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Shopping Sabbatical Brings Freedom

What would it be like to go through an entire year without purchasing anything new?

That's the question a small West Coast group of environmental activists asked themselves a year ago. At the beginning of 2006, ten friends declared a sabbatical from American consumerism. "The Compact"—as they lightheartedly called their agreement—bound them in a mutual pledge to abstain from shopping sprees and other trappings of modern culture. Other than food, essential toiletries, underwear and other purchases that fell under the categories of health and safety, the friends purchased virtually nothing new—and they learned a lot about themselves in the process.

After going through a time of "retail withdrawal," they were amazed at how the items they needed just "showed up" as they shared and interacted with others. Twenty-six-year-old Rachel Kesel added: "I found that a lot of times there were things I thought I needed that I didn't need that much." Rediscovering the library and paying down credit cards were two of the unexpected dividends members of the group experienced. Forty-two-year-old John Perry said, "One of the byproducts of The Compact is that I now have a completely different relationship with the things in my life. I appreciate the stuff I have more." Perry developed a knack for being able to fix things, rather than simply purchasing new replacement items.

The group enjoyed the freedom from their Compact so much that they have chosen to renew their pledges for 2007.

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