Earthly on.. #TheTrueCost of Stuff

Considering the true cost of cheap clothes and our cultural shopping addiction, Earthly suggests you try a #buynothingnew year.


Last week, maybe you attended the opening of NZ’s first Zara chain-store, or maybe you protested work rights abuses at the opening of NZ’s first H&M chain-store? Maybe you ignored both, stayed home, and ordered a few new season bargains still to arrive separately in excessive, non-recyclable packaging? After all, Zara and H&M are just two of a thousand online retailers now available to satisfy our all-hours consumption urges. We can buy consumer Stuff anywhere now, anytime. There is no need to physically go shopping, our lounges and bedrooms are the new strip malls.

There is endless choice and enticement out there and we seem to be conditioned to buy new without conscious thought. “Do I need this Stuff?”, “Where did this Stuff come from?”, “How was this Stuff made?”, “How long will I use this Stuff?” “Where will this Stuff go once I don’t need it” rarely register in our endless cycles of ‘I shop-I want-I buy-I dispose’, stoked both by constant exposure to temptations, inadequacy-psychology and the illusion of ‘bargains’ (achieved through ‘sales’ & ‘clearances’, on sites devoted to shifting the picked-over bulk of fast fashion at apparently reduced rates).

While we continue, we are each in our small way feeding the consumer economy beast, a loose global system that financially rewards trashing Earth, soil and water, celebrates excess and waste, commodifies the suffering of animals and labourers and spews out unimaginable quantities of often-harmful waste at a ferocious rate. For everything and everyone outside the closed circuit of profiteers supplying, manufacturing and distributing consumer goods, the many harms vastly outweigh the fleeting pleasures and comforts we consumers receive for our cash. Yet we continue to feed the machine with our hard-earned incomes, buying more than we need, wasting much of it. How often do we each stop to consider how much less we would need if we needed less Stuff?

It’s time to change and the best place to start is with a simple question we should all ask every time: Do I really need this? If there answer is “No”, or even “Not really” (which I find to be most of the time), simply don’t buy it. Stay away from rubbish shops and websites that get you every time. Don’t browse. Be strict with yourself if you do go shopping for an item you need – buy nothing else. Hide your credit or debit card if it’s a problem. If shopping is recreation or release for you, look for better ways to relax or enjoy your spare time NOW. You should notice two things within a short time:

  1. You need less, you value the things you already have more, and your existence begins to feel lighter with visibly less Stuff cramming your house, wardrobe and wishlist. Your consumer drive will wane as you consciously assess your actual needs.
  2. You have more money to save for meaningful projects, simply because you are less often parted from it by unnecessary purchases. As you buy less Stuff consciously, you may find your excess expenditure in other areas reduces as you think more carefully about the cost of things.

As a reformed consumer, I can recommend making the change wholeheartedly. I first read about BuyNothingNew last year and decided I would give it a go immediately for 6 months. I’d already reigned my shopping habit in to less than half the Stuff I’d bought the previous year. That was 18 months ago now. Since then I have bought ONE new item of clothing and a couple small consumer items (cables, art gear, stationery etc.). As research for this piece I thought I would buy a couple pieces of clothing to remind myself how it feels (Hey, I needed tights. It’s notoriously hard to find good tights 2nd hand!). I can report it felt empty, mechanical and not at all unconscious anymore – I was concerned about how and where the tights were made, rather than how much I saved on ‘retail’. I won’t be buying new again until I really need to.

The incredible lightness of life unburdened by consumer desires and acquisitions is available to any of us living the consumer lifestyle. Don’t forget that.



[Ed: I’m still working out this WordPress creature. Thanks for bearing with me, I should be competent soon!]

EARTHLY on… Fermented Foods

This week I take bubbling, breathing alive things to the first Fun Palace event in Auckland and try to convince people they should eat more of them.

14516454_10154142793462408_423318495652671586_nAt the end of 2012, I found a freaky-looking brew in the bottom of our flat pantry. A jelly lifeform hovered near the bottom, resting on various chinese herbs. I was told it was a mushroom (it’s not a mushroom, it’s a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria & Yeasts). The brew was delicious. This was kombucha, my first experience of fermented food.

Kombucha stayed in my life because it made me feel great, particularly if I hadn’t been taking care of myself, but it wasn’t until the last year that these living foods have really taken over my pantry, my kitchen benches, my fridge.. As the innumerable bacteria and yeast colonies multiplied so to did the strange brews in jars, crocks and bottles. I was hooked on experimenting with a wider range of ferments and methods, eating some really wild products. Sandor Ellix Katz’s little bible Wild Fermentation still gets pulled out on the regular and I spend what feels like half my spare time tending to my bubbling collection with great interest. I’m going public with my private obsession this weekend, presenting the fermented foods display at the Auckland incarnation of the Fun Palace movement.

For the less obsessed, your diet could be made very much alive with just two additions:         One good sauerkraut (it doesn’t have to be cabbage!) and one fermented drink (kombucha, water kefir or natural ginger beer are winners). If you stick to just these, the time investment and kitchen-space invasion will be minimal, with all the (totally great) reputed health benefits of fermented foods – that is, fresh and regular doses of probiotics and the improved nutrient availability through fermentation.

Something unexpected: I’ve found myself treating my food and my plants with more interest and gentleness since living foods took over my kitchen. Not that I was rough or disinterested before, but there’s nothing quite like handling a kombucha SCOBY to remind you how fragile living things are. If fermented foods are a pathway to people taking more care with living things, or even just an interest in their food I am all for it. Long live fermentation!




an intro to existence

I have no beautiful husband, no photogenic toddlers, no bowl of perfectly-prepared organic fruit. I won’t be sharing workout selfies or skincare advertorials. You won’t be subjected to my breathless spiel on my latest Detox Superfood Smoothie recipe. If you are looking for glossy pictures of unattainable lifestyles, go pick up any lifestyle publication since the advent of Photoshop. But if the brag-gratitude egotism of most lifestyle blogs makes you a bit spewy, maybe you will find something less gross here. I don’t have a glamorous life to show off, but I do have a few valuable ideas on living well today. I’m keen to share if you’re keen to read.

This blog is an outlet for my interest in the state of our world and my quiet hope for the future of all of us living things aboard planet Earth. We are on a scary trajectory right now, but I see opportunities springing up between the very real and very frequent ordeals. I want to write about those chances for change, big and small, and I want to share my knowledge now and in future as I read, research, try, fail and experience different ways. I want to connect with like-minded people, exchange ideas and share around priceless knowledge that even your grandmother was too young to remember.

Humanity has never known more, yet the Great Forgettings and the Extinction of Experience [look them up] have stolen ancient knowledge that could save the modern world: how to live within our means and within our local biome; how to use natural inputs and cycles; how to produce, store and prepare our food locally without totalitarian agriculture; how to connect and thrive as a community.. Around the world, this traditional wisdom, married with modern knowledge, is making a comeback. A rebellion, led by some true modern heroes, is gaining ground with little publicity. I desperately want this quiet revolution to succeed because I believe it offers us the best chance at a living future. Scientific advances and space travel aren’t escape plans I’m willing to wait on.

“Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” Bill Mollinson

Speaking of true heroes, news of Bill Mollison’s death broke this morning as I wrote. To weather the coming years and create a world worth bringing photogenic children into, we need to develop a strong, radical framework to replace the status quo power structures leading us to the brink.  Mollison’s permaculture teachings deserve to be woven in there. May his ideas not rest with him, but take root & grow wild across the Earth.

postPeace out Bill, and thank you.  (credit: WordPress stock first-post photo)