Buy Nothing, an experiment in anti-consumerism

Overveiw by portlandia
January 3, 2008, 2:40 am
Filed under: Anti-Consumerism | Tags: , , , , ,

Anti-Consumerism: The Experiment was an idea Jenny had a few weeks ago when the holiday shopping season was in full swing. She got disgusted with the American consumerism. In her opinion, it now seems like a fully fledged religion, complete with rituals and holidays. She didn’t want to buy another single thing! Instead Jenny talked with Peter and they came up with an experiment to not buy anything other than essential items for the year 2008. We will be keeping this blog as a way to track our progress and share thoughts on living an anti-consumerist lifestyle.

Meet: Jenny
A sophomore at Portland State University studying Environmental Science, she loves photography, anything outdoors, and hopes to become a certified Wilderness First Responder. Jenny is semi-vegan (she still eats eggs and fish). She has a blue road bike that she loves dearly. Her personal blog can be found here.

Meet: Peter
A junior at Portland State University studying Computer Science, he loves long bike rides, hot chocolate and pastries. Peter is vegetarian (unlike Jenny he eats dairy, but no fish). He has a cyclocross bike named Eve and a road bike named Calypso. His personal blog about his ideas, bikes, design, architecture, politics, tech and software can be found here.

Peter and Jenny are dating and living in an apartment in Portland. They do not own a car, television, dishwasher, washing machine, or dryer. Their only pet is a stuffed dragon named Fig. They both ride bicycles for transportation.

Jenny & Peter

Anti-Consumerism: The Experiment

One year (365 days) starting on January 1st, 2008 and concluding on January 1st, 2009 without purchasing any item that is non-essential with a few exceptions. This will encourage appreciation for the things that we have, time to spend bonding with family and friends, and by reducing our contribution to pollution and waste, living a more sustainable life.

College is busy and we understand that having time to eat meals at home all the time is somewhat unreasonable, so we will try to eat out a maximum of two times a week. Our focus is to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, so buying local unprocessed foods as well as eating at restaurants that are locally owned and use locally grown products is preferable.

The No-Buy List

  • Coffee drinks
  • Non-school related books
  • Movie rentals
  • Movie tickets
  • Non-essential clothing
  • Gifts
  • Non-essential food

The Exceptions

  • Textbooks
  • Basic food
  • A maximum of two meals a week out
  • Health or hygiene-related items
  • School tuition
  • Rent
  • Health copays
  • Transportation (bus tickets)
  • Equipment rental from the university’s Outdoor Program
  • Essential bike gear

We both brainstormed some strategies for how we will accomplish this. Here is what we came up with …


  • Plan menus ahead of time
  • Cook extra and save leftovers
  • Pack lunches
  • Make our own gifts
  • Set up weekly dinners with friends
  • Check out library books
  • Spend time in bookstores just reading
  • Salvage unused items from friends and family
  • Find non-commercial forms of entertainment and recreation
  • Volunteer in exchange for organizational memberships, supported bike rides, etc.




5 Comments so far
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[…]  *: OK, not ‘nothing’, but a lot less than usual.  Read the details. […]

Pingback by Buy Nothing Year « Vagabond Shark

I’m very impressed by you both and wish you luck with this (you’re braver than me!).

Let’s try to do the weekly dinners again (and this time I will have enough food! Promise!).

Comment by Maggie

Came across your site as I am looking for a good way to audit my lifestyle. I applaud your efforts, and I am also making some decisions this year to live more simply. For me I am trying to not eat out at all, though I understand that’s probably unrealistic (though so far I haven’t) but also to not buy any clothes (I really don’t think there’s any essential clothes I don’t already have). These are just a couple ideas, but it’s an overall reduction of waste, purchases, etc, that I am aiming at. Let’s keep in touch with our progress, it’s nice to have others involved in living simply. We can motivate and support each other. Peace, Joshua

Comment by Joshua

Are you still trying to live simply? Joshua

Comment by Joshua

I am really thankful to this topic because it really gives great information -`:

Comment by LASER and Optics Forum

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