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Living like The New Joneses - Big life, little footprint

When it comes to finding ways to be kinder to ourselves and the environment, there’s no shortage of options. Yet, it can feel overwhelming working out where to start and how we can individually make a difference. After all, it can be challenging to change our habits.

‘What do you mean I have to make mildly inconvenient lifestyle changes to protect a planet that gives me nothing but shelter, sustenance, tea-cup pigs and breathable air?’

We hear you, friends. We hear you. The good news is there are some simple and pretty nifty ways to make a difference. We sat down with Tamara DiMattina, founder of The New Joneses and Buy Nothing New Month - to talk about how we all have the power to make a big impact with our small, everyday choices.

Things we’ll cover in this article:

  • Buy Nothing New Month
  • The New Joneses
  • Tiny houses
  • The second-hand economy

Buy Nothing New Month - From 2010 to today

2010 may feel like it was yesterday but has a lot has changed since then. What does that make us realise? Well firstly, that time moves much faster than we thought and if we’re ever gonna learn to surf, we’d better get onto that pronto. Secondly, that Australia’s environmental awareness has come a long, long way in the last decade. 

Circa 2010, Buy Nothing New Month’s Tamara DiMattina was gearing up to join forces with the City of Sydney to deck out a house from top to bottom with snazzy second-hand goods. 

Showcasing how you don’t have to buy new to find gorgeous goodies to style your home, Sydney’s Buy Nothing New Month had a surprisingly polarising reception.

An outcry ensued by politicians, retailers and the media. Then-premier Barry O’Farrell even called Buy Nothing New Months “nuts”.

“Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the retailers?” (An unsolicited, artistic interpretation by us).

The New Joneses

Following Sydney, Tamara knuckled down, rebranded and expanded, bringing her passion project to Melbourne under a new name: The New Joneses. 

The name ‘The New Joneses’ plays upon the old idiom ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’, where you would try to one-up your neighbours with the flashiest new car or other material goods to benchmark your social status. The New Joneses’ mission is to make it easy for people to be part of the solution.

The New Joneses is reformed and no longer champions materialistic markers. The organisation acts as an alternative ideal to strive towards and inspires us to live a beautiful life with little impact.

So, how do Tamara and her crew do it? The New Joneses travel VIC and NSW and soon the whole of Australia, showcasing one-of-a-kind live installations and pop-up house displays to show you that life is about more than material goods. 

*Clutches Prada bag nervously*

In a nutshell, The New Joneses aims to inspire people to make a big environmental impact by making small changes and choices every day. The installations and pop-up displays are a real hit with school groups and are right at home in events like the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.

Why you should care about The New Joneses?

  • It’ll challenge you to think about the way you use things
  • You can feel good about being part of the solution
  • Every effort is valued.

The New Joneses wants you to take a look at your things and think about how hard you had to work to earn it. It’s about questioning yourself: Do I really need this?

Championing experiences and wellness over ‘things’, The New Joneses doesn’t want you to skimp on the important things. Instead they want you to:

  • Be a resourceful sister or mister, and do more with less
  • Think about where stuff comes from and where it goes
  • Maximise your resources and avoid waste. 

What’s the magic to The New Joneses?

As the world changes, society is moving further away from that sense of community and togetherness. Tamara believes that the secret to The New Joneses’ magic lays in its ability to unify people and create a way of connecting. The New Joneses share conversations with people about where they are, and what their next step can be.

The New Joneses’ manifesto is usually displayed near their exhibitions so that people driving or walking by will spot it and easily understand the message. Around the tiny house, they have self touring ‘talking points’ so that people can wander through the space, read independently and ask questions.

Tamara says that people are gobsmacked when they learn that The New Joneses doesn’t sell anything. “Some visitors find it hard to believe, as it’s not something you come across often”, she says. So much so that people will even come up and hug Tamara.

Why does she think it resonates so well with people? Tamara reckons that at the end of the day, it’s because people are craving that sense of connection. “It’s that idea of community” she says “most of us want to do good stuff for our people and planet, The New Joneses just show some everyday ways how.”

We all have intrinsic and extrinsic values. Intrinsic values are all about self-worth, connection, community and belonging. On the other hand, extrinsic values are external and materialistic validators. The magic of living like The New Joneses is that “The more you tap into those intrinsic values, the less you care about the extrinsic ones”’.

When talking to Tamara, it’s clear that the effect she has on people is contagious. She says that people are so inspired by the message that they love simply hanging out on a chair out the front or on one of the beanbags. The New Joneses’ empowering message is one that you don’t come across often.

Our beloved marketing gun and cat-lover, Kate, can attest to this too. Last year, she joined The New Joneses at Pako Festa in Geelong.

What impact has The New Joneses had over the years?

Over the years, Tamara says The New Joneses has changed pretty dramatically. What started as Buy Nothing New Month - which focuses on challenging yourself not to buy new non-essentials for a month - has branched out into all aspects of our lives.

She says that the way they showcase this message to the community has also changed. Instead of once a year decking out one home with second-hand goods, the organisation uses a mobile medium like tiny houses to spread its message.

The team now holds several events a year. The New Joneses travels across Victoria, including regional suburbs like Ballarat and Geelong - going into different communities to connect with people from all walks of life.

What hasn’t changed is the message. The New Joneses continues to shine a light on the most important things and “making it easy for people to be part of the solution

Tiny Houses - using what we have for good

What is this? A centre for ants?!’” But really, tiny houses may sound impractical - and tiny houses certainly aren’t for everyone. 

But for many people around the globe, tiny houses provide environmental, financial and emotional benefits that normal-sized houses rarely can. 

So, how can tiny houses help the environment?

  • They use less energy
  • Require fewer materials to build
  • Increase connection to the environment
  • Less space = fewer possessions
  • Less waste.

Tamara admits that she couldn’t live in a tiny house but adores the message behind them. “They symbolise removing social pressures and being more thoughtful about the way you live, the things you have and the stuff you buy”, she says.

She says tiny houses by default force us to be more accountable for how much we have and are an eye-opener to how much we are consuming. “We have to reduce the amount we’re using”, she says. 

Are tiny houses the way of the future?

It would be foolish to think that tiny houses are for everyone. Tamara says that while tiny houses are not necessarily the way of the future, tiny living may be. She says the message of using our space more resourcefully and creatively is something that will only strengthen with time. She says tiny houses show us “how much you can get in one space and how to use the resources we have”. 

The second-hand economy boom

When Tamara was a little girl, she remembers polishing her shoes, making sure they lasted. These days, she says that people are less inclined to take the same level of care and opt to throw things out when they deteriorate.

Yet, giving our possessions a longer life or a second life is increasing in popularity under the second-hand economy.

What is the second-hand economy?

If you’re scratching your head, the second-hand economy is a multi-billion-dollar -industry helping bring communities together and save things going to landfill. 

Want to be a part of it? Chances are you already are. Anytime you sell, donate, buy or swap a second-hand item, you’re part of the second-hand economy. According to Gumtree’s 2020 Second Hand Economy report, a staggering 89% of Aussies have unwanted items in their home. That breaks down to an average of 25 unwanted or unused items in every household. 

This same trend in the women’s second-hand clothing industry is thriving like mould in a share house’s bathroom - with a 60% increase in 2019, according to thredUP’s Annual Resale Report.

Tamara is passionate about buying second-hand. It’s about “taking responsibility for what you have and the way we are buying things”, she says. Plus, it makes us think about where things are going when we throw them away. Out of sight does not mean that’s the end of them – they have to go somewhere.

She says, “Companies need to take some responsibility for educating customers if there is an option to upgrade, rather than discard.” And if we absolutely must discard them, it’s not always clear how to do it safely - particularly with electronics.

The boom in Australia’s second-hand economy reflects the shift we are seeing to think differently and realise that we have finite resources.

Together, we can make a difference

“One of the first questions we ask visitors is ‘Who is your energy company?’” says Tamara “because supporting the energy companies powering us towards a clean, renewable future is something we can all do, today”

“Not everyone is going to get an electric vehicle, or a worm farm, but most of us have an energy retailer,"

“We have the conversation with everyone that switching to Momentum, because they're owned by the largest generator of renewable energy in Australia, is one of the easier and most impactful things you can do today."

“The New Joneses couldn’t do what they do without the support of Momentum,” Tamara says. But the truth is, we couldn’t do what we do without people like her. We couldn’t be prouder to back the work that people like Tamara do to help create a beautiful tomorrow.

Whether it’s reducing our meat intake, avoiding single-use plastic or living in an adorable Hobbit-esque tiny home - “We all live on this planet and we’ve all got to take responsibility”.

Whatever your way is to do your bit, we all have a lot to learn from the message that The New Joneses stands for. Our everyday choices give us the power to choose to be a part of the solution, rather than a part of the problem.

To find out how you can live like The New Joneses head to their website or Facebook.

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