The Red List- New purchases for 2009

Submitted by Barbara on Sat, 02/06/2010 - 22:32

For most of 2009 we kept a list of everything new we purchased. We called this the Red List because we happened to have a red pen that we used to record everything.

Even if you don’t manage to write down every new thing you buy, it’s a really wonderful and informative way to take an objective look at your impact on the environment. For example, I have always considered myself really set apart from consumer culture. We don’t watch tv and have very limited exposure to commercials. We have achieved a 90% reduction in our garbage output so I assumed that because we don’t throw things away that meant  we weren’t bringing stuff into the house right? After keeping the red list for most of the year, we found that we are still consuming about a dozen new items per month! WOW. If we are buying a dozen new things a month with really conservative shopping patterns, what about the rest of America? It left me with an icky feeling of awe. As you can read, the amount stayed fairly consistent thought out the year. I wrote down everything we bought and what I feel led me to buy it new so I could go back and look over my motives and reasoning.  Most items made sense like underwear and socks. Many items were needed to extend the life of an item in use such as new shoe laces for shoes. Some items I soon regretted bothering with. I have included things I purchased for work but not things others purchased even if they were for the repairs we did on our house this summer. I tried to keep some control over those materials also but it wasn’t always possible. January
  • Shoes- Casual dress for Gregory (HTF in good shape in his size)
  • Shoes- Sandals for Barbara (it was a BOGO sale with Greg's shoes)
  • Work- Notions for various sewing projects
  • 4 DVDs (I bought them on ebay and though they were used but it when I received them they were still in the shrink wrap.  I think they were bootleg too.  Grrr.)
  • Replacement Plastic wear- Byron looses his lunch containers at school occasionally.  I wonder if its better to buy bulk and use plastic wear, if the plastic wear is going to get lost or if its better to buy single servings?
  • 2 Christmas decorations on sale ( I think of this as only half a sin.  They would have ended up trash if no one purchased them on clearance.)
  • Fabric to redo camping chairs (half a sin.  They chairs could have made it a little longer but I didn’t want them to give out on us while out camping)
  • A few CDs. This was strictly an impulse purchase I soon regretted.


  • Work- Fabrics for various sewing projects
  • Belt for Gregory (gave up after many months of trying to find a second hand dress belt in acceptable condition.
  • Slippers for Gregory (also gave up after many months of trying to find second hand in good condition)
  • Curtain rod.  Purely lazy.
  • 10 Plastic Storage bins. (This I bought new because I wanted them all the same so I could stack them when not in use)
  • Shoes- two new pair for Byron
  • TV Converter box. We thought on this one for a while. We watch about 2 hours of tv per week. We decided we didnt want to give up the tv all together and that buying a new box would consume fewer resources than buying a new tv.
  • Work - Grommet press & Dies. I had been looking for years for a grommet press to set grommets etc in various projects. This just so happened to be the moment that I found what I wanted. I bought it an Im not sorry.
  • Eye shadow applicator. The old one fell apart after 10 such years. I hope the new one will last another 10 years.
  • Wrenches and lag bolts to go with the grommet press.  Its frustrating how 1 purchase beggets another purchase.
  • Notions to make a new back pack.  Backpack itself was made of scrap fabric.
  • Additional brackets and bolts to repair broken clothes lines
  • 2 more plastic storage bins to match the other 10.
  • 5 pairs socks. Finding acceptable used boys socks is near impossible.
  • 1 pair arm warmers. (Half a sin) They were on clearance where I purchased the socks.
  • 1 pair snow boots. As soon as we got to the snow, Byron's old snow boots died. This left us without snow shoes in the snow so I didn’t really have time to look for used snow shoes.
  • 64 linear ft of board. Replace bedroom wall after termite repair.
  • 2 kitchen turners. I looked for a while for a second hand turner but both of our old turners died in the same week which made it difficult to be patient.
  • 1 measuring cup. I accidentally left the old one behind at the cabin in the snow. I purchased a new one in a hurry because I use it regularly in my cooking. I ended up mad though because the next time I went to the thrift store, I found the same measuring cup on the shelf.   Dooh!
  • 1 piece of wall décor. This was my impulse purchase to regret for this month
  • 1 grass tote basket. Very useful and fair trade but still a new item
  • Stainless steel pliers.  Gave up after a year of trying to do without them.
  • Replacement BBQ scrubber for the one that died.
  • 2 spigots and 2 overflows to complete rain barrels
  • 2 large flower pots (had a hard time finding ones on Craigslist)
  • Replacement Garden hose for one of our garden hoses. I might have been able to find a used but I gave up too quickly.
  • Splatter shield for frying pan. This is my regret for the month of April
  • Replacement clip for Gregory's cell phone. The old one broke in a non-repairable way
  • 5 laundry baskets. I wanted 5 matching ones so I purchased them new but I did take time to consider what type of basket would use the least resources and be easy to maintain and repair. I think I might choose something different next time.
  • Bird toy.  Normally we make our bird toys but Byron was really excited to do something nice for the birds so I caved. Oops
  • Work- Various sewing notions
  • White out.
  • Replacement Shoe laces
  • Tablet cutter for small pills
  • Electrical box for the chicken coop light.
  • Work - Various fabrics and notions for sewing projects..
  • 2 new books for Byron's birthday presents
  • 1 electrical box to bring a connection in the basement up to code
  • Vacuum cleaner bags. Im not ready to get a new bagless vacuum cleaner so the old vacumm had to get new bags.
  • Wig for a costume
  • 2 more flower pots. (the really big ones go super fast on Craigslist when they appear at all and I wanted to keep my planting going up on the deck)
  • Customized rubber stamp for work
  • 2 pair shoes
  • 2 packs of craft plaster bandages for costumes
  • fabrics, feathers, button and ribbons for costumes
  • 2 packs of birthday party invitations. Normally we make our own from recycled materials. I was just feeling overwhelmed and wimped out and bought the ready made ones this year.  Tisk tisk.
  • New Muni map. Tape would no longer rescue the old one. It was also badly out of date.
  • Socks and underwear
  • Large scissor wall décor. Ok, technically this was wrong, but I really like them and as long as I never tire of them. *(update 2/10- Someone dropped them and they broke into a zillion pieces.  So much for offsetting the purchase with years of enjoyment.)
  • ASL flash cards. Useful birthday present
  • Star wall décor- again this was a no no, but I plan on enjoying it for many years.
  • 2 foam squirt gun/foam sword combo toy. Really should have been a no no but kids cannot hear "No." all the time. We were on vacation and enjoyed playing with them in the pool. 
  • New cell phone for Gregory
  • Personal spray fan. It was near 100 degrees out. We all wanted some relief from the heat and its better than running an air conditioner.
  • 1 pair earrings for a costume
  • batteries
  • hose pot- gave up after many months of looking on Craigslist
  • New grommets, cables and carabineers for new patio awning made of recycled material.
  • Split ring spreaders. Turns out we didn’t need this tool after all. Drat.
  • Buttons and beads for costumes
  • Work gloves
  • Felt pads for chair legs
  • Sliders for futon legs- turned out not to be useful. Oops.
  • New garden hose to go with rain barrels.  Lazy.
  • Scarecrow- Garden appliance to stop the critters from digging up the lawn. I would consider this a good alternative to poison or other deterrents except it didn’t actually work very well.
  • Plasticote- totally toxic stuff I need for costuming.
  • Mini dog harness- for walking chickens.  Naughty Me.
  • Replacement water dish for parakeets. The old cheap ass ones broke
  • Glow sticks-  The kids really love to play with them out camping at night.  Now I know how bad they are Im going to try to find some alternatives.
  • Replacement modem
  • Plastic ice cudes for Halloween. Pure pleasure purchase.
  • Hair Snag-it. This was an attempt to clear the drain without the use of chemicals. Works great if you can reach the clog.
  • Strip magnets for thermal curtains
  • Shoes for Byron
  • Yarn for costume project
  • More hardware for thermal curtains
  • PVC pipe to create trailer storage. I think we should have purchased these second hand but Gregory only had a limited time he could work on the project and didn’t want to be held up.
  • 120" tape measure for work
  • 3 pair boys pajamas. I can never find enough pairs of second hand blanket sleepers for our son.
  • 1 pair boys pants. Same as above. I have a hard time finding enough pairs of boys pants in good condition for the start of the school year.
  • 8 small Décor, Halloween (This is a personal disease. Our neighborhood goes all out for Halloween)
  • 2 Metal brackets for trailer improvement
  • Rubber tie downs for inside the trailer
  • Books
  • 1 new shirt for Byron. We let him pick 1 new "cool" shirt for the school year.
  • Tool- Leather strap cutter
  • Tool- leather stamping dies

By September I had kept the list for 9 months and felt like I had learned everyting I could from this project.  I learned to take my time looking for used items, that I am sometimes still lazy or rushed and that I most decorative times are not worth purchasing no matter how enamorred of them you are.

For 2010 we have joined a project called Riot 4 Austerity so we will have to really buckle down on what we buy.  Im not expecting to get it perfect anytime soon but I am hoping to push down our level of consumption another notch in this coming year and going forward.

Hope you found this interesting and informative.