Hale March 18 Masthead

Sustainable Life: Buy Nothing New

Mia Swainson

Have you bought something that you didn’t really need? I have.

I was in a rush, didn’t think too much and bought some new shoes online. Unfortunately they didn’t fit me and I couldn’t use them. It felt like such a waste. A waste of my money, my time and the effort that someone put into making my shoes.

Our house is full of stuff. Some of it we use all the time, some we use just occasionally and some is – well frankly – just junk that shouldn’t have been bought in the first place.

I’m not alone in my life with too much stuff. “Australians spend more than 10 billion each year on goods we never use, clothes we never wear, CDs we don’t listen too, DVDs we don’t watch and food that we don’t eat” says Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy. We send nearly 20 million tones of waste to landfill each year.

So how can we turn the tide? Join the buy nothing new revolution! Take up the challenge to “buy nothing new for a day, a week, a month or even a year!”

Australian woman Sash Milne and her two-year-old daughter took up the challenge in 2014. Sash succeeded and says that she is now more mindful and more connected to her community. She believes that taking on a buy nothing challenge can teach us to ‘be present, to be mindful of the way that we behave, the words that we use… and the things that we buy.’

Milne isn’t the only person who’s embarked on a buy nothing new challenge. There’s a quite a few people who’ve taken the challenge and everyone has their own tips for success. Sustainable fashion guru, Jennifer Nini says to ‘avoid shopping malls’.

American Molly Knox’s best tip is to avoid buying anything on credit. If you can’t afford it with cash, don’t buy it. Milne suggests that you head to the local library for ‘new’ books or children’s toy libraries for toys. There are exceptions to the buy nothing new theme and most agree that food and medicines are excluded.

To get stuff that isn’t new in Canberra, there’s a few options. There’s the traditional option of thrift stores, like the Salvation Army’s in Mitchell and Fyshwick, or the Adventist Development and Relief Agency’s store in Braddon. These stock mostly clothing, furniture and other household goods. There’s also The Green Shed at the Mitchell and Symonston Resource Recovery Centres that is good for clothing and furniture as well as a large range of outdoor and gardening equipment.

Things have been taken up a notch with local ‘buy nothing’ facebook groups being established earlier this year in Canberra. These offer people a way to give and receive, share, lend and express gratitude through local networks. If you need something, ask the group – a piano, tennis racquet or kids soccer shoes. If you’ve got something to share, offer it up – a glut of zucchini’s, pots and pans, furniture.

So set yourself a goal – buy nothing new for a day, a week, a month or a year. You’ll reap the rewards by feeling closer to your community and have more money in the bank for things that you really do need. I only wish I’d taken the pledge before I bought those shoes.



Mia Swainson

Mia Swainson is passionate about creating a more sustainable world and believes that everyone can make a difference. Trained as an environmental engineer, Mia has worked in sustainable development with the Australian Government and community sector for more than 15 years. Mia’s work has taken her around the world to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and back to Canberra. She currently tends her kitchen garden, cares for three young boys and is growing her executive coaching consultancy (miaswainson.com.au/wp). More about the Author

  • Tam Ross

    Freecycle Canberra is also great.

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