If someone placed you in an apartment wearing only underwear and a bathrobe (and your cash), explaining that you can’t buy anything new and must borrow, rent, swap, or buy secondhand everything you need, could you do it? It probably wouldn’t be too difficult–you could use a car or bikesharing service to get around, find free and used household items on Craigslist, buy your clothes at thrift shops, etc. And yet, even people who realize that all these options are available often elect to buy things new.
Not Tamara DiMattina. An Australian public relations expert who founded Buy Nothing New Month in 2010, DiMattina tells me that virtually everything in her home and office was bought secondhand. Her passion for the subject is evident in the giant stunt she’s about to pull. From October 8th to 12th, a pair of people that are being nicknamed “The New Joneses” will live in a sustainable prefab apartment dropped via crane into Melbourne’s Fed Square.
They will be confronted with the challenge mentioned above: Arriving in only bathrobes and underwear, they will have to acquire everything they need without actually buying anything new (except food, of course, which will have to be local and encased in minimal packaging). For transportation, they’ll have to share cars or bike. The pair will be given a scavenger list for guidance.
On one evening, they will be treated to a meal from Douglas McMaster, a chef who makes gourmet creations from wasted bits of food. A sample meal from his pop-up restaurant: “sauteed pine mushrooms with ostrich egg yolk wash and railway track foraged greens.”
The New Joneses (a man and woman) aren’t actually a couple. They’re just two fairly average people who DiMattina found through word of mouth. “They’re not particularly into sustainability,” she says. And that’s the point–that anyone can do this.
“In an ideal world, we would have used collaborative consumption [tools]” for the New Joneses, says DiMattina. But five days isn’t long enough for two people to learn about and effectively use the dozens of sharing tools available in Australia, especially because it can take time to hunt down certain items. Instead, DiMattina teamed up with the Brotherhood of St. Lawrence and Sacred Heart Mission, both of which operate thrift stores. The New Joneses will be able to find much of what they need in these two locations. “We’re trying to get people to rethink secondhand, that it’s not second best,” says DiMattina.
DiMattina has run into trouble for her work in the past. In Sydney, Buy Nothing New Month created [url=http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sydney-news/nothing-new-blue-as-retailers-threaten-to-withhold-rates-for-a-month/story-e6freuzi-1226401694532]a backlash[/url ] among local retailers worried that the initiative would hurt sales.
The New Joneses probably won’t be as controversial–who can argue with a scavenger hunt? Whether it will be an annual thing, though, is still up in the air. “Let’s just say, watch this space,” says DiMattina.