I've been thinking a great deal about the changing meaning of sustainability. Behaviors that used to seem weird or "hippie" now seem like wise financial moves. In this world of economic chaos, people are planting their own vegetable gardens and canning their extra produce, hopping on public transportation to commute to work, repairing equipment they might have simply replaced last year, and reducing the amount of purchasing they are doing as the holiday season approaches.
As Green Bean said in her post yesterday, "We are no longer hooked on shopping." Buy Nothing Day no longer seems so counter-cultural. Most of us just don't have that money burning holes through our pockets right now.
Many of us are new to a life of frugality. We don't yet have a fully satisfactory alternative in mind to the old American dream of acquisition. I've heard a remarkable number of people muttering about the "sad" or "empty" season of giving we are about to face. Many people are feeling lost, or unfairly punished, or guilty.
However, as many in the environmental movement and the peak energy movement have been saying for some time, a life of austerity can be very full indeed. We needn't feel deprived. As New American Dream says, now is the time for More Fun, Less Stuff.
* * *
My son and I spent this chilly afternoon watching reruns of The Waltons. A large three-generational family living in Depression-era Appalachia, the group members learn many lessons about the importance of community. It is this sense of connection, of gratitude for love rather than the quest for stuff, that makes the Waltons wealthy beyond measure.
Here is a way to celebrate Buy Nothing Day that can make you feel as rich as the Waltons: participate in NPR's National Day of Listening. The rules are simple: set aside one hour to sit down with a loved one--an elderly parent, a neighbor, a favorite teacher, a young child, or whomever--and record a meaningful conversation. As the founders say, "This holiday season, ask the people around you about their lives.... By listening to their stories, you will be telling them that they matter and they won’t ever be forgotten. It may be the most meaningful time you spend this year." Each year's addition will add to the gift you are building.
Sample conversations can be heard at the above site and they might inspire you. If you want some more help getting started, download the free quide. You might even choose to upload your interview and share it on their website. We'd certainly love to hear about it hear, too.