Seeing Hammy on his little boat reminded me of a saying that has always inspired me. I’ve seen many version of this quote and its been attributed to many people, including the Dalai Lama. No matter who said it first and how, it’s just as inspirational.
“Many drops an ocean make”
As much as you might like to, you don’t have to change the world. You don’t have to fix the problem. All you have to do is something. Just a small change. Just be one voice. You are never alone, and with enough voices and people making small changes just like you, we can change the world together. And if not.. well… at least you made a ripple.
Have you seen Finding Nemo? I’m amazed at just how inspirational that movie is. Particularly this scene:
Nemo was just a drop in the ocean, just one fish. But when he rallied others to swim with her, she became an ocean. All the little fish together became as powerful as a shark.
I often find myself muttering a sing-song “Just keep swimming.. Just keep swimming…” That’s really all you need to do. Just make one small step at a time. Try and convince others to make one small step at a time too. Small actions can achieve great things.
There’s quite a lot out there saying that long-term change is best achieved through setting small goals, or through building small habits. Once that new habit becomes second nature, you can add one more little habit to it – it’s called habit stacking. And that’s how you get your ripple.
I’m on a mission to simplify my life and to save the environment (including living a zero-waste life). That’s a pretty big ocean. Here are some my drops; here’s how I keep swimming:
Swap a disposable item for a reusable one, one thing at a time – buy a reusable bag, a reusable coffee cup, a reusable water bottle.
Say no to buying that item you’re looking; you don’t need it.
Choose one thing to declutter.
Put away one thing where it belongs.
Tidy/organise one space.
Ask for one drink to be served without the straw
Choose one item from your to do list and do it or ditch it.
Fix one thing (and be glad you don’t have to buy a replacement)
Remember your reusable bag on this shopping trip.
Put the plastic-packaged item you’re holding back on the store shelf and reach for another product with cardboard/glass/recycled packaging instead.
Learn to make one thing from scratch.
Have one conversation about reducing waste
What are your drops in the ocean? Are you taking small steps towards anything big? Have you ever made a ripple? I’d love to hear your stories!
The ideal situation is not to consume.
“That’s the fundamental answer, don’t buy this stuff to begin with. But if you chose to buy, as many do, the best thing is to buy things that you can reuse.”
This article is a great synopsis of my zero waste inspiration.
I first became aware of the problems of consumption and waste when I did a Living Smart course. Of the 8-week course what really cemented itself in my mind was the short video we watched on the first day – The Story of Stuff. I really do think those 20 minutes marked a big change in my life, or at least the way I thought about it.
My great awakening was in 2012 when I discovered Plastic Free July. My supermarket visits changed completely. All of a sudden I saw myself in a sea of plastic, surrounded by ‘trapped’ and inaccessible food. I was overjoyed when, a couple of years later, I found a growers market that sold LOOSE cherry tomatoes!
After Plastic Free July came Buy Nothing New Month (October), but I was unprepared and shopped up a storm. At the start of 2013 I was pondering my new year’s resolutions when the guilt of having shopped through October came back to haunt me. I decided to embark on a delayed Buy Nothing New Month. But I’m the kind of person who tends to get carried away with new projects, and soon it became ‘Buy Nothing New Year‘, from February to February.
Buy Nothing New Year was surprisingly easy, but probably because I allowed myself the exception of buying new things for my wedding that year. And when I visited Brisbane, Queensland and found an amazing dress – the last one, and just my size! – I instantly created a new exception: the postcode rule. So with wedding and travel purchases allowed, I made it through Buy Nothing New Year with a changed attitude toward consumption and a new addiction to buying secondhand.
In late 2013 I made my first career change and got a job in waste management. Now, getting people to waste less and recycle more is my full-time job. Ironically, the demands of the job all-too-often push me to sacrifice my values for convenience, especially when it comes to plastic-wrapped, palm-oil laden frozen pizza… but some change is better than no change, right? As I learn to reduce my consumption and waste I also learn to forgive my transgressions.
Now, I’m most of the way through Buy Nothing (at all) Year. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the inspirational Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home at a conference. I’m proud to consider myself a loyal shopper at the Wasteless Pantry in the hills of Perth, Western Australia. I never leave home without a reusable shopping bag, fruit and veg bags, a travel cutlery kit, a bamboo straw, a reusable water bottle and usually a reusable coffee cup too (which sometimes doubles as a doggy bag!). I’ve discovered minimalism. I question every purchase and usually decide to go without or borrow instead. I’m on a massive decluttering spree. And I’m considering my options for how I may work less so I might waste less (bye bye frozen pizza!) and live a life closer aligned with my values.
I’m on a journey. It’s such a cliche, but it really is a journey. It takes time to find new inspiration, switch to different products, change your habits and learn new ways of thinking and doing things.
I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever reach the end of this journey. Probably not… but that doesn’t matter, because I’m proud of how far I’ve come and I’m excited about how far I still have to go.PS:
That dress I bought in Brisbane during Buy Nothing New Year survived my massive wardrobe declutter and proudly hangs in my minimalist wardrobe with a dozen other dresses. I love it.
I do wish he were clothed in all his photos… they will haunt me for days now… but it sure is interesting seeing what he can’t live without.
More importantly, it makes you think what he can live without and what I could and couldn’t live without.
It’s funny. I often think men have an unfair advantage when it comes to minimalism. Have you ever noticed that all the famous minimalists are men?
How many more items would a woman carry? Bras, hairbrush, makeup, sanitary items, pills, clothes and shoes for special occasions…
I guess many of the material possessions women have aren’t really necessities, but feel like they are because of society’s expectations of women to be pretty and feminine. Could we ever do without these items without being called a lesbian or butch? Could we still be successful socially and professionally? Or would we be judged?
Yes, this is my first post in a while. A long while. Have I been shameful hiding because I went on a shopping spree and broke my Buy Nothing Year pledge?
I must confess I did buy something yesterday. Something I already own and that I don’t actually need. Something that definitely breaks the rules. But something I just wanted to buy SO MUCH that temptation got the better of me. What would break you?
For me, it was a yoga mat. And also, in a way, the reason I haven’t posted in a few months.
When I started this blog, I was mindful that I’m a pathological action addict. I do too much. I overcommit, I underestimate the effort required to do things and I overestimate my ability to do them. I start up a project and quickly burn out, because it’s just one of too many.
I didn’t want this blog to be another burn-out project. I didn’t want it becoming an energy-sucking chore. I started this blog because I wanted to document my Buy Nothing Year challenge and because I enjoy writing and have long wanted to try blogging. But I had to make a rule that if life got too hard, I would give myself permission to stop.
Life got too hard.
And I did give myself permission to stop. I’m quite proud of myself for doing this, as it’s an achievement in itself. I allowed myself to take a break, to set my own rules for what I ‘should’ do, to look after myself, and to not feel guilty about it.
So much so, that in 10 days I’m hopping on a plane to Bali for 10 days of massages, spa treatments, naps, books and yoga…. on my new yoga mat! It’s in the mail at the moment and I’m so excited to get it.
Now, I’m sure I could have gotten by without a new mat. I’m sure you can borrow or hire a yoga mat in Bali. I mean.. it’s Bali! But….
Yes. There’s always a ‘but’. Here’s why I bought a yoga mat during Buy Nothing Year:
The only yoga mat I’ve ever bought is about 15 years old now. It’s ripped, warped, stretched and squashed into random waves (no longer unfurls flat).
I’ve been thinking about buying a new one for a few years now, but haven’t because I go to classes in a martial arts dojo that has the entire floor covered in thick matting (no at required at all!). I’d probably need a new mat if I ever changed yoga studios.
My current mat is too thin for my dodgy knees, meaning I have to borrow a mat to double up with or to bring a towel or jumper to fold up under my knees for each kneeling or lunging pose.
My current yoga mat has always annoyed me. The colours are too bright for class (I stand out like a sore, and very pink, thumb) and it’s way too short and narrow. I’m always having to adjust my poses just to fit onto the mat. It interrupts my flow and my focus, and frustration is not something you want to bring into your practice.
Are these reasons or justifications for buying a new mat?
The purpose of Buy Nothing Year is to help declutter by stopping the inflow of stuff into my life, to make me reassess what I really need, to break shopping habits, to change my relationship with stuff and to shift from mindless consumerism to intentional purchases.
It’s ok to own things. It’s ok to buy things. So long as they are the right things.
This will be the only yoga mat I buy for years. So I made sure it was a good one. One that is as ethical and sustainable as possible. I scoured the internet for yoga mats made of natural, biodegradable or compostable materials, made with minimal chemicals and packaging, made by a socially sustainable, ethical brand and one that is durable, high quality and enjoyable to own.
I bought a ‘Grounded’ Mukti Mat, made from natural (not petroleum derived) rubber and jute. And it’s even a local brand!
My yoga mat is an intentional purchase. A mat is essential for home practice, which I want to do much more of. The mat will bring more yoga into my life, and yoga makes me happy and helathy. It is good for me physically, emotionally and mentally. The yoga mat will improve my life.
Of course, this is exactly the kind of thinking that results in ‘aspirational purchases’. “If I buy good running shoes, I will get fit”. “If I buy this treadmill, I will use it all the time”. Wrong. You’ll use it a couple of times and then it will gather dust for a few years until you finally chuck it out.
But in this case, I’ve been practicing yoga for nearly 15 years. I realised last year that my relationship with yoga has changed from something I try to do to something I can do. I no longer watch other people with envy and awe, wondering how they can bend like that. I am now comfortable enough with my practice to call myself a yogini and not feel like a fraud. I love yoga. I need yoga in my life. I am a yogini. I am going to Bali to practice yoga for 10 days. I am taking my new yoga mat. I will keep using my yoga many for many more years to come. And when it is old and worn and no longer usable, I will use it on my garden as weed matting, where it will slowly biodegrade and became part of the soil.
This is a good purchase. I am happy I’ve made it.
But what have I been up to the last few months? What have and haven’t I bought? Have I failed at my challenge or am I still going strong? You’ll just have to wait until my next post to find out.. if I write one 😉
Pledge to Buy Nothing New this October, then with the exception of essentials (food, drink, medications, hygiene products) you can beg, borrow, barter, swap or buy second hand whatever you need.
You just buy nothing new.
A few of you have commented that you are inspired to stop shopping but don’t think you could. Well, here’s your chance to just reduce and change your shopping for a little while.
Buy Nothing New Month is how everything started for me. I was so motivated by the challenge that I extended it to a whole year in 2013. When I thought about doing it again, I thought I’d take the plunge and Buy Nothing! I’ll still be participating in Buy Nothing New Month this year by seeking out those exceptions to the rules that I am allowed to buy (like gifts) secondhand.
Don’t worry if you don’t think you can make it. Even just one item bought secondhand instead of new can save a huge amount of resources. You are saving the environment with every visit to a secondhand shop instead of Target.
With National Op Shop Week just behind us (at least for us Aussies), you should be well practiced in stepping into your nearest charity store and exploring the racks and shelves for those hidden treasures. You might even find an absolute bargain like my (new?) Alannah Hill top for $1!
Of course, there’s always plenty of online secondhand shopping or swapping to be done. There’s a growing number of websites that let you buy, swap or get free stuff! Try ebay, Amazon, Gumtree, freecycle, Ziilch, or facebook groups like ‘buy swap sell’ or ‘pass it forward’. Some of these sites will let you filter your results by used items and most will have a local version of the site in your country.
Buy Nothing New Month is all about asking a couple of questions:
Do I really need/want this item?
How can I obtain this some other way?
It’s about thinking where our stuff comes from (finite resources) and where it goes when we’re done (often landfill). It’s about getting creative in finding the things you need.
One of the easiest ways is to ask your friends and family if they would give or lend you the thing you need. A simple facebook post asking “Does anyone have a [fill blank] they no longer need?” may be enough – I’ve found many things this way!
Of course, some things are a bit more difficult to find. This may be hard to believe, but finally tracking down that obscure secondhand item can be as satisfying as buying a new pair of shoes at 50% off.
The thing about not shopping is that I have no idea what all the fuss if about.
I walk past an Apple store to get to work. Every so often, today included, there will be a massive line in front of the store, often trailing down the street and around the corner. Today, there were even barricades and security guards.
What are they all waiting for?
I have no idea. And it doesn’t matter. My life won’t change just because some company has released a slightly different gadget, whether I buy it or not.
Whenever I fight my way through the crowds just to get to work I wonder why so many people are keen to buy something the instant it’s released. Why spend hours queueing for something they can buy the very next next day without all the hassle? And what’s wrong with the phone or whatever device it is they’re replacing? Probably absolutely nothing.
Seeing these people makes me feel free. I don’t need the latest fashionable device to be important, successful or cool. I can be all of those things all on my own. I’m not, but I could be.
I am comfortable the way I am, secondhand, 5-year-old phone ‘n all.
Although when I thought about it, it’s been much longer than that, more like 5 or 6 years.
“Yeah, in dribs and drabs. We need to make a real dent in it. We need to be free”.
He’s completely right. I’ve been decluttering forever and I still feel completely buried by stuff. It’s overwhelming. As soon as I get rid of one carload at a swap meet, I start throwing things in boxes and piles until I have a messy spare room and another carload of stuff to get rid of.
How does that happen? Why is decluttering a neverending process? Is decluttering like a ‘to do list’, always promising to one day be empty, but always being overwhelmingly full? Judging by the growing minimalist movement, I’d say I’m not the only one struggling with this problem.
One reason for starting Buy Nothing Year was to stop new stuff coming into my life so I could actually have less stuff. It’s not ‘less’ if you get rid of three things in a week but buy five.
Buy Nothing Year is going well, but it’s only half of the equation. It’s time to start another challenge. It’s time to get serious about decluttering. It’s time to tackle this head on.
Stay tuned for my post on my decluttering challenge!
Oh, but it needs a catchy name. If my first challenge was Buy Nothing Year, maybe this should be Give Away Everything Year? Ditch All the Things Year? Clearly, I need help naming this challenge – what would you name it?
I’d love to hear from you.Are you decluttering? How are you doing it? What’s your best tip? What’s the hardest thing about decluttering? Or, if you’re not doing it – what’s stopping you?