Welcome to Subverting Overconsumption! The idea is this: I want to lighten my ecological footprint on the Earth and creatively document the process. If every human on the planet lived the lifestyle I’ve been leading, we would require four and a half Earths to survive. Since we’ve only got one, lightening the weight with which I tread on the planet seems like the best (and indeed, the only) way to go. With that in mind, for the next year I intend to buy nothing new, and to explore the creative and spiritual results of underconsumption.

Of course, such an undertaking will undoubtedly be easier said than done! I’m genetically predisposed to collecting vintage junk and I’m a cheapskate to boot, so the idea of buying furniture and appliances secondhand doesn’t faze me. But it didn’t take me long to start thinking of the many ways this project will be tough. How will I stay current without new books and magazines? It’s one thing to buy used clothes, but will I really be able to bring myself to shop at Value Village for socks and underwear? What about going to movies and buying new music? What about receiving gifts? Can I paint my apartment? Can I consume things that are fairly traded or made locally? What about art supplies?

The questions and gray areas abound. Obviously underconsumption is a complicated business, so key to the project is exploring where the plan gets tricky or downright impossible, and what creative means exist to address the challenges. The goal of this project is not asceticism. Rather, it’s about becoming increasingly aware of and creative in my actions, and continually learning how to become more conscious of how I consume. With that in mind, here are some basic guidelines I’ve come up with to start:

1. Participate in the secondhand economy as much as possible. (Exceptions include food and self-care items such as soap, shampoo, etc., though I intend to be as aware as possible of production and packaging.)

2. When consuming, take the following approaches as often as possible: reduce, reuse and recycle, in that order. Trade, share and buy locally to boot!

3. Consuming self-care services or learning opportunities (massage, classes, gym membership, etc.) is OK, though I intend for them to be purchased or traded fairly.

4. Consuming culture (live music, theatre, etc.) is OK. (For now I’m including movies in this category, though I recognize that consuming Hollywood is problematic…)

5. Focus on building knowledge to support the practice of underconsumption. (E.g., how can I learn to better care for the belongings I already have, in order to have to replace them less frequently? Building and sharing a body of knowledge to support a lifestyle of underconsumption is an important aspect of the project.)

6. When Subverting Overconsumption gets hard or impossible, write about it and talk about how and why, and what can be done.

So that’s how this project will start. How it will end is anyone’s guess, but I invite you to stayed tuned, give suggestions, get involved and tell your friends. Until next time, buy nothing.

xox n