Unconsumption means the accomplishment of properly recycling your old cellphone, rather than the guilt of letting it sit in a drawer.
Unconsumption means the thrill of finding a new use for something that you were about to throw away.
Unconsumption means the pleasure of using a service like Freecycle (or Craigslist, Goodwill, or Salvation Army) to find a new home for the functioning DVD player you just replaced, rather than throwing it in the garbage.
Unconsumption means enjoying the things you own to the fullest – not just at the moment of acquisition.
Unconsumption means the pleasure of using a pair of sneakers until they are truly worn out – as opposed to the nagging feeling of defeat when they simply go out of style.
Unconsumption means feeling good about the simple act of turning off the lights when you leave the room.
Unconsumption is not about the rejection of things, or the demonization of things. It’s not a bunch of rules.
Unconsumption is an idea, a set of behaviors, a way of thinking about consumption itself from a new perspective.
Unconsumption is free.
Founder & Editor:Rob Walker, journalist, Savannah, GA
Editorial & Community Manager: Molly Block, marketing and business development geek, Houston, TX
So, naturally, we love this story from Grist on the Free Mending Library: a man mends clothes — for free — on San Francisco streets, while cultivating community:
Once a month for the past 11 years, Michael Swaine has mended clothing for free on the San Francisco streets.
At first, he did a five-mile route through the city, from dusk to dawn, with a sewing machine covered by an umbrella on wheelbarrow wheels. He loved the route, but it was exhausting and often folks didn’t have their torn clothes with them when he rolled by. He eventually settled at the Luggage Store, a nonprofit artist collective in the Tenderloin District, a tougher part of town. He’s so committed to the project, the Free Mending Library, that he’s only missed three months out of more than 130.
Swaine is an artist, an active member of Futurefarmers (a loose collective of artists, designers, farmers, and computer programmers), and a ceramics instructor. “Most people think of me as a fibers artist. Or a social artist,” he says in a video. “There’s all sorts of strange words [that] people say to me. I try to ignore them.”
I first came across Swaine in Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change, a wonderful little book about the folks who are rethinking fashion and trying to create a more sustainable clothing industry. Swaine took the time to chat with me about the beautiful things that happen on streets, our throwaway culture, and the strangest thing he’s ever fixed.
Q. What exactly is the Free Mending Library?
A. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is welcome to bring something to be mended — and equally people are welcome to come and help mend. Those are the days that I love the most, when there’s a really wonderful balance — people coming to help mend, people sitting and telling stories, people bringing things to be mended. It’s nice when all of those things are happening at once.
Colombia-based Vapor Apparel is due to launch a new 100% recycled fabric at the EcoPrint show in Berlin this week. The company, a leader in sustainable high-quality performance fabrics, will use the fabric for a new line called ‘ECO Spin.’ It has a cotton-like feel and is made from reclaimed plastic and furniture found in landfills.
Apparel maker Looptworks salvages that wasted material, scouring mills and warehouses for excess fabric, thread, and buttons before they get destroyed—and then Looptworks creates.
It’s a model dreamed up by founders Scott Hamlin and Gary Peck, veterans with combined experience from Nike, Adidas and Royal Robbins. Working in the textile industry for over a decade and a half apiece, Hamlin and Peck were witness to all that excess. They determined that in going into business for themselves, goal number one would be simple: they never wanted to create anything new.
That process has resulted in bags made from wind turbine tarps and laptop covers from deep sea diving wetsuit material. They will soon make backpacks, messenger bags and laptop sleeves from banners that were hung at University of Oregon’s Olympics Trials. When a leather manufacturer called Looptworks about finding a use for its remnants—pieces cut away due to blemish and minor scratches—the scraps were cut down and pressed into workable squares. Though some might question just how environmentally sensitive it is to make leather products, Neal says “we really believe that we’d rather see it as a laptop sleeve than see it in a landfill.”
Scottsdale-based designer Angela Johnson refashions vintage and “thrifted” T-shirts into one-of-a-kind ball gowns, tops, and skirts, among other wearable objects. Every item is made to order; if you own T-shirts that you’d like to have incorporated into the design of your piece(s), Angela will include them.
(Makes me wish I’d kept many of my old concert T-shirts!)
See more on Angela’s Web site here. [Thanks, Angela!]
Despite all our efforts to encourage people to be mindful consumers, buying only what we really need, and buying second-hand at that, and mending/repairing things we already own, Americans still purchase, on average, a new garment every week! And it’s not good quality stuff. Surprisingly little of it gets resold; much of it ends up in landfills or in the hands of textile recyclers.
A new book, “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion,” written by Brooklyn-based journalist Elizabeth Cline, addresses these issues, exploring the rise of fast fashion/disposable clothing and how our consumption of inexpensive clothes impacts society and the environment.
Marketplace reporter Stacey Vanek Smith recently spoke with Cline. An excerpt of that conversation:
Vanek Smith: If someone is maybe interested in changing the way that they shop, what’s a good way to start?
Elizabeth Cline: Well, there are so many different things. Just a handful would be supporting local designers, designers when they are starting up — honestly, they don’t have the capital to produce overseas, so a lot of them are producing in our communities — so support them, help them thrive. I would say also people should use their tailors and their seamstresses in their community, get your shoes repaired, take care of what you own. And lastly, I would say take that $1,100 a year, that American’s spend on average on clothes, and buy less but just invest your money in things that are a little bit better made.