The First Whole Earth Catalogue
do your unshopping here!
“.... the first step towards building an alternative world has to be a refusal of the world-picture implanted in our minds and all the false promises used everywhere to justify and idealise the delinquent and insatiable need to sell” (John Berger The Shape of a Pocket)
Here is an ANTI-SHOPPING LIST of just some of the items we need like a hole in the head.

Fabric Conditioner

This expensive plastic-bottled over-transported liquid wears out textiles at least three times and up to ten times faster than would otherwise be the case, depending on the material. This necessitates replacing garments and household linen more often, therefore wasting not only time and money but other resources including the terrible hidden costs of exploited labour (other people’s precious time) and transport (acute atmospheric pollution and wars over hydrocarbons).
Fabric conditioner softens clothes, bed linen and towels thus reducing their ratio of abrasion to that of your skin. This slows down the wearing away of the epidermis which is a natural cleaning and healing process supported by micro-organisms which have evolved alongside clothes-wearing humanity. As a result people feel the need to purchase“exfoliant” products to scrub away the dead epidermis (fifty years ago we would have luxuriated in rubbing down with a clean towel after the weekly bath )
Air Freshener

When air fresheners were supplied in ozone-depleting spray-cans most environmentally responsible people gave up buying them altogether. This enabled us to discover that the experience gained by the use of the nose in combination with the brain to track down and eliminate bad smells is a far more valuable resource than a can of something that makes everything smell the same. This not only makes domestic fragrance a delightful art (“wood smoke and apples with a good sprinkling of dried Welsh mud”) but eliminates health hazards (a dead vole behind the harmonium).

The use of fabric deodorisers is also unnecessary, more useful is accumulated experience. In the absence of these products people soon recover the domestic common sense of their ancestors : eg milk, faeces, and secretions involving civet (tomcat, fox, jacket armpits) need immediate and careful attention; but milkless tea, alcohol etc only need to be dried up to prevent the formation of moulds.

Years ago carpets, curtains and upholstery lasted at least a whole generation, often several, this is because the cleaners (some indentured labour or wage slaves, others mere housewives) were conservators treating the products of other people’s labour with the respect they deserved.

Most people would reconsider the necessity of deodorants if research were published to “prove” that , as many suspect, underarm roll-ons are carcinogenic. It is undoubtedly the case that the body produces more sweat and pheromones as a response to the use of the roll-on, thus perpetuating a vicious cycle of use and necessity.

A good wash with a flannel and, if desired, a single spot of perfume oil on the outside of the first layer of clothing – not directly on the skin - is quite sufficient. After a year without using deodorant most people notice a marked decline in the strength of their natural odour. The little vial of perfume oil will last two or three years, think how many roll-on applicators would have been purchased and binned in that same time.
Bottled water

Here is a cautionary story: In Britain the Montgomeryshire Water Company is owned by the Delve family who started Harry Tuffins cash-and-carry two generations ago bringing American style shopping to the UK.. As grocers they put dozens of small village shops in Mid Wales and Shropshire out of business, as well as introducing the culture of long-distance shopping which has doubled the number of cars on the road. (Now Tuffins are bleating of unfair competition from Tesco who are doing the same thing on a global scale.) When it was clear that their near-monopoly of essentials was threatened by the fact that shoppers, having acquired the taste for driving out to a shopping “centre” could just as easily go somewhere more glamorous, the Delves came up with an even more outrageous scam: they started pumping the water up, putting it in plastic bottles and selling it back not only to the local people who used to be able to draw it from their wells (before Tuffins pumped them dry) but half way across the world in Dubai.

This same thing is happening all over the world. If you don’t live in a war-torn country like Iraq you may well have the enormous luxury of piped potable water in your own home, there is nothing to stop you putting some in a bottle!

Soft drinks Yuck! have you looked at the label?
Kitchen towels

Can you remember what we used to do before we started mopping things up with clean paper produced specifically for the purpose and then throwing it in the “bin” to end up in land-fill?

This product was originally a cheap substitute for butter. Now modern dairy farming methods exploit the animals as well as their environment to bring down the price of butter which is overproduced. The modern spreads masquerade not as a cheaper but as a healthier food than butter but they are created by hydrogenation of cheap Omega 6 rich oils which displace essential Omega 3 in the metabolism as well as creating carcinogens in the process of digestion.

It is not advisable to use newspaper as an arse-wipe, the modern inks are dangerous to delicate tissues. The same goes for wrapping chips. Newspapers can be used as temporary insulation by crumpling separate sheets and infilling between membranes, however this creates a bad fire hazard and a magnet for rodents. This kind of insulation would need removing each spring and replacing each autumn.
Though the move away from broadsheet format has reduced their utility a bit, newspapers can still be useful for mopping spillage, or laid out to protect flooring .Then they can be placed on the compost (properly layered) or thoroughly dried and used for kindling the fire.
None of this seems a good enough reason to purchase them in the first place! Though gathering and reusing those which other people have discarded makes a lot of sense. By the way, you won’t gain anything by reading them that you would not have got from other media.

The disposable nappy (diaper) is one of the most spectacular examples of a product which has nothing good about it, costs a huge proportion of the income of poorer people, creates immense pollution in the manufacture, transport and disposal, creates more work than it saves, is extremely bad for babies, and yet is now considered an essential prerequisite for civilised family life.
In traditional cultures, and in Europe and America until the mid-20thC,babies were “clean” by six months at the very latest, and “dry” by ten months. The spectacle of the bandy-legged two-year-old waddling around with a stinking bag of its own excrement tied around its genitals is a product both of consumerist propaganda and of wicked governments who promote policies in which both parents are required to go to work to pay for the child minder, as well as the disposable nappies and the car that gets the nappies back from the supermarket. Nobody has the few weeks needed to assist their babies to achieve the dignity of control.

The profligate use of insecticides , like that of antibiotics, only creates resistance in the organisms we are vainly trying to “eradicate” , many of these substances pollute not only the environment in which they are applied and the one where they are manufactured but the whole planet. For alternative ways of dealing with nuisance insects see the section on insect control below.
Other products we need like a hole in the head are tumble dryers, garden hot-tubs, patio heaters, mobile phones, violent videogames, toy guns, suvs, designer label clothes, phony designer label clothes made by exploited labour, and so on ....


The First Whole Earth Catalogue is an internet common resource which is being developed at the moment and will be accessible from this site as well as others.

Your contributions are eagerly anticipated, please send them to .
Here are as few for starters:-
Wood preservation

Commercial wood preservers purport to protect against two enemies of structural timbers and furniture: wood boring insects and fungus. Of course humans have used wood to make their houses and furniture for thousands of years but the accumulated knowledge of generations of careful housekeepers is threatened with extinction as the multinational companies combine with crazy regulations (eg EEC rules) to point people towards commercially available potions. These potions contain Lindane (which is not only carcinogenic but very likely mutagenic ) in a spirit based medium. The Lindane should be avoided like the plague and spirit based treatments appear to give a good initial result but within five to ten years speed the disintegration of the timber by dissolving the natural resins in the wood.

It is important to understand that the fungus and wood boring insects act in symbiosis with each other, the insects cannot get into wood that is in good condition and has a good surface seal. Note also that the heartwood of oak timbers cannot be attacked by “woodworm” so though the outer surface may be riddled with holes (unless you have deathwatch beetle which is extremely unlikely to say the least) the timbers should be savable if they are more than two hundred years old, this is because builders always used more than a 100% safety margin to ensure buildings lasted for many generations. Pine is more difficult and needs a penetrating treatment with borax as described below.

For all timbers the first step is always to eliminate damp. Then remove only the decayed timber that can literally be scraped off with an ordinary kitchen spoon – don’t use a sharp knife. Next apply a saturated solution of Borax as hot as you can handle (this can be applied with a brush, rag or spray bottle). Allow to dry. Repeat at weekly intervals two or three times. Then apply linseed oil . For very fragile timbers start with raw linseed, apply again a month later and then yearly until you are satisfied the danger is over when you can apply boiled linseed to give a hard polished outside. If you suspect fungal problems (dry rot, wet rot ) add a teaspoon of copper sulphate crystals to each pint of borax solution. Where there is evidence of wood boring insects addition of boiled tobacco or chrysanthemum flowers to the initial borax solution is very effective.

Further information on care of timber in ancient buildings from and or email with your questions.
Insect Control

Mosquitoes, wasps, fleas, lice, flies, carpet beetles, ants and other insects may pose a genuine health hazard and do need to be removed from the living space, whether it is a house, flat, tent, wagon, bender or dugout. Insecticides are very, very rarely necessary and should always be considered as very much a last resort. Whatever the infestation the secret is always to study the life cycle of the organism and work out the most effective stage for intervention and further prevention. Mosquitoes can be deterred with certain incenses, absolutely excluded with nets and prevented from biting your own skin by the topical application of aloe vera gel. Queen wasps should be squashed when they come in at the end of the autumn (they are slow and easy to outwit) during their active season the secret is to avoid attracting them by clearing up sugary and fruity deposits immediately, and burying deep in the compost, or placing in a sealed container for later disposal.

Fleas deposit their eggs on hard surfaces, safe fumigating smoke can be produced with easily available ingredients (email for advice). Lice come in two types: head lice are removable with Neme oil and a nit-comb, body lice can live for up to two years off the body without feeding so suspected items (eg clothes, bedding etc) that cannot be washed in very hot water should be sealed in plastic and quarantined – don’t just throw them away and export the problem somewhere else! Flies can be swatted when landed, or sprayed with soapy water in an empty commercial spray bottle when flying around indoors – they fall to the ground and can then be stamped on – but usually it’s easier just to open a door or window and let them out! Ants and carpet beetles can simply be sucked up with a vacuum cleaner and the contents transferred to a sealed bag for later disposal (incineration or compost).

Moths, beetles, lacewings, bees, ladybirds, maybugs and other insects that come inside are no problem and should simply be gently removed and taken outside if their company is not welcomed. Spiders should always be welcomed because they do a grand job of keeping nuisance insects at bay.

Knowledge rather than chemicals is always the best weapon against pests, study the lifecycle: there is plenty of information in the local library or on the internet.
Skin care

Not only do commercial products contain unacceptable fragrances and preservatives which have usually been tested on animals but many products employ thallates as plasticisers which (apart from being deadly for the planet) may give an immediate appearance of reducing wrinkling but have the long term effect of speeding ageing of the skin. Exfoliants also speed the deterioration of the skin in the long run. The addition of Vitamin A (in dilute effect of retinol) and E is a con, you would do better to include these in a balanced diet, though an occasional face mask of vitamin E using overripe avocado pulp might make you feel better.

Basics for skin care are a moisturiser (best is cocoa butter ) an astringent (best is Witch Hazel - you can make it more luxurious by pushing fresh rose petals in the bottle) and a rescue formula (aloe vera gel – you can grow your own Barbados aloes in a pot).
If you wish to enhance pigmentation on pale skin, the green outer fruit of walnut can be rubbed on after moisturising well.
Hair care
When you wash your hair with detergent shampoo, and particularly when you obey the instruction on the bottle to “rinse and repeat”, you remove the natural oils produced from the scalp. This causes the hair to become over-oily and produces that sebaceous smell we associate with dirty hair. If you gradually increase the time between washings until you are washing the hair only once every six or eight weeks you will soon notice an improvement in the condition of the hair as well as a decrease in the smell. The secret is to wash everything that contacts the hair (comb, brush, hat scarf, pillow slip) at least once a week but to wash the hair as rarely as you can, always use a pristine clean towel to dry it, never share hats, combs etc.
Foot care

To prevent and treat bacterial foot problems prepare a foot powder using half a container of unperfumed baby talc to three dozen crushed aspirin tablets, put it back in the shaky container.