Nothing New for a Year 2017

Robin Greenfield laying on a tree barefoot wearing a backpack, with
ActivismConsciousnessEnvironmentForget Money / Demonetize LifeFreedomHealthy, Happy LivingIntentional LivingMinimalismPersonalProjectsResource ConservationSharing Resources / CommunitySimple LivingSustainable Living

I’m not usually a New Year’s resolution kind of guy but this year I’m making a huge one. For all of 2017 I won’t buy anything new. That’s right, nothing new at all.

I should say this won’t be nearly as challenging for me as it would be for most people. I’ve been simplifying my life for about 5 years now and have drastically reduced my needs and consumption during this time. I own fewer than 111 possessions, have a net worth of just a few thousand dollars, and practice a mostly zero waste life. Because of this I already buy very little stuff and I’m very happy and comfortable this way. However buying NOTHING NEW FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR will be a whole new ball game for me. Nothing new for a week would be easy. Nothing new for a month would take a little preparation. But nothing new for a year is uncharted territory for me. I’m raising my sail and sailing far away from consumerism. I’m not sure if I’ll be 100% successful in this endeavor but I will be 100% transparent. For those who want to stay informed I’ll be posting a monthly blog and will let you know if I make exceptions or mistakes. I will list out every single new item I purchase if I do.

Okay, now I’d like to lay out a few ground rules and clarifications for myself.

  1. I won’t be buying anything new for 2017. 
  2. I’m talking about anything physical – stuff, items, possessions, etc. Experiences, such as going to the museum or a movie, are not a part of this. 
  3. I can buy any used items and will do this from thrift stores, craigslist, eBay, friends, etc. I can also buy refurbished items. When I say “nothing new” what I mean by that is brand new, and unused from a store. Anything secondhand is fine. 
  4. People can’t give me new things either. The primary reason for this commitment is to live a more environmentally friendly life. If someone gives me something new it has the same environmental impact as me buying it myself, thus I can’t accept anything new. This means no gifts that are new, no new t-shirts, stickers, etc. But of course I can accept anything used.
  5. Toiletries and medicines are a grey area. I can buy the few liquid items that I do use new including toothpaste, essential oils, and soap but I will keep them to a minimum and will also seek out ways to find these secondhand. Originally I was going to allow myself to buy toothbrushes and dental floss but I will take the challenge of not buying those new either. You’ll have to stay tuned to see how I manage that. I will fill items such as soap in bulk so that I’m not getting a new container. I’ll list all personal hygiene items that I buy in my blogs to be completely transparent. If you want to see the very few personal hygiene items I do use here’s a video and article that covers that. I will not buy any toilet paper. See 9 Ways to Wipe Your Butt for Free if you are interested to know more. I practice a very natural personal hygiene and medicine so I do not recall buying medicine in the last few years. I can buy medicine but if I do I’ll include it in my list to be transparent. 
  6. This isn’t primarily about finding ways to save money and get stuff for free. For example, free samples would be considered new because it is still consuming resources. As a specific example, I couldn’t accept a toothbrush from a dentist because that is new. This is about reducing my dependency on money but that comes second to reducing my environmental impact. The reality is those two things go hand in hand though. 
  7. Food is not included. I can buy new food, but not new food accessories. However a good portion of my food does come from dumpster diving so a lot of my food will actually be food that was wasted. For anyone new to my blog who thinks this might be gross, you must watch my TEDx talk on food waste and dumpster diving.
  8. Anything thrown away is fair game. Once it’s been tossed into a garbage can or dumpster I think it’s safe to say it is not “new” for this practice. 
  9. I will be practicing the art of repair. When something breaks I’ll fix it before thinking about seeking out a replacement used item.
  10. I will be practicing a near zero waste life. Buying nothing new will drastically reduce my waste in itself.
  11. So to sum that all up I will not buy any new stuff or possessions. I will buy food and a few personal hygiene items. I may not do a perfect job (which in the grand scheme of things is not the point anyway) but I will be fully transparent with all things that I buy both new and used.

This project not only will keep me from spending much money but it will inherently make me live a more environmentally friendly life and cause less destruction. It will also help me to live a more socially ethical and conscious life as I won’t be supporting slave labor, child labor, less than living wage labor, and work-like conditions that no one reading this would want to endure. When we live in a manner where we are constantly buying new stuff it is very hard to know who’s making this stuff, what natural environments are being destroyed and whose communities are being destroyed by pollution. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of all that in a globalized world when you are shopping at many different places and buying many different things. As I’ve decreased my purchases and become particular about what businesses I’ll support it’s become manageable to understand the environmental and social impact of my destruction. But even so I’m certain that half way around the world environmental destruction and unethical practices have taken place in my name to deliver those every day products that I purchased into my hands.

Buying nothing new for a year will be a year where I can rest more assured that I am living in alignment with my ethics and beliefs and causing no unnecessary harm to people, planet and other species. 

Some would dread what I am about to do. I, on the other hand am elated (and a little nervous).

A few frequently asked questions that I didn’t cover in the guidelines:
-I will not buy new underwear, socks, shoes or any clothing.
-Books, magazines and newspapers are included. I can only buy used for these. 
-This includes parts to repair stuff such as a bicycle. I’ll patch inner tubes of course and always look for used parts to fix my stuff. I can see this being an area where I end up buying something new but again I’ll be transparent about it if I do.

Nothing New for a Year 2017 – January
Nothing New for a Year 2017 – Spring (February – May)
Nothing New for a Year 2017 – Cycling Across the USA

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