I stumbled across an interesting experiment recently that I wanted to tell you about and which seems particularly pertinent right now given the spiralling cost of living. I wondered if anyone else had come across it. It may sound a little extreme and perhaps impractical, but it’s thought-provoking anyway.
Back in 2006, a group of 10 friends in San Francisco fed-up with American consumerism and concerned about its effect on the planet, decided to take action by vowing to stop shopping for a whole year. They called themselves The Compact after the famous Mayflower Compact signed by the Pilgrim Fathers and laid out a set of ground rules. The members were only allowed to buy food, drink and necessary medicines (which apparently didn’t include Viagra or Botox!), necessary cleaning products, socks and underwear – which had to be ‘utilitarian’ (no Victoria’s Secret allowed) and “pyjamas for the children”. Everything else had to be borrowed or used.
Although strangely enough, buying magazines was allowed, however, and the use of services such as plumbers and ‘recreational services’.
The Compact members had a number of grand designs. They wanted to reduce the damage inflicted on the environment and society by consumerism, resist big business and support local firms, get rid of clutter in their homes and generally simplify their lives. Quickly the group ended up with a huge following its email subscription, with 8,000 members all over the world. But it has also attracted strong criticism from people who felt that refusing to shop and support the economy was ‘un-American’. Some critics also pointed out that spending on ‘recreational activities’ and air travel by the Compacters was allowed.
Almost harking back to the Mayflower Compact, there seems to have been a slightly religious or spiritual element to it all too. Supporting the Compact is the anti-consumerism ‘church’ – the Church of Stop Shopping, which boasts the Reverend Billy at its helm. Reverend Billy is known to preach at various consumer events in the US, urging shoppers to give up their wicked ways. He even has a choir called the Stop Shopping Choir. Only in America!
The experiment is still going today. I recently signed up to the Compact email out of interest, and every day my inbox is flooded with messages, such as one today from one Compacter advising another to save paper towel waste by cutting them in half, and others on cheap hobbies that don’t conflict with a Compact lifestyle. I’m not sure if I could face going as far as the Compact members, but it has certainly given me food for thought.
Thanks very much for all the frugal gardening tips, by the way. I think cuttings – especially taking cheeky ones while out for a walk (preferably when unsuspecting neighbours/gardeners aren’t looking) are the way forward. And apparently DJ’s mum has been doing this for years and embarrassing the heck out of him when they go out somewhere!
What do you think about the Compact? Would you like to stop shopping if you could? Or do you feel it’s important to support the UK’s businesses?