Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On “Going Without…”

I recently finished a book by Judith Levine, titled “Not Buying It.” It was written as a journal, and chronicled her year-long experiment in not buying anything but necessities. While “necessities” is completely subjective, and she failed by her own standards a few times, it was a very interesting read that made me think about my own consumption. While saving money was not the author’s reason for the experiment, it obviously ended up as an additional benefit. The most interesting benefit that she observed was her transformation from a “consumer” to a “citizen.” She became more reliant on public goods and services, ranging from transportation, to the use of libraries, to neighborhood co-ops, to the generosity of friends and neighbors. This led to her caring more about goods and services that are set up to serve the public, shaping her political and moral values.

I am insulated from people and social interaction during most of my day. I work in a quiet office, without peers that I can share a conversation with. After work, I spend several hours at the boxing gym. There is a lot more personal involvement with my friends at the gym, but still, a good part of the time and energy is focused on your individual work and progress. Partly by necessity, I have become a lot more reliant on less traditional forms of interaction. Social networking sites like facebook.com, on-line message forums, and instant messaging have taken the place of more direct forms of communication. I want to force myself out of this comfort zone. I also want to take back some of the wasted time that I devote to these on-line diversions. That time could be better spent reading, writing, learning, working, or a million other more productive activities.

One way I will do this is by going without internet or television at my new apartment. Of the two, the internet will be the harder service to go without. However, I have internet access throughout the work day if I really need to look something up, and my internet time after working hours is almost entirely made up of “time-wasters” such as the activities I mentioned above. To make up for this “loss,” I will read and write more. I hope to finish the rough draft of my book by the end of my 1001 day experiment, some 930 days away. I also have a huge stack of books, bought throughout the years, but never finished, and in some cases, never started. Along that same vein, I will be going without buying any new media until I have gone through everything I have. I plan on making use of the fact that I am within walking distance of the main branch of the San Francisco library. Using public services, such as the library, will do its part to force me out into the city and being more social in my daily life.

I plan on cutting back consumption in all areas of my life, not just with new media. I don’t have a clear goal yet of how I want to keep track of this, but I will be avoiding any non-essential purchases moving forward from today. One example of this will be the 4-day hiking trip this September with my Dad and Brother. Rather than buying new or even used equipment, I will be renting the backpack, sleeping bag and tent from a Berkeley adventure shop. One possible exception to this rule is a purchase of a road bike. With my new move, I am much closer to both work and the gym. It has made going “car-less” much more of a realistic possibility than when I was living way out in West Portal. The still-unformed plan would be to make the purchase of a road bike, and then experiment with using it for all transportation purposes. Getting rid of the car would save me a lot of money, especially in a city where your monthly parking fees cost upwards of $200.

So, that’s the plans for now. Any comments on how to proceed with similar goals would be appreciated.


meximama said...

i'm a big fan of the library... books are expensive.

good luck with your experiment.

kieraninmotion said...

To add to what freeman said in your last blog, we used to get a veggie box delivered to our door with fresh in season organic veg. you should see if anything like that exists in your area, will be helping out small farmers.

Martin said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Keiran. They do offer those veggie/fruit delivery services in my area. I have passed on it before due to the higher costs, but will look into it again.


Bryan said...

I like this, especially the no internet thing. That'll be tough, I've become totally consumed by it. With the backpack stuff, see if you can borrow it, rather than renting it even. I might be able to help in that area, i'll ask around.

kieraninmotion said...

Also Martin, I forgot to add that my wife bought that book from the cancer research charity shop she volunteers at! I've yet to get round to reading it and she is halfway through it.