On Monday night Council voted to support ‘buy nothing new month’ – a campaign initiated by anti-poverty group The Brotherhood of St Laurence to raise awareness of recycling and reuse and to encourage people to think about their consumption. Council resolved to allow the organisation to set up a temporary sustainable “house” and run workshops on recycling and reuse in the Customs House forecourt at Circular Quay free of the usual commercial fees.
The campaign is a great way to promote sustainable businesses, such as op-shops and recycled boutiques, of which there are around 200 in the City. While everyone knows that the local Vinnies is a great place to get old books and cheap second hand clothing, a lot of people don’t realise how easy it is to get hold of heavily discounted, high quality recycled goods.
There are dozens of small businesses in the City that sell top quality fashion items, worn once for a photo shoot or the like, at a tiny proportion of the original price. Then there are the second hand furniture and homeware stores, the artists studios creating amazing works from old ‘junk’ and countless other stores selling sustainable recycled products that deserve to be promoted.
However the Liberal Party and the big business lobby were quick to criticise the move, saying it would damage the profit margins of “mainstream” retailers like David Jones.
This criticism is completely overblown. The campaign is about making people think about their consumption and realise that there are alternatives available to buying brand new products with a high environmental footprint. If David Jones was really concerned that it was going to harm their sales figures there would be nothing stopping them taking advantage of the campaign and moving into the recycled goods line too.
With a customer base like theirs they could easily get a steady supply of pre-loved products and set up a boutique recycled section in their stores. It’d be a win for them and win for their customers. And anyway, I certainly wouldn’t complain if the event encouraged a few people to move their spending away from the big chain retailers and to the charity stores and small businesses of the City.
It’s really concerning that the cheer squad for the business lobby is so precious that they have to create a fuss in the media the moment a charitable sustainability initiative like this comes on the scene. I can only assume it’s motivated by a misguided political goal to paint the City as anti-business, but I think most of the community will see straight through it.