Jan 6, 2006

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.

      Scott said...

      why do you condone stealing of "pirated" digital music, even though there are plenty of ways to buy used CDs, and even buying legal digital music is at least fairly "compact"

      Yen said...

      What about gasoline? Also the renewal only exception for Magazines seems like a cop out, after all yOu are still paying for a new magazine. Lastly Netflix would seem to be a rental service, not a new purchase. Though there is room for rentals (of new furnature or leasing of new cars) to easily become a slippery slop. ANy thoughts on all that?

      Great concept, I'm off to sign up for the Yahoo group.

      Jane said...

      What about bath & body products? Like, shampoo, hair styling products, moisturizer, sunscreen, face wash, lipstick, etc? Are these considered fair to purchase new?

      Steve Portigal said...

      Can you please update freecycle to point to the SF group?

      I run the Coastside freecycle group and I'm always getting requests to join from SF people who don't read carefully enough.

      micki said...

      It's about time!
      I've been doing what you are suggesting for years and I don't miss the mall at all!
      Since I am a "shopper" by trade (I run errands and buy groceries, other items for elderly people)
      I will buy new for my clients, but not for myself.
      Sort of like working in a candy shop....you get to where you can't eat candy anymore...
      Used is always new to me.

      Robert van de Walle said...

      I really admire and appreciate the vision you are holding! I'm considering blogrolling this, since it's right in line with my own journey as I release myself from affluenza.

      I'll be checking in on your progress!

      Dallas said...

      You all are truly inspiring. My boyfriend and I read about your group in an article the other day and we have been talking about how we can try this in our own lives.

      Anonymous said...

      Just read the SF Chron article and started a Yahoo group in Lexington, KY!!

      Anonymous said...

      ah... america... where the upper class can take the higher ground by resolving to live a consumer life somewhat like the majority, who cannot afford to choose such a lifestyle choice, and publish their efforts to make themselves feel better, while arguing inane cop outs of their original decision. go for the gold team america!

      Unknown said...

      Ah, cool! Leave it to you Frisco-ans to be out front with Earth-friendliness and anti-corporatism!

      Here in the Midwest (Western Kentucky, USA), my sister and I are looking at ways to network via blogs and such with other organic gardners, farmers and ranchers interested in sustainability. Maybe even build an online producer co-op.

      We'll be keeping an eye out for groups like the compact. If you know of folks over here in the heartland, please send them our way!

      Anonymous said...

      Massage and bodywork are not just "recreational services". Regular bodywork is a vital part of many people's wellness strategies, with myriad physical and mental health benefits.

      I'll encourage you to get your massages from independent local therapists, rather than spas, gym chains, and such. When you see us directly, cutting out the middle man, you really help support someone who's usually put a lot of time, money, and caring into learning how to help support you.

      Anonymous said...

      Compact: A great idea for reducing our impact on the hurting planet! Kudos to all involved! BUT let's remember that harmful overconsumption is rampant in many ways besides buying new stuff. How many members of this group drive a lot, for example? (I doubt they are using "used" gasoline.) How many Compacters dirve gas guzzlers? How many buy conventional foods when they could choose organic? How about our utility consumption? How about getting a (new) plastic bag with your thrift store purchases? A total paradigm shift is needed and Compactis a great start!

      Anonymous said...

      To Scott and Isabel:
      Compact is about consuming less stuff so we can counteract the negative impacts of US consumer culture. I don't think pirating music or other data has a significant impact on the planet, so i feel it's a separate issue and there is nothing in the Compact intentions that shoud approve it or disapprove of it. If it is condoned by one member, it's not necessarily condoned by all members. The main message is: avoid buying new CD's, etc.

      Anonymous said...

      To Compact Organizers:
      THIS IS FANTASTIC!! I want to join. Thanks for the inspiration. **I have a suggestion: edit the Exceptions section of the "rules." Here are my ideas...
      1. Remove "A few" from the title.

      2. Avoid trying to classify medicines as either "elective" or not, (because arguments can be made either way for most drugs).

      3. These things should NOT be exceptions: socks, underwear, pajamas, plants, flowers, art supplies, periodicals,

      4. Instead, add: "Things needed by dependents." (an exception to potentially protect children from parent's choices to go without, while allowing Compact parents to get what is needed for kids).

      4A. And add: "Things needed for paying bills," which would allow artists to buy art materials or people to continue other types of business. Hobby artists can make do with used or shared supplies.

      4B. And ad: "Things needed for Emergency Repair," which covers the stuff a plumber would need, for example. And...

      5. Remove anything from the Exception list that is not a "product", such as: all services, contributions, rentals (Netflix) (They do not need to be exceptions because they are not consumed products and are therefore not banned)

      I am an editor and would love to help with more of the Compact written stuff if you are interested in my help. Thanks again for starting theis great movement!

      Anonymous said...

      I'm sad that someone thinks my edits to the Wikipedia page are "vandalism!" MOST of the stuff i added is from the Yahoo Compact page, so it's "official" language anyway. And, i did not remove any of the original language, just added some needed stuff. *Wikipedia is supposed to be publicly edited by it readers, that's the whole idea. In the Wiki guidelines, it specifically states: "content disputes are not vandalism"

      Here is my updated entry- What do you think- is it vandalism, or improvement?

      The Compact is a small group of around 50 people; including engineers and teachers, in the San Francisco Bay Area, who have vowed to spend the year of 2006 without buying anything new (with some survival exceptions). This group came to the attention of the world when covered by the San Francisco Chronicle, and has since been reported on by boing boing, CBS News, and others.

      The Compact is now spreading to other areas (as more support groups and pledges to curb consumption pop up), and a movement is apparently starting. Members are expected to use common sense and their own discretion when deciding exceptions to the ban on new purchases. Using an E-mail list-serve, the group has a constant forum for discussing ways to "improvise" and thus avoid buying new products. These discussions, and the passions of the people who desire to reduce their consumption are inspiring and growing in magnitude as more people hear about The Compact.


      The Compact has several aims (more or less prioritized below):

      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 that, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact.

      To reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er).

      To simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact).

      We've agreed to follow two principles:

      1. Avoid buying new products with few exceptions.

      2. Borrow, rent, or buy used when something is needed.


      DRAFT of new proposed Compact Mission Statement by Compact members:

      In light of rampant consumerism's destructive effects, we of the Compact pledge to curb our purchases, cease frivolous buying, and choose to simplify our lives.

      With the exception of just those few things needed for work and for the health and safety of our families, we pledge not to buy new.

      In doing so, we hope to shelter our families from the corrosive effects of marketing's state of constant want, to reduce our load on the Earth, and to find a more sensible path for our future.

      For these reasons, we join the Compact.

      A good deal of the ideology of The Compact can be found in this quote from member John Perry:

      "We had a little crisis when Matt and Sarah had to replace their shower curtain liner and we said no, but we put the word out and someone found one for them. It's like the Amish -- we help each other out. We raise a barn every week."

      Anonymous said...

      Is there a local chapter of sfcompact in Davis CA?

      Anonymous said...

      I heard about The Compact on CBS morning news the other day, and I admire your principles. But I cringed when I heard the newscaster describe the Mayflower Compact as "revolutionary." I assumed it was just a historically-ignorant copywriter who thought he was being clever, and was shocked to find the same claim on your site.

      To set the record straight: The Mayflower Compact had absolutely nothing to do with the American Revolution or anything else revolutionary. It was simply a compact (that is, an agreement), written more than 150 years before the Revolution, to form a colony in the new world, loyal to King James, and to establish a local government for that colony. See the link above, which shows an image of the original Compact. While the word "Compact" is certainly appropriate for what you're doing (it's an agreement), and the Mayflower Compact analogy may have some justification (it's an agreement to make a new set of rules for a new society), your suggestion that the Mayflower Compact was "revolutionary" only reinforces the dumbing-down of America.

      Anonymous said...

      Love you!

      My heart is with you / us, including those of us, too scared to examine the terrifying consequences of our waste-producing lifestyles; we're all in it together.

      I hope we learn other ways of fulfillment...

      THANK YOU for reviving ways to live-by and let live.

      Much Love!

      Anonymous said...

      Heard about you guys on NPR radio a couple days ago - just wanted to send a note of support!

      I've been following a scaled down version of your compact for a while - I've been buying used books (almost exclusively) for years, and I buy used whenever I can. craigslist and a handfull of excellent second hand furniture stores in NY are a gem. Keep up the good work!

      Anonymous said...

      We caught wind of your wonderful endeavor via word of mouth so I can say from the moment I heard the word I was committed

      Anonymous said...

      Have y'all looked at paperbackswap.com ? It's a great way to trade books for only the cost of postage (which I assume is allowed under the compact). I just thought you'd enjoy another way to entertain without buying new.
      Congrats on formalizing an interesting movement!

      thequales said...

      I am new to the group and am interested. Here's my question - we are at the very beginning of doing a remodelling on our house - a NEW roof that we desparately need (not just new shingles, a NEW roof, structure and all) and earthquake retrofitting. I imagine spending for these is ok because they are considered a necessity and also for security reasons?

      Also - a comment about newspaper/magazine subscriptions. We subscribe to them both but then I donate my copies to the public library. And no, the public library does not have monthly running issues of the magazines we subscribe to.

      Anonymous said...

      Just found this site from NIM site.
      wondering what type of soaps/deg. do most of you use to wash clothes .and wash dishes, need to buy some to wash clothes soon. have soap, body wash to last for months, unless i start washing clothes with them!!!
      also the thrift stores here are Great, there are alot here, being single parent I have shopped second hand for years.
      V. in Virginia

      Marta said...

      I am interested in your idea. Would going to a movie count as an exception? Technically you would not be "comsuming" anything. (unless you bought food there, which could be ruled out) I ask because my friends and I regularly go to movies as a social meeting spot/ hang out. I would not like to not be able to see my friends. (obviously) You know what, it would be very helpful if you defined "comsumption" for me. (I know the dictionary definition, I mean what it means in relation to this lifestyle)

      Anonymous said...

      I'm a 17 year-old French student, I live in Nantes (in Britain), and I've heard about this Compact group in a news paper.

      So, even if I don't understand all what you write here, really, I do admire your action, it's just wonderful this way of living.
      To see that things are made to change and overcome this over consumption society, gives me hope, joy and smile...

      Peace, Emmanuelle

      P.S: sorry for mistakes, I don't speak English fluently. I hope you'll understand what I've written all the same!^^

      marci357 said...

      I think most of this is already a part of frugal survival - which is what lots of us have already been doing for years - including garage sales items for gift giving....

      Interesting to see it make 'big news' when it is just common sense. :)

      Anonymous said...

      I love your intention with that.

      However, as a man with a chronic illness, I'm disappointed that you listed Viagra alongside botox as a frivolous elective medication. That is hurtful and unnecessary. Some people may use Viagra who don't need it, but fundamentally it is not a recreational drug.

      I had my illness before Viagra existed. I think it's fair to say that my two year son, the joy of my life, would not exist if that medication hadn't been available.

      If you are going to list Viagra in your compact, it would be better to pair it with fertility treatments or lube than with botox. Those are more comparable analogs. But it would be better to just remove it. It detracts and distracts from your message, which is a good one.

      Anonymous said...

      Hi! New member of the group and 1st time poster. I learned of "The Compact" from an article in Fortune Magazine and was quite intrigued. I do pose a question to the rules. What would be "The Compact's" stand on events such as Theatre, sporting events, and movies. I make few purchases, but do go to basketball and football games and hold season tickets to the local theatre. Thanks!!