Having joined The Compact in July 2006, my initial pledge will be up in July 2007. However, I've decided to extend my pledge through the year 2007. This seems, therefore, like a good time to reflect on the exceptions I have made in the last few months and to consider how I might deal with similar or other foreseeable issues in the next year. It is also a good time to put into writing and share the ways in which I would like to extend the compact pledge into other areas of my life--things that seem to extend from or relate to the initial pledge to not buy new things, but which are not strictly required by the basic pledge.
Here are the exceptions I have made so far. Below, I've broken them into categories and provided commentary and/or justification (at least what I told myself at the time) for them: a washing machine, a tank for our toilet, a fake Christmas tree, a few books and CDs I bought as gifts, clothes for my son, art and craft supplies, a wind-up radio/flashlight, some food containers, a pill dispenser, and some rechargeable batteries.
A. Things I bought with my husband (who has not joined The Compact). This list includes only items we bought together; he bought a few things on his own as well, mostly purchases that did not benefit me in any way and that I did not influence in any way, but also, for example, my Christmas gift (thanks again!):
1. A washing machine. This fell into the realm of decisions I needed to make with my husband. Our old washing machine was a small apartment-dweller's machine, the kind on wheels that hooks up to a sink. We were doing more than one load a day to keep up with three people in this machine, and not because our use of washables is unreasonably large for a family of three that includes a young child. It began leaking uncontrollably in September, and posed my first real compact dilemma. W had three choices: 1) try to get the old machine fixed; 2) get rid of the old machine and replace it with a used machine; or 3) get rid of the old machine and replace it with a new machine. We decided to freecycle the old machine to someone who could fix it (thanks, Richard!) in favor of a larger machine, and decided on a new machine because it was the easiest way to get delivery and to find a relatively energy-efficient machine.
2. A tank for our toilet. Our toilet tank cracked (thanks to our son The Destroyer) and was leaking. Again, could have gone used here, as we did when The Destroyer broke the lid to the tank a few months ago, but my husband preferred to get this new.
3. A new fake Christmas tree. Again, we wanted a Christmas tree this year, and I left the fake versus real decision up to my husband. Perhaps this was a copout, me not wanting to take the responsibility for either buying a new plastic product or buying a recently slaughtered tree. I've been known to deflect a decision or two.
B. Things I bought for other people and/or supplies for making things:
4. A few books and CDs I bought as gifts. I didn't plan far enough ahead in my gift-making. I did make a few gifts, but also purchased some--I decided it was acceptable to me to buy CDs and books along with consumables as gifts, since music and books are things I want to support.
5. Clothes for my son. I didn't join the compact on my son's behalf, so like the purchases I made with my husband this is perhaps a not-quite-exception. Still, I could have bought used clothing for him. I decided not to because he grew overnight and suddenly had literally no long-sleeved shirts that fit him on a cold day, and I knew it would be faster and take less consumer-energy to just go to one store and get a few shirts. Here's the bad sign, though: My Destroyer was very excited about clothes shopping. He had a blast picking out colors and was ready to strip down in the aisles to try things on. He may already need some shopper deprogramming. Or maybe he just sees the store as the biggest dress-up box ever. Yeah, that's probably it. Did I mention he's four?
6. Art and craft supplies. Mainly yarn for Christmas gifts and art supplies for my son, also his Christmas gift. Strictly speaking, it is allowable by the compact for professionals or talented amateurs to buy supplies for making things within reason, and I probably qualify as a moderately talented amateur. Not sure about my son, though. My positive opinion of his drawings-of-large-numbers series probably doesn't count for much.
C. Things I justified as food, health and/or safety items and other stuff:
7. A wind-up radio/flashlight. Something we didn't have and could be seen as a safety item for use in an emergency. Also something I got with my husband.
8. Some food containers. Two things here: First, I found our lunch-sized containers missing entirely or missing lids and was packing my son's lunch in Ziploc bags. Not really acceptable to me, so I purchased some nice rectangular containers at a local store that fit perfectly in his box and that have space for me to decorate with his name. No more lost containers so far. Second, I've been buying a lot of bulk food as part of my effort to cook things from scratch (more on that later), and bought a few containers at the same time to store the bulk items. Justified this as a sort of food-related item and a better option than throwing away Ziploc bags.
9. Pill dispenser. Really not necessary. Got caught up while waiting for a prescription last month. OK, yes, I take medication daily for pain, and it is useful to be able to portion out the medication so there are no did-I-already-take-this? moments, so I justified this as health-related, but it was obviously not a necessity.
10. Some rechargeable batteries. I've been moving toward rechargeable batteries for some time, buying rechargeable to replace any batteries that die down. I gave this some thought, as it was my first post-compact non-food purchase. I think buying batteries would only truly be compact-friendly if the batteries are to run a necessary health or safety item, such as a flashlight or radio (already covered by (7)). In this case, I was buying batteries to run one of my son's very few battery-operated toys. Since I had already chosen not to force my son into the compact I decided not to deny him batteries for a favorite toy because his mom went nuts and joined a no-shopping cult. How's that for therapy-fodder?
So, 10 exceptions in six months, some quite justifiable, some not. I think the main dilemma that jumps out here is the issue of whether or not to extend the compact so far that it impacts other people, i.e., should I attempt to force my husband and son into compact choices and buy only compact-friendly items for others. I know what my husband would say to that question. Nearly all of the exceptions I made relate to this issue. I should note that, when faced with my husband's suggestion that we buy something, I have nearly always suggested not buying or used buying as an alternative. This includes during the washing machine and toilet tank purchase. Sometimes it has worked, sometimes not. Sometimes (as with the washing machine and probably toilet tank) he has had quite a legitimate reason for preferring to buy new for something that was a relatively basic need.
In the next installment, I will consider how to apply what I have learned to my next year. Stay tuned.