No New Year: No Solution

As you will probably notice over the next twelve months, a lot of my workarounds when I can’t buy something I need* are based on reclaiming waste. I have no problem with this, and I think we (I mean Melbourneist@s) would be well-advised to rediscover frugality, a conscious sense of thrift. But reclaiming waste is, taken in isolation, no solution to the problems of high-turnover consumption and capitalism. Consider op-shop economics.

Opshops serve many functions, one of which is a pressure valve for the consumption patterns fashion: consumers can conveniently dispose of surplus clothing by giving it to the local opshop. When I buy from opshops I’m not thinking of this, obviously; I see them as a hub for the second-pass economy. But by normalising giving away old products (rather than making them new, a la the uniform project), we also normalise the pressure from the supply side of the equation. This is the same psychology as the dumpster-diving crew calling full dumpsters ‘good’. They’re not good – they’re the most wasteful. We (the detritivores) might benefit from this in the short term, but in the not-too-distant future this kind of normalised surplus production is going to harm us all (is harming us already, even if we can’t see it yet). See Gauche below on squatting for more on this theme.

NNY is (for me) about experimenting in new ways of consuming, about leading by example, there’s much more value in frugality and responsibility than in creaming the fat from a wasteful city. I’d rather brew my own booze (more on this later!) than not drink at all, rather grow my own tobacco than not smoke. With this in mind I’ve joined the sharehood, a particularly awesome example of what I consider a real solution. Creating networks of shareable goods and services within a small geographic area (a, you guessed it, sharehood), the sharehood project works against social fragmentation and unnecessary duplication of goods (maybe one lawnmower is needed on a residential block, not in every house). I’m having a little trouble with the site, but I’ve used it it in my last house and it worked well there.

In other news, I made detergent (the dishes had been mounting up since we ran out)! I used this recipe. You really need to use more water than’s in the recipe. I added an extra litre, and still ended up with a jelly-like sudless goop, but it does the job and I’m pretty sure it’s greywater friendly.

Gauche pointed out to me the other day that one of my biggest problems by way of frugality is that I break things. Often. Electronic gear, my clothes, glasses, my body…I break things. Mostly that’s just a product of the (playful? boisterous?)way I live, which I don’t heaps want to change. And mostly the things I break aren’t so hard to fix. But it is an issue, and caution, some kind of slowness, is a virtue not to be underestimated. An ongoing aim for me.

*The way need is constructed is driven by what you’re used to. Most needs are simply requirements for maintaining one’s style, not life and limb. NNY is about choosing a new lifestyle and thereby redifining need.