow or buy used.
  • A few exceptions - using the "fair and reasonable person" standard -- i.e., you'll know in your heart when you're rationalizing a violation:
    • food, drink, and necessary medicine (no elective treatments like Viagra or Botox)
    • necessary cleaning products, but not equipment (don't go out and buy the Dyson Animal, for example).
    • socks and underwear (utilitarian--non-couture or ornamental)
    • pajamas for the children
  • Utilitarian services (plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, veterinarians, dog/house-sitters, fire/paramedics, dry cleaners, house cleaners, etc.) -- Support local and encourage used parts (rebuilt transmission, salvaged headlight unit, etc.)
  • Recreational services (massage, etc.) & local artisanal items - Good sources for gifts, but should not be over-indulged in for personal gratification
  • Charitable contributions (Seva, Heifer, and the like) - an even better source for gifts
  • Plants and cut flowers - Whenever possible, cultivate from free cuttings or seeds. Ok in extreme moderation (yo, incoming oxy) when purchased from local businesses (i.e., not the Target Garden Shop)--and again, within reason
  • Art supplies - First line of attack: SCRAP. When absolutely necessary (for the professionals and talented amateurs in the group), from local businesses
  • Magazines, newspapers, Netflix - renewals only, no new subscriptions. Even better to consume online
  • V ideo rentals and downloadable music files (non-material) -- freely shared and legal, please
      Some resources
      For fresh produce:
      • Terra Firma (like The Box, but community supported agriculture, entirely sourced from Yolo County farms.)
      For secondhand purchases and for recycling/donating:
      For spiritual support and guidance
      Please pool other great sources you find this year.