My Non-Consumer Speech

by Katy on May 18, 2016 · 38 comments

I gave my talk yesterday about the buy-nothing-new Compact and non-consumerism at large. I took notes on what I wanted to talk about, which I then organized into a speech. I was pretty nervous, as the minimalism group had scheduled an hour and a half for me to speak. An hour and a half is a long time to blather on speak, so I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to run out of subject matter.

I feel that it’s always a good thing to stretch oneself, even if it’s nerve-wracking. I advise my sons to “hold themselves to a higher standard,” and I try to apply this advice to myself. It’s character building, even if it makes certain 48-year-old women feel a wee bit barfy.

I feel that the talk was quite successful, but since it was an unpaid gig, the group was going to get their money’s worth whatever the result.

Of course, The Non-Consumer Advocate blog has an international readership, so the opportunity to come see me live in person was limited to local Portlanders. I thought it would be fun for you to get a sneak peek at my notes. So please enjoy a few visuals from my speech!

I planned to stretch out the talk by getting some discussion going. Here were some “talking points.”

speech notes

I feel that the minimalism and zero waste movement often wants to distance itself from frugality, as it’s considered a lesser goal. I think it’s important for all these groups to overlap.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 11.34.46 AM

The “Goodwill mug at SOU” example was from this comment from someone whose Instagram handle was “ZeroWasteGuy.” That’s some grade-A zero waste mansplaining, people.

Zero Waste Guy comment

I don’t write enough about the “pause point” that’s automatically inserted when choosing to only buy used. You can’t be impulsive with purchases, so it sets you free from mindless shopping.

Pause point

I like this handy little guide to what defines non-consumerism. It’s in no particular order and I probably left something out, but I especially enjoy that it’s bookmarked by wealth building and generosity. Wonderful tandem goals.

What is non-consumerism?

Of course I got off on a tangent or two, and I’m far from a polished Ted Talk, but I think it went well. And maybe next time I give a speech I’ll be a little less nauseous and a little more confident.

Holding myself to a higher standard and not letting nerves get in the way of life’s decisions.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Marilyn May 18, 2016 at 11:39 am

So glad your talk went well. An hour and a half is a long time. Does that include time for questions from the audience? Absolutely, zero-waste and frugality go hand-in-hand. For some of us, the frugality is the main goal and the zero-waste is secondary. But what does it matter, since you can accomplish both goals by focusing on either one.


JD May 18, 2016 at 12:26 pm

You had to speak for an hour and a half? Wow, that was quite an accomplishment. And what a great thing for them to do, have someone speak on non-consumerism. I wish we saw more of that around here.
When a large international company divested themselves of a plant here, selling to a private partnership, a lot of employees discovered that they could roll over their Big Company retirement savings into the new partnership’s plan (and the new partnership was simply a group formed out of the Big Company, so no worries about the plant closing) or they could cash them in. Big Company sent financial advisors here with lots of warnings and statistics, and do you know, almost no one listened to them? Most cashed out their retirements. The joke was that no one could find their cars in the parking lots anymore, because everyone was driving a new white Lincoln from the local Ford dealership. They bought boats, cars and jewelry, people built houses that were too expensive to maintain… it was awful. A very few rolled over all of their money or used just a portion to become debt-free and left the rest in retirement. Katy, you would have been a kid, then, but too bad you weren’t here (and grown) to give a talk — maybe they would have listened to you; you’re more fun that a dry financial advisor.


Katy May 18, 2016 at 1:19 pm

“More fun than a dry financial advisor.” I’m totally going to make that my new tagline.


JD May 19, 2016 at 5:37 am

And see, that’s why you are more fun!


Ann May 18, 2016 at 1:39 pm

OH!!! A TED talk!! Yes, I’d love to see you do a TED talk!!


Linda in Mass May 19, 2016 at 3:55 am

I would love to see you do a TEDTalk!


A. Marie May 19, 2016 at 11:49 am

I third the TED talk motion! And I’m also impressed by the 90-minute presentation. The longest I’ve gone at a stretch for the Jane Austen Society of North America is 40.


Lorraine May 22, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Ditto on the Ted Talk


Linda May 18, 2016 at 2:27 pm

I always find myself growing when stretched out of my comfort zone. Hats off to you! An hour & a half is a long stretch!


Kathy May 18, 2016 at 2:31 pm

Sorry I missed this. I was on my way back from Seattle. Maybe next time.

I read your post yesterday about the neighborhood cleanup and the problem with the local recycler not accepting styrofoam. I have a truck load I was planning to take in.
You can be sure I am taking it in to the clean up this Saturday. Thank you so much for the info.


Katy May 18, 2016 at 4:23 pm

I’m not 100% sure that they’ll be accepting styrofoam, although they have in the past.


Kathy May 18, 2016 at 8:26 pm

I checked today and they are accepting it. It is also on the flyer. I would have missed this if not for your mention in your post. Thanks again.


Krystal May 18, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Kathy, not sure how often you go to Seattle, but if you are able to bring styrofoam up on your next trip, there is a place right off of I-5 in Kent thatrecycles it, free of charge! Might he unreasonable if you don’t come up often enough though, or if you don’t drive, but I had to mention it.


Kathy May 18, 2016 at 8:32 pm

Thank you for sharing this info. I have a growing pile at the Seattle house that I have been putting off dealing with since we are in and out at random days and times depending on when and where we work. Sometimes we fly and sometimes we drive. I will put this on my list to accomplish next time I drive.


Karen May 18, 2016 at 3:06 pm

I love buying secondhand because it saves resources, but being so much more budget friendly is a nice bonus. I try to keep my food as waste free as possible, but here, buying from the bulk bins is rarely cheaper than buying packaged foods and I prefer to buy organic when possible which also adds to my food budget. These two goals go very nicely together since it allows me to put my money where my values lie.


janine May 18, 2016 at 4:50 pm

I am also fixated on the hour and a half program. I produce a cable public affairs program and occasionally fill in as host. The program is one half hour long and usually we split the program with two guests. We don’t have too many guests that take the full half hour. Our guest next week is a former legislator and a talk show host. She is scheduled for about twenty minutes with a short spotlight presentation for the other 10.

My point is that it is very rare indeed that someone is asked to speak for that length of time! Bravo for you! It’s a great topic that needs more discussion – and action!


Nancy May 18, 2016 at 5:30 pm

Did anyone video your talk? Will we find it on Youtube? 😉


Katy May 18, 2016 at 5:47 pm

Sorry, no video.


Happy Mum May 18, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Well done on the talk, Katy! Ninety minutes is a l-o-n-g time to speak — good on you. In other (related) news: I’m now completely fascinated by anyone (eg, zerowasteguy, in your example) who is at great pains to distinguish between zero-waste and frugality (“cheap”). Why on earth does it matter? Or more precisely, why is it important to zerowasteguy that people know he’s not “cheap”? This is very interesting…


Stargirl May 18, 2016 at 7:07 pm

I didn’t realize he was dissing you at first. That’s annoying. Béa always talks about money and time savings, so I think you are on the right track. Goodwill mugs for everyone!


chris May 19, 2016 at 2:22 am

There is some impressive irony in a group focused on MINIMALISM asking you to speak for AN HOUR AND A HALF. lol. All the same, you have plenty of wisdom and insight to share so I am confident it was 90 minutes well-spent.

It is unfortunate that people are so concerned about appearing cheap. Cheap gets a bad rap. It doesn’t have to mean someone that isn’t also kind and generous. Indeed, it is much easier to be generous when you have the extra money to do so! Semantics really tie people up in knots.


Janelle May 19, 2016 at 4:36 am

The reason I love your site so much is that you combine frugality with minimalism with zero-waste with intentional living! So many minimalism blogs recommend just giving your stuff away in large loads, and while I’m happy to do that, if I can make a buck or two off an item, you can bet I’m going to do that. My house would be MUCH emptier if I employed that tactic, but by trying to sell them, I make sure my items have an appreciative new owner, and I get a little cash back. It’s not enough to just get rid of things for me! I’m not made of money, people!

Way to go! I had to give a presentation a while back at a conference, and if it weren’t for all the clips from the movie Frozen that I had, I would have certainly been as dry as a financial adviser! 🙂


Diane C May 19, 2016 at 5:15 am

So true, Chris! Post-FIRE it’s awesome to be able to give both time AND money to causes I care about. I’m going to a benefit tonight and I’m looking forward to the fact that I will be able to write a contribution check. Of course, I’ll be wearing a thrifted outfit, which is part of why I can afford to be generous.


Practically Waste Free May 19, 2016 at 5:51 am

Well done on expanding your comfort zone! And kudos for bringing your own mug and not using disposable! It is both waste free and frugal, two of my favorite things that often overlap!


Kendall May 19, 2016 at 6:33 am

I was privileged to attend Katy’s talk at the library on Tuesday evening. I read about it here on the website and even though it was a bit last minute for me, was able to see and hear her in person for part of her presentation. She did GREAT! As you might expect, she was informed, organized and knowledgeable, encouraged discussion and gracious all while wearing her non-consumer advocate cape.

Katy, you did not appear nervous. I was impressed with the way you presented your subject and yourself. I did have to leave early so can’t vouch for the last half hour, but I am sure it was probably reflective of the first hour.

We are lucky to live in Portland, and especially in our slightly funky (meant in the best Portlandia way) neighborhoods that allow/encourage numerous ways to practice non-consumerism.

I’ve only posted once here, but will plan on participating more with some of my ‘5 Frugal Things’.



Carolyn S May 19, 2016 at 6:53 am

I laughed pretty hard about your “wee bit barfy” feeling, because that’s exactly how I feel when I have to do public speaking.

Keep up the great work! I look forward to reading your blog everyday. You provide such great inspiration!


Joyce May 19, 2016 at 9:23 am

Just getting the word out is great. I hope some people that dont know about this heard the message. My children balk at goodwill items but I persist. No new presents for me. If they can’t bring themselves to shop there give me the money and I will. Some younger adults just dont think about it. I talk to my younger coworkers about it and they actually say they never thought about it .


Trish May 19, 2016 at 11:44 am

I think the words “cheap” and “frugal” and even “thrifty” have some valid negative connotations that are the result of people who are best defined as “miserly.” For those who practice extreme frugality, I think becoming ungenerous is an easy and common pitfall.

I know it’s a real struggle sometimes at our house. Dave Ramsey talks about
‘gazelle-like intensity”, and sometimes when we are in that mode working on one of our financial goals, it is easy for use to forget about being charitable hospitable, and generous.

The zero-waste movement says that people and experiencing the glory and wonder of nature are more important than things– and yes, even more important than money. Perhaps that’s why the financial benefits of ZW are seen as a lesser goal. Still important (in my opinion, at least), but not the driving force.


Happy Mum May 23, 2016 at 4:11 am

Trish — I’ve just read your thoughtful comments above — a very helpful, and indeed generous, explanation. Great food for thought. Thank you!


Mrs. Picky Pincher May 19, 2016 at 1:20 pm

Speaking is scary! But on another note, I really like your message. We’re working on only buying used items around the house. The markup and waste from buying new all the time is absolutely insane.


Frugal In The Valley May 19, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Ooh a talk, I would like to have bn one of the audience members…


Karen May 19, 2016 at 2:29 pm

The older I get, the more I do not care what people think about me and what I do. This is one good thing about getting older.

Here is an example. When I go out to eat with other people I always try to remember (the bad side of getting older) to bring a reusable tupperware from home to bring home the leftovers I cannot eat.

I do not care what people think when I whip that tuppeware out. I get different reactions but always take the moment to inform people about the land fill problem and how we can all make a difference. That usually stops a lot of people from commenting.

Also one thing I don’t think I have ever read here in all the years I have been reading you is the tax factor. Yard sales are big in this area–no free piles. When you buy something at a yard sale there is no tax and that makes me so happy.


Barb @ 1SentenceDiary May 19, 2016 at 5:18 pm

Public speaking is good for you! I’m so impressed with the “stretch” goal. Great way to think about it. As for me, I’ve been speaking in front of groups since I was about 15 years old — easy as pie — but the hard thing is striking up conversations at parties with just one or two people I don’t know. I get a “wee bit barfy” every time.


Katy May 19, 2016 at 8:28 pm

I’m the opposite. I’m better one-on-one. Probably from being a nurse, as I didn’t use to be that way.


Carrie May 20, 2016 at 5:43 am

SO glad you stepped out of your comfort zone to do the talk! And thank you for sharing it with us! You made some great points, and getting discussion going was a very wise choice. See…you can do this!! You are always inspiring and motivating to me, and I eagerly check each day for new posts 😉


K D May 20, 2016 at 8:21 am

I would have loved to attend you talk, if I lived on the other side of the country. I love that you went outside your comfort zone to extend your message about non-consumerism. The cause is worth it and your blog is my main source for connecting with my type of people (as far as being a non-consumer). Thank goodness there is so much overlap with being green. I often play the environmental card to explain my actions/thoughts. As Karen said, the older I get the less I care about what other people think about me and what I do.


Vickie May 20, 2016 at 8:26 am

Glad it went well and thanks for sharing your notes. Those are excellent reminders to stay on point in my non-consumer goals! Thanks, Katy!


Chessie May 24, 2016 at 9:59 am

Congrats, Katy! Sounds like a good speech. I hope it gets easier the next time.


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