One of the things that strikes me about many “alternative” systems is how much they are based on scrounging the leavings of another system — often the primary system that the rebels profess to loathe. While often well-intentioned, these efforts are ultimately futile and counterproductive.
One such movement is the biodiesel fuel effort, which modifies vehicles and processes leftover restaurant fat to fuel them. It's an interesting effort, and those who drive around with POWERED BY BIODIESEL bumperstickers (I live near a famous ag university, and see such things more frequently than some) are to be applauded... but not necessarily admired. After all, there are only so many McDonald's waste fat bins to mine for this fuel, and besides, used fryer oil is recycled and thus not directly a waste commodity in the first place. So biodiesel is an “alternative” that can only function in a limited way, and only as long as the parent system supports it!
Another example has been the private spaceflight industry. I regard the success of nongovernmental spaceflight as nearly on a par of importance with the destruction of consumerism, so it's a topic I've paid attention to over the years. I have been mostly disappointed and in gatherings of fellow spaceheads, I am often the sour wet blanket poking holes in their glossy scenarios. The problem with nearly all private efforts until the most recent few years is that the technology was scavenged from the US and Soviet space efforts — engines, fuel systems, control equipment and sometimes entire rockets were picked up in salvage yards. Great, wonderful, cool and all that... but it's no more a basis for a viable private spaceflight endeavor than trying to start an alternative car manufacturer by pillaging junkyards for used Pinto engines. Not until the recent success of SpaceX's Falcon rocket powered by an engine of SpaceX's own design and construction has private spaceflight had a potentially sustainable future.
In rummaging the web for fellow travelers to the Renegade movement, I've uncovered quite a few sites and small groups waving the anti-consumerist banner, but doing so over a patchwork of ideas and praxis that don't represent any real, sustainable whole. Some “anticonsumerism” sites miss the point by a wide margin, thinking they are serving that goal by promoting artful and clever ways to get discounts and use coupons. While the Renegade movement is ultimately about reducing individual and family spending, that reduction is a result of learning not to buy entire classes of crap, not by finding ways to save money buying crap!
Then there are the sites that put even more mislabeled efforts under the banner. One example, which I'll refrain from naming, is a general anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalism rant info site that uses “anticonsumerism” as a hook on which to hang a variety of activities. A number of these activities are openly illegal (see the pages on why it's okay to steal from corporations, for example) but the vast amount are simply scrounging — how to get things without paying for them by the equivalents of dumpster-diving. Were this a site dedicated to survival on minimal income, it would be (mostly) laudable... but nothing in it is sustainable as an alternative social, economic or consumer system. In the end, it has nothing to do with anticonsumerism except that the proprietors have chosen to interpret “consumerism” as buying life's necessities, and it does nothing “anticonsumerist” except tell people how to get/do things for free by scavenging them from the current system.
“But Jake,” I am importuned, “isn't any effort that bypasses consumer spending and reduces waste a good thing?” Sure it is. You'll never hear me decry alternative energy or recycle-reuse-repurpose efforts. They are, however, patchwork and often parasitical, requiring a host-body system to sustain them. They are nearly impossible to make beneficial beyond an individual or small-group level, and rarely on an indefinite basis. They are thus not solutions in any long-term sense, and I will cry bogus on anyone who tries to promote them as such.
I am leery of many so-called alternative systems - operating systems, economic systems, dietary systems - because to be successful any system needs to be sustainable. Systems which feed off of a parent system and cannot ever replace that parent system in their own right are not sustainable and thus not worthy of consideration by anyone seeking real change. If you drive a car for two years on scavenged biofuel, or launch two test rockets using old NASA engines, or put together a groovy bookcase from dumpster discards, you're individually ahead of the game... but are nowhere towards contributing to or fostering a real alternative for others, or for the long term.
Scrounging, scavenging and improvising can all be good, useful things. But they aren't solutions. Likewise, promoting free-living and money-saving techniques can be useful to many. But they aren't anti-consumerism. The Renegade movement is about real change — changing the mindset and habit of a large enough population that the consumerism spiral collapses of its own accord, leaving behind real economic security and freedom.