Monday, January 4, 2010

A Different Diet . . .

While I'm sure that a food based diet of some sort will work it's way into my attempt to lower my carbon footprint (such as not eating meat)- today is not that day!

The diet I started today is called The Great American Apparel Diet.   The goal is to not buy any clothes for a year!  I think it started in September though, so technically the experiment ends Sept. 2010. I'm going to try to hold out for an actual full year, but please don't hate me if I slip up!

The website is great, lots of great women explaining how and why they signed up for the challenge.

But a whole year with no new clothes!?!?  Am I insane!!!  This might be too much.  Then again, I think maybe this is the kind of sacrifice everyone keeps saying American's aren't willing to take to save the planet.  So- I'm revving up my sewing skills, and looking for creative ways to pair items so they feel new.  The experiment allows you to buy new undergarments/accessories and shoes as you see fit.  But I think I'm going to try to avoid that too.  To me, the purpose is to liberate myself from the need to own more clothing.

Assessment:  I share a walk-in closet with my husband.  I have one side- I raised the shelf (the kind that you can also hang clothes from) and then installed a second shelf underneath to hold all my clothes. The top shelf if FULL of purses.  The entire wall is filled with clothes hanging from both shelves.  The second shelf has hats on it.  Along the narrow back wall are several small shelves stacked vertically.  One of these is piled high with sweaters, another is full of larger bags that I have.  On top of that, I have a three dresser drawers with work-out clothes, two drawers of pants (in addition to the pants hanging in the closet), several drawers of undergarments, and a drawer of sleep wear.  ON TOP OF THAT (as if this isn't already enough)- I have  a large cedar chest full of all my summer clothes!  My closet floor is EXPLODING with shoes too!  I have a 2-tiered shoe-shelf, plus boots piled up to the side, plus shoes in the closet by the front door.

So, do I need to buy any more clothes?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  But, there's still a fear that committing not to buy is going to be too much.  It's just this mindset that has overcome me, and I dare say most women in America.  I'm willing to bet that 90% of us women buy WAY too many clothes!

What I love about this concept is how sharply it brings reality into focus.  Part of my previous glory parade for myself included lauding myself with praise for not consuming as much as other people.  I spent so much time complimenting myself for not shopping up a storm all the time that I didn't even notice the giant stack of shopping bags piling up, or the fact that my dresser is so full I can not put one more article of clothing in it!  I think I started out at one end of the spectrum- I used to only buy from thrift stores, but slowly, day by day, I allowed little excuses to slip by.  Suddenly I just can't picture myself at work without a new necklace!  You all know where this goes- shopping for that new necklace turns into buying the matching earrings, then "Oh, that would look PERFECT with that cute blouse", which of course can't be worn with any existing pairs of pants, so you get a new pair, and those are just screaming for a new pair of shoes- and all of a sudden you are a carbon puffing machine!  I have literally done this on several occassions.  And if that's not the case, there's always the 20% off at JCrew e-mail, or other such promotions.  I get at least 10 clothing related sales emails a day!  It is very hard to resist all those "savings".

It's a weird phenomenon.  And even weirder is the overall mindset that a full closet just isn't enough!

Of course, consumer glut doesn't stop at just clothes.  I also have a penchant for kitchen items.  I have a drawer exploding with gadgets, and I just can't stop!  So, I'm making that another "no buy" item for the year. (OK-I do have to buy a new can-opener b/c ours just broke last week). I also want to not buy any more paper towels or ziploc bags.  I already try to use cloth rags frequently, and tupperware.  When I do use a ziploc, I rinse it out and re-use it if it didn't have meat in it. But- why do I use those at all?  I have so many containers, there is no reason to use something disposable!  I have so many rags, why do I ever use a paper towel?  So, no more buying of those.

This week I am also going to experiment with using a handkerchief in place of kleenex.  Something about this really grosses me out, so this is one that I am most apprehensive about.  But I've long been trying to boycott Kimberly-Clark due to their propensity for cutting virgin forest to make throw away paper products.  The gross out factor has been too high to go all cloth though.  But, I'm going to try it.  People used to do this all the time right?  I'm sure it will be fine!

In addition to reducing the amount of CO2 I'm responsible for, I think this will have other benefits.  Hopefully it will liberate me from the entire concept of NEEDING things I don't actually need.  Wrap your mind around that one!  You know how you always feel like you need that "thing"?  Well you probably don't.  I hope I can break that feeling for good. This would be a real waste if at the end of the year I went on a bonanza and bought a whole bunch of clothes!  The other benefit will of course be monetary!  Aren't we all realizing we need to save more and pay down more debt?  Somehow we can never find those extra dollars though.  Giving up clothes to pay down your student loan is not fun.  But since I'm doing this out of a desire to break the chains of consumerism, and to shrink my footprint, paying down that student loan suddenly becomes a fringe benefit!

What are you trying to consume less of? Do you have a success story or tips for me?  Or are you just getting started too?


  1. I can tell you off the top that while hankies seem wierd at first, they are SO cute and can be kept tidy and sanitary with proper folding and laundry habits. Once you've had a bad cold without a raw nose, you may never go back! And anyways, dishcloths, socks and underwear are just as unsanitary, and no-one ever complains about those. Carry a few extra. Buy nice absorbent cotton ones at vintage shops and workwear stores - there are many new ones to be had, some with colored prints, embroidery, simple white appliques, or with nice edging. This goes for men too - men may have an easier time of finding new ones in regular shops; I've actually noticed several of the upper managers at work carrying nice clean men's hankies.

    I inherited a giant pile of nice new hankies from my granny and have not looked back. Here are some of my top tips from another blog:

  2. thanks for the tips! I actually have been getting used to them, but I definately need more!