It’s January 31, which means my month of buying “nothing” is over in less than 24 hours. Last year, I did dry January, which ended up being rather unremarkable, but I did like challenging myself to forego something at the start of the year. This year, I decided that I would start things off by really embracing the “Refuse” part of zero waste and attempt to buy only food/drinks, experiences, or replacements for personal care items for the entire month.

So how did Buy Nothing January go? Well, technically I failed because I did end up buying things. But, they were things I needed or made sense to buy in January rather than waiting until February. Here are the things I bought:

  1. Burt’s Bees Cuticle Cream
  2. 2 bars of Dove Soap
  3. A Passion Planner
  4. A cocktail strainer
  5. A muddler set
  6. A pair of headphones

I’m still really impressed that I was able to keep my list below 10 items. The cuticle cream was technically a new addition to my personal care collection, but the packaging is all recyclable so I’m happy with that. The bar soap was a replacement so doesn’t even go against my rules. The cocktail strainer and muddler set were part of my contributions to an auction package for the YWCA so I’m not counting that since they a) weren’t for me and b) were for a charity fundraiser. The headphones were to replace a pair that broke and I am not about to commute to work via bus without headphones.

By my count, the only unnecessary purchase was my Passion Planner, but I have a hard time considering that an indulgence. Trying to balance work, this blog, being on multiple nonprofit boards/committees, and a social life is tricky and I have already dropped the ball on things as a result of poor planning. I’d heard about the Passion Planner from a friend and it seemed like a good way to try to organize my life. It seemed silly to wait until February to purchase a 2018 planner and so I allowed myself to buy it during the month of January.

This stuff has been saving my cuticles from the terrible Tacoma winter!

Despite “failing” at my goal, this month has been far more illuminating than my dry January was. I’ve been noticing things I genuinely need to replace (phone case, conditioner), holes in my closet (sweaters and good layers for wearing indoors), and times when I felt the itch to shop just because I was bored. I was on Elate Cosmetic’s website the other day looking for a bronzer in sustainable packaging to replace the Benefit bronzer I just finished. I found myself adding more products to my cart in order to get to the free shipping at $75 and realized that the search for one item had almost led me to buy 4. Luckily, I closed out of the browser and have realized I don’t feel that strong of a need for bronzer at the moment. I also realized that mindless shopping is still very much a part of my routine, as there were many times I wanted to pop into the record store on my street just to chat with the folks that work there and see what was available.

One thing that I ended up doing in an attempt to focus on foregoing things was focusing on experiences instead. Experiences, like getting dinners with friends, going to see a band some friends of mine are in, or going out to a movie have been way more enjoyable than catching up with a friend by going to the mall. I went to the YWCA auction this month and found a way to support the event in a zero waste way. While there were a lot of cool items for sale in the silent auction, I ended up buying a spot in Probiotics Class offered by their incredible CEO. I’ll get to learn how to make sauerkraut and other healthy food and the money I spent is supporting an amazing agency.

I am definitely going to be doing some shopping in February, but I want to make a mindful effort to track what I buy. I’m thinking of starting a “What I Bought” series each month to track what things I end up buying throughout the year. Making mindful purchases is a great way to live my zero waste values while also saving money (something I was horrible at in my pre-zero waste life). I’ve also decided to keep going forward with challenges for the month. So for February, my goal is not to buy any packaged filler foods (chips, candy, etc.). I still frequently succumb to my hankering for packaged foods, so hopefully this will be a way to kick that habit.

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