You may think a national initiative which asks people to stop loading up their credit cards would be a deficit for small business -- but it’s just the opposite.
October is Buy Nothing New Month (BNNM), where shoppers are urged to re-think their spending and encouraged to shop for secondhand goods or spend their money on experiences instead of shiny new toys.
BNNM founder Tamara DiMattina said it’s not “spend no money month”, but rather tapping into a growing interest in sustainable shopping and encouraging consumers to patronise small, local businesses.
“It promotes the idea of small independent businesses where people are making beautifully built things made to last rather than big chain stores who have cheap, fast, throwaway stuff,” she told The Huffington Post Australia.
“We have a responsibility to use our Earth’s finite resources thoughtfully and there are plenty of businesses that are doing it really well and showing that the future of businesses is going to be about acknowledging that we can’t just keep consuming in a wasteful and thoughtless way.”
DiMattina, who is so committed to this idea that most of her possessions are secondhand -- even her French bulldog Leopold came from a previous owner -- said needlessly buying new things and discarding them soon after affects more than just your wallet.
“In 2018 the UK will have no more landfill space -- that’s in two years’ time,” she said. “We’re facing serious issues with that stuff.”
Secondhand retailers are the big winners when shoppers choose to buy nothing new.
Natalie Baxter, Marketing Manager for the Brotherhood of St Laurence says sponsoring BNNM in its first two years - 2010 and 2011 - resulted in a rise in sales among its 20 secondhand stores in Melbourne.
“We saw increases in sales and transaction across the month of October,” she said.
“We had a better response in the second year, which I guess is an awareness thing, but we saw increases both years.
“There has been a stigma around buying secondhand, and it’s a really good way of getting people who may not otherwise try secondhand to try it.”
Baxter says the vintage clothing trend is booming, and it’s being led by a younger generation of shoppers.
The groups has two stores called Hunter Gatherer in inner-city Melbourne which are stocked with vintage wares aimed at a younger demographic.
Baxter says the increase in growth at these stores is “phenomenal” and attributes this to a growing awareness of sustainable shopping.
“We are doing a lot of projects with universities to understand the younger demographic and their thought processes and I think that they are very aware of their decision-making process and their impact and they obviously want to do good in the world,” she said.
DiMattina’s initiative inspired one husband and wife team to create their own sustainable peer-to-peer small business.
Samone Bos and her husband Tim created Caramavan, a caravan rental company that hooked up caravan owners with those who wanted a holiday but didn’t want to outlay the expense for a new van.
“BNNM was something that resonated with me when I heard about it around 2011 and it was around the time that whole share economy thing was coming about,” Bos said.
“We thought wouldn’t it be cool to set up a website where people who had caravans could rent them to people who don’t.”
The couple kept the business for two years, while also working full-time jobs, and then sold it to a larger rental firm which runs it as www.mycaravan.com.au.
But that one idea sparked another, and now Tim runs a successful car fleet sharing business called www.keaz.co.
The trend towards recycling materials to fashion ‘new’ things is also an essential element of the BNNM philosophy.
“There’s so much evidence of crazy consumer wasteful consumption so BNNM tried to address that by promoting small businesses who are being really thoughtful around upcycling or making quality items built to last and getting into your local economy,” Di Mattina said.
One small business which is booming by upcycling unwanted materials is Retyred Furniture -- a Mullumbimby, NSW, operation that turns old tyres into furniture.
Bernie Kudernatsch founded the company in 2012 with his partner Monica Corser after spotting a chair made entirely from tyres in Bali.
He told HuffPost Australia he saw the potential of it immediately and ordered a container load to sell back in Australia -- and the response from customers has been overwhelming.
“When people see it for the first time there is always the same reaction -- it’s very emotional, which is quite rewarding; people see the product and they see that it’s made out of tyres and they have a big smile and say ‘Oh what a brilliant idea’.
“Everybody produces this kind of waste product and to make it into something really useful and also really beautiful and also practical it gets people emotional.”
Since they started, Retyred Furniture has turned over 100 tonnes of recycled tyres.
Kudernatsch says his customers have a dual motivation for buying his products.
“People buy it not just because they are conscious of the environment and want to do something good but they also want to do something for themselves, which is not having to go and buy furniture every two years.”
The couple now have an office in New Zealand and are set to launch franchises in the US and Canada and later, Europe.
“When you consider there are one billion tyres every year which go to waste, the whole world is our market - we are already thinking what else we can do with tyres besides furniture,” he said.