My New Year’s resolution for 2011 will be a tough one for me to keep. We all know the green mantra – the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. I’ve got the reuse and recycle parts down. I’m recycling everything from printer cartridges to cereal boxes. All our family’s unused items go to charitable groups for reuse – books to the library, clothes and household items to our local food bank’s resale shop. It’s that first “R” I struggle with mightily.
Sure, I’ve reduced my water use turning off the faucet as I brush my teeth. I’ve even reduced gasoline use by bicycling with my son to school. I have, unfortunately, met my Waterloo by my failure to reduce my consumption of stuff. A recent information session offered by my city drove the point home. When asked about trading in a 3-year-old minivan for a fuel efficient hybrid vehicle, the city employee gave the surprising answer – keep the minivan. He justified his response by explaining the environmental cost in production and shipping of the more fuel efficient vehicle outweighed any gas savings. That got me thinking.
I’m constantly buying and replacing perfectly functional things for something more stylish or just plain new. In fact, I’m a phenomenal bargain hunter — there isn’t a sale I didn’t like. Do I really need all that stuff I’ve accumulated? My freezer is full and my kitchen stocked. My clothes bulge my closet to the bursting point. My stuff runneth over.
My love of stuff is not novel or unique, but it is environmentally irresponsible and unsustainable. Annie Leonard expounds on America’s love of stuff and its impact on the environment in her book and 20 minute video The Story of Stuff. Alas, unlike Leonard, I’m not able to completely wean myself from all that wonderful, glorious stuff. But I do have my 2011 Green resolution. I’m taking a small step towards that elusive “R” – Reduce. I’m going on a 2011 Consumption Holiday.
Yup, my 2011 Green New Year’s resolution is to take one week and spend no money. It’s a simple concept. For just one out of 52 weeks, I will buy nothing. No trips to the store. No sipping Starbuck lattes. No clicking at online shopping marts. I figure there is enough food in the pantry and freezer to keep the family fed. And while it may be a challenge, I’m unlikely to go into retail withdrawal.
A little like the initial purge required by many diets, I expect my Consumption Holiday to set the tone for the upcoming year. A week free from purchasing allows me pause to focus on why I buy stuff. During 2011, I expect I’ll still succumb to an impulse purchase here and there, but a short hiatus may just interrupt my shopping gathering cycle.
Most importantly, my Consumption Holiday directs my focus away from stuff and redirects it towards experiences. I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family and less time in the stores futilely gathering more and more stuff.