In 2007 I participated in The Compact, a loosely organized global group of people who dedicate themselves to not buying anything new for a calendar year, with the exceptions of food, socks & underwear, and items necessary for health and safety.
Compacting changed my life. It changed the way I view and make every single purchase. It changed my view of participating in the economy-- just because you stop buying newly manufactured items does not mean you 'leave the grid'. It changed the way I eat, making me healthier and lighter in the process. It made me more aware of advertising and consumption of all kinds. It helped me clear a lot of clutter from my life and taught me to value the things I already have. It helped me learn to live within my means, even when those means shrink a bit. It made me aware of blogs like Crunchy Chicken, 365 Days of Trash, No Impact Man, and Fake Plastic Fish, which resulted in me taking my own Reduced Plastic Pledge and starting this blog.
Two years later, I mostly still "do" The Compact out of habit. I purchase new things from time to time, but with a lot of thought as to why I need it, if I can get it used, what it is made from, what kind of packaging it comes in, how long will I use it, and what will happen to it after I am finished with it. That thought process has been engraved in my brain and I don't think it will ever leave me-- which is a good thing, IMO.
So how is Compacting similar to Plastic Reduction? For one thing, when you avoid new purchases you cut out all the plastic packaging. But the big similarity is in living with what you already have.
For my Reduced Plastic Pledge, I have already tackled the low hanging fruit: I use cloth shopping and produce bags, and I carry a mug or water bottle with me for liquids, and a metal fork and spoon for eating. This cuts out most of the single-use plastics we encounter every day.
After that comes the not-so-low hanging fruit: avoiding processed food that is packaged in plastic, and finding plastic free alternatives for household and toiletry consumables. This last thing is about as exciting as watching paint dry. For instance, I'm excited about replacing my shower gel with bar soap, but it will still take me months to use up the gel. I could give it away, but would the recipient recycle the bottle and cap? And besides, just using up what I already have saves me money.
Doing The Compact taught me the Rule of Halves. In Compact terms, that means making the stuff you have last longer. A dab of toothpaste instead of a glob. A quarter size dollop of shampoo instead of a handful. 3/4 carafe of coffee instead of a full one and wasting the rest. Washing my hair 2x a week instead of 3-4x, which is better for my hair anyway. The list goes on.
So if anyone is wondering when I will talk about plastic free and reduced plastic alternatives to shampoo, razors, toothpaste, soap, etc., those things are coming. But it could take a while.