When was the last time you bought something new? Was it something you really needed or was it an impulse buy?

We live in a fast-paced, consumer driven society, where our purchases are seen as a reflection of who we are as individuals. We unconsciously think about what to buy next, and where we can spend our money in order to find fulfilment and happiness. While I’m not a big shopper myself, I’ve been guilty of giving in to that desire for instant gratification and buying things I probably didn’t need.

“Retail therapy” is a certified recreational activity for many Australians, we even admit that we shop for fun because it helps to relieve stress. But this activity has unfortunate consequences for our environment. While we may love our new threads in the hours and days following our shopping spree, it is not an ever-lasting love affair. The Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia claims that in 2013, Australians threw out $500 million worth of clothing, with an average of 30 kilograms per year ending up in landfill.

According to the ABS, the majority of waste that is not recycled ends up in landfill, which means it is left to rot slowly, emitting chemicals and gases into our soil and air. Most of the rubbish we throw away will be around for much longer than we will, and this is a problem that we simply cannot afford to ignore anymore.

Saved money

What can be done?

Fortunately, you do not need to forego shopping forever in order to lessen your impact on the environment. Buy Nothing New Month is a movement that started in 2010 lead by Tamara DiMattina, which aims to get us to rethink our spending habits and addresses the issue of wasteful consumption. As the name implies, it is about buying nothing new for one month, instead opting to borrow, swap, share or buy second-hand clothing, tools, equipment, furniture and more.

It’s easier now more than ever to buy second-hand. With sites like eBay and Gumtree you can buy everything from sofas to garden tools and even pets! If you prefer to shop on foot, try the markets in your area and support your local community at the same time. Popular op shops like Lifeline, Vinnies, Salvos and Savers (if you’re in Victoria or South Australia) are another great alternative; all have a wide range of household items that are often in mint or near-new condition.

You do not have to be a lover of vintage fashion to discover the wonder of second-hand shops— if you’re patient you will find the latest or last season styles by well-known Australian and international brands. Second-hand goods are often 60-90% cheaper than brand new items and they work just as well. If you feel up to it, hold a swap party at your house and invite all your friends to trade clothes or home wares.

“Once we achieve our basic needs being met, we don't get any happier with more 'stuff'. What makes us happy are friends, family, community, being healthy, included and engaged. Giving makes us happier than getting. All these things can't be bought.”

Tips for the month

Avoid plastic ­– Plastic bags take hundreds of years to break down and they usually end up either in landfill or in our oceans. Take your own canvas bags to the shops, and avoid plastic water/ soft drink bottles.

Make a list – Write down all the items you are tempted to buy and at the end of the month check the list and see if you still want them. Chances are you’ve forgotten what they even were!

Spring clean – Have you accumulated a lot of stuff over the years? Now is a great time to do a spring-clean and rid yourself of clutter and items you no longer use. Donate, sell, give away and swap with friends and family. Remember to be environmentally conscious when you do dispose of anything.

Share the love – Imagine how someone else will feel with something of yours that you no longer want! 

The following organisations might be able to help:

Ultimately, Buy Nothing New Month will give you a chance to reflect on your purchases and think about what truly makes you happy. And what could be better than that?

Experiences over material items
Accumulating stuff

Feeling inspired?

Check out our calendar for 2017!