How am I doing so far?
It was about August 2009 that I first started thinking about a year without new clothes. I think the first time after that when I actually bought something was during September 2009 at High Vibes (that’s a festival in Darebin). I bought a top and a belt from some shops on High Street in Northcote. Now, at the time, I did actually think they were made in Melbourne, although I was pretty sure the fabric would have been manufactured overseas. I later realised the top had probably been sort of designed and modified in Melbourne, but the original garment manufactured overseas. So that was my first slip up.
Lesson 1. Check the labels carefully!! Don’t assume that every item in shops that have a vibe of everything being made and designed locally will actually be local.
My second lapse was in buying a sun-hat that was made overseas. I bought it from a cool little shop in my local strip (Station Street, Fairfield). I think at the time I just thought “finally, here is the hat for me! I’ll buy it no matter where it comes from!” In retrospect I’m sure I could have done more research and found a locally made hat that would have been as good, but I really wanted that hat right then as I didn’t have any really good sun-protecting hat. Yep, it was a compulsive relapse.
Lesson 2. Consider all purchases carefully! Don’t buy on impulse!
So I thought maybe I should consider September to the end of 2009 as my practice time, and start my year proper at the start of 2010. Then I remembered something else.
On New Year’s Day I went to see Andrew Bird. Now I had been coveting a T-shirt from his website for some time but thought I would wait till this gig and see if they were selling them, rather than having it shipped from the US. So that’s what I did. Now, if those T-shirts were made locally to the people who were selling them, and they were coming to Australia anyway and they brought with them their (for them) locally made T-shirts, maybe I could argue that didn’t contravene my pledge. But this is my conscience I’m arguing with here, and she’s a hard task-mistress! She’d probably say, just how sustainably were these T-shirts produced?
As it turns out, it’s not local even to the US! I just checked the label and it’s “made by our friends in Bangladesh”. Hmmm… I’ve seen this “made by our friends in ____” label before and I’m not quite sure if it’s ironic, or it’s actually claiming solidarity (which might be fair enough if it’s a fair-trade, social enterprise kind of situation) or if it’s trying to challenge the values of people who want to buy local.
Lesson 3. Sometimes what you want just isn’t available according to your exact ethical filter. You have to decide whether it’s okay to make exceptions, and if so under what circumstances, and where do you draw the line?
I have heard the argument made that we should support the economies of “developing” nations by buying the stuff they make. I get that, and I certainly get supporting fair trade but it is something of a tangled web I feel. I think Vandana Shiva says the best thing “developed countries” can do is stop consuming so much and exploiting the resources and workers of “undeveloped countries” and support them to create economic cycles that support their own countries. That’s me paraphrasing there, not very eloquently.
For me the bottom line is that everywhere in the world people are going to have to start meeting more of their needs locally – to make imports the “icing on the cake” instead of the cake itself, as Rob Hopkins puts it.
So I reckon I’ll keep buying local and preferably second-hand where I can, and I’ll probably still buy things from overseas that I think aren’t available here and that are supporting fair trade and sustainable practices.
Anyway in terms of how I’m going, I set my clock from 2nd of January 2010 so I’m more than six months in and doing fine. I did get a few freebie t-shirts from the Sustainable Living Festival in Feb, which I pretty much did solicit… but they would have just been put back in a storeroom if they hadn’t come to me… AAARGH. Pesky conscience. So I reset my clock and did the full 12 months.
Lesson 4. Think carefully about ‘borderline’ cases and how you will feel about them later on reflection.
Either way I reckon the ‘pledge’ such as it was probably curtailed my shopping habits even if I slipped up a few times.
Update: 2014. That year definitely changed my habits for good. I almost never buy new clothes any more (except for things like underwear, thermals and footwear… I do have a significant weakness for shoes which can’t be satisifed at the op shop) except in special circumstances, and if I do, I really think twice (or six times) about it. But I’m still an op-shop addict.
Entry filed under: A year without new clothes: Confessions of an op-shop addict, Recycling, Uncategorized. Tags: op shops, second-hand.