Over the last couple of years I have been inspired by the Buy Nothing New campaign and The New Joneses. They have shared some useful hints and tips about how to “do more with less” and are encouraging green to go from “mungbean to mainstream”. Among other things, The New Joneses have pointed out that we don’t really need the latest fashion when it comes to clothes. Also, they pointed out that there are so many things we use second hand, like linen and towels at a hotel, that it prompted me to consider how I could extend this line of thinking to my own home and wardrobe.
What a great idea! I can’t keep up with the Joneses when it comes to clothing and fashion anyways and I never was in the cool group at school when it came to the latest trends! So, at the beginning of the year I decided that I would buy no NEW clothes during 2014. It is now the end of December and I have nearly completed my personal challenge! I thought I would share some insights with you in relation to my no NEW clothes year …
I had three very simple goals. Firstly, I wanted to live a bit more simply. Secondly, I wanted to live a little more sustainably. And, finally, I wanted to buy and consume less stuff!
At the start of the year I found buying no new clothes difficult. I usually buy a few singlets or long sleeve tees to wear under other tops to make them more versatile. This was not something I could do this year because of my commitment. So I just had to ‘make do’ with what was already in my wardrobe, and to be honest, I have plenty of clothes in there anyway. I was lucky enough to have a friend who knew about my no new clothes commitment, and she gave me a white top that she never wore, and helped me out of my ‘predicament’.
I already love opshops and opshop shopping, and retro and antique stores! It is not a new thing for me to buy second hand clothing or furniture. In fact, my bed, couch, TV and hat stand are all from second hand sources. So, towards the beginning of the year I just kept up with some of my old habits and went on a couple of opshop shopping adventures and bought some clothes from there. (FYI - I found some perfectly good Maxwell and Williams canisters and cheese knife sets which will work really well for some presents for friends down the track). I also attended a clothes swap, which was a fundraiser for the Melbourne Oxfam Trailwalker, where I picked up some great items for free. These clothes have made up the main part of my outfits for a new admin job I began in March. So, although I wasn’t buying any new clothes I still added a few more items to my wardrobe.
I have to confess that for my birthday I did ask for a pair of new tracksuit pants. I was getting desperate! My already hand-me down trakkies, that I had had for a number of years, were becoming thread bare. They were not going to survive the winter. And they certainly weren’t going to be warm enough when camping over the Easter weekend when the nights, even when standing by the camp fire, can be cold! So, yes, I do have one new item of clothing in my wardrobe from 2014 – but the trakkies were a gift – does that count?
As the year progressed I got busier and found it more difficult to get to opshops. Opshop shopping takes longer to find what you are looking for as there is no standard stock! If you want something specific it takes a lot longer to find what you ‘need’. After a while I realised that I don’t actually ‘need’ that much stuff … or anymore clothes!!!
I soon became a bit more resourceful and hunted through the back of my wardrobe and found clothes that were in good condition and still fit me, they were just clothes I had not worn in ages. Adding a scarf or piece of jewelry, I was able to give old clothes new life, and essentially I had made a few new outfits for myself. I have sewn on buttons with my not so skillful sewing skills. And I have super-glued a favourite pair of shoes that were broken, something I wouldn’t normally do.
It has been an interesting year and I have learned a couple of things. Firstly, there has been one big benefit to not buying any new clothes, and that is, of course, saving money. When you don’t frequent shopping centres on a regular basis you are able to avoid lots of advertising and shiny new things that subtlety suggest “… you … must … buy … me…” Secondly, if I need to purchase a gift for family or friends, I am more likely to visit a market or boutique shop that is owned by a Melbourne small business. For my 2 year old niece’s birthday I bought a gorgeous handmade kids cooking apron from a business just up the road from me, and I really enjoyed shopping locally.
When I first began my buy no new clothes year, I had not yet started my ‘Climate Change, Sustainability and Justice’ semester at uni. But looking back, consumption, or lack of consumption, is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint and impact on the environment. When you don’t buy stuff you reduce the amount of chemicals, pollutants, natural resources, water and energy required to make the item in the first place. When you don’t buy stuff there is less to recycle, give to an opshop, or put in landfill when you have finished with it. I have learned that we can make considered choices when we purchase clothes, food and other products; avoiding excess packaging, unsustainable palm oil, unfair wages or animal testing. But finally, and most importantly, to make a bigger impact, we must change our attitude to consumption and buy less stuff. This will make a positive impact on our environment and will be better for our local and global neighbours and future generations.