In 2010 my family joined The Compact and did not buy anything new for a year. In many ways it was not as hard as I expected. We were not big consumers to begin with and didn’t mind buying the items we needed used. There were only two items that were particularly hard to go a whole year without buying them new: books and music. I did buy used books from the thrift store and we borrowed books from the library, but it was really hard to get our hands on some of the new releases. I really wanted to read The Happiness Project and could not find it used. After nine months, yes really, nine months on our library’s waiting list it finally became available for me to read. But by that time, I had succumbed to temptation and bought the book with a gift card I received for my birthday.
Prior to our year on The Compact, I was anti-electronic books and MP-3 players. I was a real books advocate and had only recently converted to CDs. I swore I would never go over to the dark side! As a year of buying nothing new wore on, I began to see the benefits of electronic books and MP-3 players. The driving principle behind The Compact is reducing waste and I realized that with electronic readers and MP-3 players the only physical item that is purchased is the electronic book or MP-3 player, after that everything is downloaded.
No, I didn’t run out and buy anything on January 1, 2011, but I did keep thinking about the benefits. There is no wasted packaging, no shipping materials, no dead trees, and no petrol products used to create plastic cases.
My husband bought me a Kindle for Mother’s Day and I gave him one for Father’s Day. I have been surprised to find how many books are available for free or for 99 cents (which is less than I can buy them at the thrift-store). Since he and I have our Kindles on the same Amazon account, we can share the books we purchase. I love being able to carry a library in my purse. We also discovered that we can use electronic readers to check out books from our library. One unexpected consequence is that we have started giving some of our books away as we have added more books to our kindle. I can actually foresee a day when the library is whittled down to a couple of book shelves full of books.
As if that wasn’t enough, my husband bought me an Apple iPod Nano for my birthday and I gave him one 3 weeks late on his birthday. I know I wasn’t a very original gift giver this year. I have been able to upload the songs from my cds and now when I buy music there is absolutely no packaging to deal with. Plus, I only buy the songs I like instead of buying a whole album, which saves me money. There are only a couple of artists who produce albums where I like every single song (Hilary Hahn is the only one who comes to mind). Which means that I really like all of the music I have purchased.
I realize that the devices will have to be replaced at some point. However, I am still watching an old-fashioned t.v. rather than a flat screen and am still using a solar powered calculator that my husband gave me 23 years ago, so am not the type of person to upgrade just because a new version came out. I will use the devices I have as long as they run.
After the initial purchase of buying the electronic devise, we have saved money by buying books and music electronically. It has also reduced both the stuff in our house and the waste of packaging and shipping materials. However, I encourage you to do research for yourself before you purchase any electronic devices to make sure they fit your lifestyle and budget.