Consumeless for a year

A journal of a year of consuming less and consuming sustainably

Repair manifesto 21/01/2010

A while ago I came across the Repair Manifesto, part of Platform 21‘s project Platform 21 = Repairing. Platform 21 is a Dutch design platform. The idea behind their project is that repairing in stead of recycling is underestimated as a creative, cultural and economic force. The manifesto is written within this project “describing the benefits of fixing things and calling upon designers and consumers to break the chain of throwaway thinking”. I really like the idea of looking at the beautiful side of repairing. It reminds me of a strategy sometimes used by the Dutch State Service for Cultural Heritage (according to Eise’s father who told us this once). Their strategy in maintaining monuments is to do renovations in such a way that the original (broken) structure is still visible. By doing this, a building gets ‘scars’ showing its history. Beautiful! We plan to apply this principle in our own house as well. When we moved into this house, we replaced the stairs, which left a hole in the living room floor. It still is a hole, but we aim to fill this hole with wood in a way that won’t make it invisible, but that shows that there once was a hole.

But to get back to the Repair Manifesto. The eleven ‘rules’ fit very nicely into our own consumeless and sustainability rules, which is why I post the manifesto here.

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The Story about Stuff – film 10/01/2010

Did you know that the food at the top of the food chain containing the highest level of toxic contaminants is human breast milk? That only 1 % of materials involved in product manufacturing and consumption is still in use after 6 months? That people today see more advertisements in one year than people 50 years ago did in a lifetime?

I didn’t.

In the book No Impact Man I read about a project called ‘The Story of Stuff‘. The Story of Stuff is a short film made by Annie Leonard. The film shows the real costs of “our consumer driven culture—from resource extraction to iPod incineration”. Although clearly aimed at a US public (referring to the happy presentation style here), this film quite closely explains our motives to consume less and to consume sustainably. We definitely like her way of thinking about consumerism and sustainability! See for yourself, some astounding facts make it worthwhile anyway:

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According to Annie Leopard, most people’s main leisure activities are watching tv and shopping. So in that respect we are definitely going to change our lives this year!

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The making of the rules 20/12/2009

Filed under: Food & drinks,General,Transportation — Karin @ 21:54
Tags: , ,

First mindmap of the rules of our experiment

Today we started thinking about the rules of our experiment. We have been thinking about the general rules for quite some time already and I started elaborating on these general rules in the back of my agenda a while back as well. But 2010 is getting closer and we felt that we should really have some clear rules of how to live the experiment before we started it. We started out by defining the categories of our life for which we thought we should make rules. We came up with the categories of clothes, energy, food & drink, household, leisure, personal care, transportation and travel. For each category we had a brainstorm to formulate the rules. Finally we added a category of exceptions to the rules as well.

While setting up the rules, we encouterend a few dilemmas already. For instance about transportation. Obviously, the best option would be to use public transportation as often as possible, both for work and for private trips. For my daily commute, I think public transportation really is not an option. By car it takes me an hour to drive from home to work, if I would take the train it would take at least two hours. In addition, the only train that I could take every hour leaves at impossible times. So I tried to

Brainstorming about the rules

‘compensate’ this by the intention to take the train to meetings more often.

Another difficult topic concerns food & drinks. Especially the sweets and snacks part can be approached in several ways. We could decide not to eat any sweets and snacks for a whole year, but we could also opt for not buying any prefab sweets and snacks. Finally, we chose for the latter option, which still leaves us with some awkward situations. Like this one: with the current rule, we are allowed to buy a bar of chocolate to make desert (chocolate mousse!) or cake, but we are not allowed to eat the chocolate when we’re having tea. Well. We’ll see.

We have listed our rules on a seperate page of this blog. Any feedback on our rules, including suggestions for additions, changes, etc. and tips for leading a consumeless and sustainable life are more than welcome!

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Our motivation

As promised, in our first full post we try to explain why we conduct this experiment of consuming less and consuming sustainably in 2010. We have several reasons for doing this experiment, which we will elaborate on below.

First of all, one of our ideals in life is to contribute to a sustainable world. So far we have tried to do this by using organic products, by using energy sparingly, by eating no (or very little, in Eise’s case) meat, etc. Consuming less is another way to be more sustainable, and we would like to try to apply the principles of consuming less and consuming sustainably to our current lifestyle. Fully adopting a consumeless lifestyle would have quite a serious impact on our lives and it would probably be unrealistic to keep doing this forever. This is the main reason of doing this experiment for one year. In this year, we aim to pursue consuming less to the most extreme level as possible considering our jobs, living situation, etc. By the end of the year we hope to have found ways to comfortably apply consume ess measures to our lifstyle in the long term.

Besides our sustainability ideals, we see this experiment as a personal challenge. We would like to see whether we can really do this consuming less for a whole year. For Eise this is related to the whish to lead a simple, sober life and of not wasting anything. Karin sometimes feels that she could be less consumption-minded.

Finally, we hope to reach some financial gain with this experiment. At the moment, we never really think twice if we buy something. As a result, we quite often buy things we don’t really need, which is not too lucrative. Consuming less seems an easy solution to this. However, consuming as sustainably as posssible, as we plan to do in 2010, is not always the cheapest option. We will keep a detailed financial log during 2010 to see whether we really save money by consuming less.

Finally our motivations to keep a blog about the experiment. One of the most important reasons for keeping this blog has to do with motivation. It will not always be easy to consume less, so by publicly committing to this experiment we hope to find some external motivation. At the same time, this blog allows us discuss all decisions and dilemmas we encounter during the experiment. We hope to receive lots of feedback and tips from people reading this blog so we can make the experiment even more interesting. A third important reason for us to make a blog is to share our experiences. We hope that our experiment and stories will inspire other people to be more sustainable as well. Finally, we expect that we will use this blog a lot to explain to people what we are doing and why. This might come in handy if we decide not to go out for dinner with friends, or if we are being a pain in the ass by suggesting to take the train once again!

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Intro 19/12/2009

Filed under: General — Karin @ 14:16
Tags: , ,

We have decided to do an experiment in 2010. The aim of this experiment is to consume less. And for all essential consumption, to consume as sustainably as possible. We will start this experiment from January 1st 2010 onwards. This blog will be a journal of this experiment. We will share our experiences with consuming less and consuming sustainably. We expect to encounter many decision points and many dilemmas and we would like to discuss these via this blog.

Today is the first day of both of our Christmas holidays. We will use the remaining days of 2009 to think up the rules for our experiment. We do not want to live our lives rigidly next year, but we also want to prevent ourselves of falling down the slippery slope of making exceptions all the time. So in the coming days we will think of as many elements of our lives that involve consumption (think food & drinks, travel, clothes, entertainment, …) and decide how we want to deal with consuming less and consuming sustainably for each of these elements. We would like to end up with a set of ‘rules’ we should be following next year, and also some idea of how to deal with exceptional situations.

The first few posts on this blog will be about the rules, but before that, we will try to put into words why we are doing this experiment in a post about our motivations.

Cheers!

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