Tuesday, February 27, 2007

our email address

If you haven't been able to find it, our email address is: compactoz@hotmail.com

end of the month and not a muffin in sight

Have lasted through February and not bought anything apart from groceries and a couple of newspapers (and have been paying strict attention to those). Have only desperately desired a book - which I couldn't find second hand but which my wonderful friend Naomi found (a used copy) and donated to the cause.

The only other challenge I have really faced is my sudden burning desire to make muffins. Not a big deal but I don't have a muffin tin. The only other alternative I can think of is those paper cases they make cup cakes in - but I would have to buy those. Suspect a second hand muffin tin hunt could be fairly time consuming. Perhaps I just need to turn my attention to something else ...

In the meantime I can report that I am making an effort to bring my lunch to work (alright - this is only the second day, so maybe I shouldn't get too excited) and am trying to avoid purchasing overly packaged food.

I have been surprised by how much time I have spent thinking about this and the connections which are so obvious but which I never really considered before (consumption, energy use, packaging, brands, the creation of desire, greed vs need etc)

And tomorrow is 1 March and I propose to buy nothing - except my lunch.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

some more media articles



Someone asked me to attach the original SMH article from 06th Jan this year, and I also found this Observer article from October last year, so here they are.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Happy now

Hey all you booklovers -

I have to thank 'runawaymind' for suggesting the Bookcrossing site. Bookcrossing is all about where you read a book, register it, and release it to someone else. I read about this a couple of years ago, but was not aware of the site. Thanks for putting me onto it.

And I really like the Enough site.

On another tack, I now see the link between the increasing size of houses (another form of overconsumption in terms of energy and materials use in terms of construction, as well as the increased energy use for heating/cooling etc) and the whole consuming culture. I guess houses have to get bigger to fit in all the stuff that we insist on buying and having. Quite bizarre really.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cleaning stuff

I bought some 'cleaning vinegar' the other day. My new plan is to go down the vinegar and bicarb cleaning route - am not overly confident re results but it has to be a better way to go - ie buying less cleaning products, less packaging, less toxins, less energy used in the manufacture (I hope). According to the label, cleaning vinegar is made from sugar cane - hopefully it is using something that was a waste product. Am not sure how or if it will differ in effectiveness from normal old vinegar in the cleaning stakes. Tragically I am now beginning to wonder if I have been sucked in by labelling ... Has anyone used this stuff? Must dredge out my copy of 'Spotless' by Shannon Lush and get the heads up on how to make all this work.

We used to use carbolic soap in my student days to clean stuff - not even sure if you can still buy it. Anyone know?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

No logo?

I've just read the response to my last entry from Alison who gave me a very interesting website to help get more information on what is enough.


I guess every day is teaching lessons in choice, responsibility and impact.

I think what made me so sad in Cambodia was that many markets were pandering to the tourists' need for cheap copies of 'luxury goods' such as LV handbags and CK t-shirts. They think that we just want logo after logo, and the demand is definitely there for it. Instead of buying the truly beautiful traditional silks and local craftwork that would help this destroyed nation grow and thrive AND maintain it's cultural heritage, travellers insist on buying cheap and nasty copies of luxury goods as their souvenirs. I guess it's just a small reflection of a greater problem.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Trying to break the habits of a lifetime

SOOO pleased to have found the Sydney Compact! My husband and I have
been trying our best to compact for over 6 weeks now since we saw the
article in the SMH earlier in the year which is stuck up on our fridge.
Basically our tiny unit was just becoming overwhelmed with 'stuff' and
we were sick of just frittering away our money on nonessential things
we really didn't need, nor made us happy.

In that time we have joined the library and discovered a whole new
world of DVDs, magazines and books, he rides to work on a (previously
unusable) bike that we fixed up, and I walk. We've also managed to save
hundreds of dollars in just a short time as a result. Not really our
aim, but a great reward for our efforts I guess.
I have caved in a few times since we started in buying presents for
friends birthdays, a new book that I HAD to have to compete a set and a
new pair or slippers (I did wear the previous pair until they were
rags!). Hubby funnily enough has bought nothing (unless you count

I was a relentless consumer in the past and what I am finding it
difficult to deal with is the fact that I adore fashion, books and
beautiful things. However recent trips to Cambodia and South Africa
pretty much changed my perspective on life and what I need, so I am
hoping that compacting will take me that one step further....

Using what you've got

Am beginning to realise that if you buy something - or have bought something - then you have a responsibility to use it all. I have recently started cutting tubes of stuff (toothpaste, whatever) in half so I can use the volume that gets left behind from normal squeezing. And tipping bottles of moisturiser or whatever upside down for a couple of hours so that I can get it all out. There is often a surprising amount left behind. I figure even if I only get an extra one or two applications out of it, it means that overall I will be consuming a smaller number of products.

The only issue is it makes me feel like I am poverty stricken - need to keep reminding myself that it is for the good of the planet rather than financial necessity.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The snowball effect

We should definitely link all the media reports, blogs, and such. We've got to help the snowball grow.

Fran Kelly interviews John Perry on Radio National's Breakfast Show.

Maggie Alderson's Compacter's blog in Good Weekend.

Slippage and seepage

I slipped in the weekend. I didn't buy any consumer goods, but I did buy a juice for lunch on Saturday that came in a nasty plastic cup. Took a while for the penny to drop. And then - I regret to say, I did exactly the same thing on Sunday. Duh! I was a bit astonished when I realised my mistake, as I have been actively trying to not buy food in non recyclable plastics. Have been paying strict attention to the numbers on the bottom of containers - 1,2 and 3 can be recycled, 4 and above can't. Anyway, won't (hopefully) do that again in a hurry.

I have also started to notice the financial benefits. It wasn't part of my reason for participating, but am finding that money definitely stays in my wallet longer. I hate to think how much money has seeped away to be spent on things I didn't really need. Knocking impulse buying on the head is definitely a good thing.

The Compact is getting quite a lot of airplay now - Fran Kelly interviewed one of the original San Fran Compact members on Radio National this morning, and Maggie Alderson has committed to the Compact and is writing about it in her weekly column in Good Weekend.

Buying nothing at Westfield and marketing blitzes

I now have no reason whatsoever to enter Westfield's at Bondi Junction- or the hellmouth, as my architect friend calls it. I'm not buying anything new. And I'm not going there to shop for groceries.

Yet I was in there yesterday because a friend wanted to meet there for coffee. I met him in the food court. Taking the escalators from street level to food court level, I saw an electronic goods store, a Borders bookstore, a sports goods store, an outdoor wear store, a CD store and at least two cash machines. I also saw giant billboards featuring beautiful women selling clothes.

I heard somewhere last week that Americans see or hear a marketing message every seven seconds, on average. I imagine that it's probably the same rate, or close to it, for us.

I'm going to try and keep tabs on them, then guestimate how many messages I get per week. I don't have a TV, so it'll only be outdoor advertising, radio ads and ads on the net.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Feel free to blog along

Would be great to see a few more of you in the blog space - if you want to contribute (and sign up for the Shopping Sabbatical) email Jacinta at compactoz@hotmail.com or comment on one of the entries (you don't need to be a member for that).

Otherwise there will be a lot more of the world according to Alana ...

if not me then who?

One of the things that I really like about this Compact business is the emphasis on personal responsibility. It is great that we - and people with similar ideas - are starting to think about what we can do to reduce our impact on the environment. It may not solve global warming, pollution and landfill issues, but at least we are doing what we can and making informed decisions. Beats the heck out of doing nothing and expecting someone else to fix it all.

An update on my hand wringing book dilemma of a week or so back - my fabulous friend Naomi read the blog, and managed to locate a second hand copy on Amazon which she bought for me. What a gal! I am eagerly waiting for it to arrive.

Am surprised that having made this commitment, I am now completely disinterested in buying stuff. Just not part of that game any more.

Makes me wonder how much of shopping and buying and accumulating stuff is about distraction? From ourselves, from our jobs, from our lives?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Food wastage

Not buying anything except food has heightened my awareness of how much food we waste. Have realised how much food we buy in our house that gets thrown out. Although it won't feed the starving children in Africa, it has all used water and energy to be grown and transported. To be bought by me and then to sit in my fridge before it gets thrown out as not fit for human consumption... At that stage it gets fed to the worm farm. Strikes me this is not the way that it should be.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A close call

Hi Everyone and congratulations for sliding into the second week without buying anything, not even a book.

I'm a compulsive book-buyer myself, so I relate. I can see how I could twist my thinking into make buying books exempt from the Compact ... I could tell myself, there's something virtuous about books compared to, say, plastic garden furniture. A book-buyer is not a consumer, really. Sure, a book is a product, I guess ... but not really. I mean, it's more of an experience, isn't it? A book is good for you, so it's ok, right?

Anyway, you're spot on about the library, Alana. I'm a member of Waverley library and its catalogue is searchable online. It's a small collection, sure. But my UNSW student card is still active for another month, so I have access to the big university library too. So I've no excuses.

I had a close call on the weekend. I almost slipped off the wagon.

The light on my balcony is busted. It's like a cabin light, with a metal clamp that holds a glass cover over the bulb, to protect it from the rain and wind.

Anyway, the glass part is broken, and some rain must've hit the globe because it broke. Now the bayonet part is stuck in the socket and I can't get it out. I spent ages fiddling with it. I got really frustrated because I couldn't get it out. So I said 'stuff this 'and took the metal clamp part down to the hardware store. I was going to buy something useful to fix the light. I felt a bit guilty, but the guilt was less powerful than the irritation: I was going to fix that damned light, and I was going to fix it right then and there.

All I needed was the glass part. So when the guy in the hardware store told me I'd have to go to a lighting store and buy the whole fixture, I had a moment of clarity. I calmed down a little and figured, I don't need to fix this light right now. I haven't even made it a full week yet. Am I really such a emotionally-driven, mindless consumer that I can't go even a week without scratching the itch? Hell no!

For the rest of the month, whenever I go out on the balcony, I'll use candles.

I feel better already.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Interested to read all the comments re rubbish bags. Packaging seems to be a bit of a theme.

How come we have to put up with this packaging crap? Does anyone actually want it? Great idea for merchandisers and plastic manufacturers, but not for anyone else. They make all this junk that comes as a by product of whatever it is you purchase (or used to purchase!) and the end user has to dispose of it. And pay local councils handsomely for rubbish removal and landfill. And most of it will hang around for hundreds of years before degrading into a chemical cocktail. There is something wrong with this picture.

Oh yeah, and it takes a lot of energy to make all this stuff that is designed specifically to end up as rubbish.

And we let them get away with it and reward those that continue to over-package by buying their stuff...

And it ain't even hard - so far ...

Another week of buying nothing except food. So far, so good. I withstood the ultimate temptation (for me) - went to a bookshop one lunchtime and just browsed. Bought nothing. Sadly, that might be a first.

Am trying to get my head around the book thing - despite being a major book consumer (and consequently book storer) for many years, I have finally figured out it is the experience of reading the book I want. I don't actually have to own the thing itself. Whoah - we have a revolution in thinking going on here. Whether I can move forward enough to liberate some of the books I already have will be another matter. Perhaps I could read them again and then set them free.

I like the idea of passing on stuff I don't use to others who may have a use for it. Think this will happen by degrees - the prospect of turning the house upside down to find things to chuck out is not especially appealing. Think I will take the eating an elephant approach - slowly and bit by bit.
Week 2 and doing well. However! This month I have a couple of conundrums. Firstly, it is my parents fiftieth wedding anniversary. The only way I can possibly see of getting out of buying new on this occasion is something from the antique store. But that means trying to find something like an Armani figurine, which would be double the price of any bought brand new! Not to forget also that brothers and sisters are also contributing. So on this occasion I think it has to be from a store.
Second, my nephew's tenth birthday. The parents may have been ok with antique but the ten year old nephew, who I might add is the youngest in our large family, tends to be somewhat spoilt and a computer freek. What to get him?? I usually try to buy presents that are environmental or educational (I'm a responsible aunty). But this makes it a bit hard now. Any suggestions??
Other than that, today I finally went to my local Trash and Treasure market, which I've never visited and clearly have been missing out! It was great! I bought a brandy bottle and glasses set - coloured glass (antique) and a desert bowl with four serving bowls. Just gorgeous. Did I need them? This is yet to be determined...

Good luck for the next week...

Friday, February 9, 2007

the English Connection

Hi all

Having moved over to the UK for 12 months the idea of buying lots of things to set up home was not a good thought. but then, in the true spirit of a 'shopping sabbatical', I have become a frequent visitor to the op-shop. I have managed to get warm jackets, jumpers etc for all the family and even some toys with my ozi dollar going to charity rather than some corporation. Another great thing was when I arrived i sent an e-mail at work asking for anything people want to pass on to a poor australian. What could have been an expensive exercise (both financially and to the earths resources), we have managed to make a home out of begged, borrowed and ... well not quiet stolen... things.

As we could only bring 1 suit case of things over for a year it made you consider what was really needed. It realy gives you a chance to reflect on how much stuff we have but dont really need, and those things that we think you cant live without - surprise surprise - you can!.

my next challenge is to see how much food I can buy from the local village and farm gates rather than supermarket.


ps: its bloody cold here!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Instant gratification

There is a book I want to read. I refrained from buying it at the end of January (which I thought was very noble of me, given that we hadn't started yet). I went to the library and looked for it - no joy. I looked on eBay - no joy. Can't buy it until end of Feb - so I need to wait.

Realised that we aren't used to waiting in this consumer society - generally I want it, I buy it (within reason). Now I am having to exercise patience. Which I am also not used to. Suspect it is not a bad thing. But of course, not being able to get it easily makes me want it all the more ...

In the meantime, if anyone has a copy of Alan Bennett's Writing Home they want to sell or lend, please let me know.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Rubbish bags

I bought some food yesterday - and rubbish bags. Which gave me pause for thought. You've got to put your rubbish in something - and I try very hard not to collect enough plastic bags to do the job. So then you buy them - which seems a bit silly when you think about it. I did find some biodegradable ones, which made me feel better (at Safeway). It seemed the best option at the time.

When I was a kid (admittedly quite some time ago) rubbish bags weren't invented - everyone wrapped their rubbish in newspaper and put it in the bin. I generally don't buy newspapers and don't think I ought to start just so I can wrap the rubbish!

We've got a worm farm so the worms eat all the vegetable matter (well, most of it - they seem to be unnaturally fussy eaters), but it's all the other non recyclable rubbish that's the issue. Guess it will reduce significantly with buying less stuff.

There are layers of complexity in this not buying business that I had never considered.

Anyone got any brilliant rubbish disposal ideas?

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Growing children

Hi everyone,

Good to be part of this - so thanks to Jacinta et al for organising this initiative.

My first blog entry ever and I have to say I've stumbled at the first hurdle. My kids went back to school this week (they're 7 and 8) and they've grown a lot - so I had to buy new shoes and new school clothes. Set me back about $80 each for the shoes and $60 for the clothes.

The shoes they wear until they fall apart (most kids do so it's hard to get them second hand). I didn't feel I could barter with the shoe shop but it is in the local shopping centre.

With the uniform - again I didn't have much choice - can't send them in clothes which are too small and covered with last years glue and paint stains PLUS on their report card they have a 'shows pride in school uniform section'. The clothes are only sold through the uniform shop and profits at least go back to the school. There were no second hand clothes the right size or in a reasonable condition.

Apart from this - we're just eating loads!!

As an aside I find that a lot of my money goes on what I would call 'services' rather than goods ie. public transport, swimming lessons, school book and school activity fees (kids go to the local public school) and after school care so I can work.

One thing we have done this weekend is to give a reasonably nice bike away to another family. My partner won one in a raffle late last year and he cycles to work each day in the city. So the 'old' bike was just sitting under the house. We've agreed to do a few contra deals in Feb with this family who were in the process of getting a brand new adult bike.

That's it from me. A suit purchase is looming so I'll have to see how I get on with that!

Good luck everyone - it will be good to read some of your experiences too.


Saturday, February 3, 2007

Minor goof re the email address and other stuff

We didn't quite get the email address right first off - the savvy amongst you will have already figured that it should be compactoz@hotmail.com - without an au. Oh well, must have been the excitement...

First weekend almost over - and nothing bought. Except - the newspapers. Yikes. That was something I hadn't considered. Gave up buying them during the week ages ago, after I belatedly realised they got stock piled and then chucked. But the weekend ones - well, that is another matter. But - we only got the Saturday ones, and not the Sunday ones. A 50% reduction. Not sure how best to deal with this - the online versions just don't cut in on the weekend.

Making me realise how much purchasing is done by habit and without thought.

Next step - either bringing my lunch to work - not a particularly attractive prospect - or resolving that any food I will buy will NOT come in those crappy plastic food containers. Paper only. Will see where that leads to on the culinary front.