The Compact


Maybe it's that I've been watching too many documentaries, but I've lately been consumed with the vision of the type of world we will be leaving for our children.  Somewhere between An Inconvenient Truth , Happy Feet , and all the books, magazines, and radio stories and everything, I started to think about doing something drastic.  Last night, I was watching The Corporation , and I thought about this piece I heard on NPR about a year ago.  It was about a group of friends who had a dinner party and were feeling the same things I have been lately, and they decided to take a pretty drastic step.

The next part is lifted from their website

The Compact. 

A group of individuals committed to a 12-month flight from the consumer grid.

The Compact has several aims (more or less prioritized below):

  • To go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of disposable consumer culture and to support local businesses, farms, etc. — a step that, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact.
  • To reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er).   
  • To simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)

We've agreed to follow two principles (see exceptions etc. below).
    #1 Don't buy new products of any kind (from stores, web sites, etc.)
    #2 Borrow, barter, or buy used.

A few exceptions – using the "fair and reasonable person" standard — i.e., you'll know in your heart when you're rationalizing a violation:

  • food, drink, and necessary medicine (no elective treatments like Viagra or Botox)
  • necessary cleaning products, but not equipment (don't go out and buy the Dyson Animal, for example).  
  • socks and underwear (utilitarian–non-couture or ornamental)  
  • pajamas for the children

    Utilitarian services (plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, veterinarians, dog/house-sitters, fire/paramedics, dry cleaners, house cleaners, etc.) — Support local and encourage used parts (rebuilt transmission, salvaged headlight unit, etc.)

  • Recreational services (massage, etc.) & local artisanal items – Good sources for gifts, but should not be over-indulged in for personal gratification
  • Charitable contributions (Seva, Heifer, and the like) – an even better source for gifts

    Plants and cut flowers – Whenever possible, cultivate from free cuttings or seeds. Ok in extreme moderation when purchased from local businesses (i.e., not the Target Garden Shop)–and again, within reason

  • Art supplies – First line of attack: SCRAP. When absolutely necessary (for the professionals and talented amateurs in the group), from local businesses
  • Magazines, newspapers, Netflix – renewals only, no new subscriptions. Even better to consume online. Video rentals and downloadable music files (non-material) — freely shared and legal, please.


So Charles and I have decided.  We're doing this.  Starting on his birthday (May 2).  I'm going to try to get some family and friends to try it too.  Think about the changes we could make…  Think about the money we could save…  Think about the behavior we'll be modeling for our kids…

Who's in? 

5 Responses to “The Compact”

  1. Cheri says:

    We’re in – and I’m spreading the word to others.

    Now I’m off to buy a years worth of stuff in the next two weeks…

  2. Mary Ann says:

    I’m way in!!!

    If you believe there is a higher power, think about what we will have to answer for on judgement day.

    Did we really need that ninth pair of shoes when so many go without.

    Why was I such a glutton when the rest of the world is starving?

    You know what I mean.

    Dillon, Jordan, Rose and I came up with a fabulous gift idea! I think that it will be a great learning experience, and reuse waste material.

    We need help collecting all kinds of plastic caps. We are going to make action figures, characters, dolls. They will be called the

    What do you think about that?

    This is my first entry of a comment in anyones blog. I’m not a virgin anymore!

  3. lisa says:

    Steph and I spoke about it and we are in.

  4. Rachel says:

    I think it’s a pretty amazing — and difficult — choice! I talked with Patrick about it and with our wedding coming up it’s not really feasible to follow but we’re thinking of trying it (maybe a shorter version, initially, though, because we’re wimps) in the New Year. Who knows, maybe we’d do the final 4 and some months with you. Regardless, I’m impressed!

  5. Jessica J says:

    Molly, this sounds like a great plan from the Madison side of the state. Our wedding is coming up too, but we think this would be a great idea for Christmas gifts. Boone and I are lucky to have the fanstic Madison farmer’s market where we get all our garden stuff and our veggies!

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