Part 1 of my Conscious Consumption Series talked about taking better care of your stuff so it lasts longer. Which is all well and good, until you need something new, or something breaks beyond repair. With the increasing amount of stuff we’re told we need, stuff being designed to fail sooner, technology becoming obsolete faster than ever, and online shopping with same day delivery, it’s easy to get caught up in shopping sprees and overbuying. The good news is, it’s getting easier to be a conscious consumer. Before rushing out to the mall or big box stores, try these first. You’ll probably find yourself with more time on your hands and money in the bank.
Borrowing isn’t just for books any more. You can sign up with organizations to borrow stuff like bikes, cars, and tools. This is a great option for things you need infrequently. Let somebody else take care of the maintenance (and in the case of car share programs, insurance), and save on storage space.
You’re no longer limited to rummaging through racks at Goodwill or Salvation Army (though that can be fun too…). Consignment and thrift clothing shops are becoming increasingly common, often with carefully curated collections. And thanks to websites like craigslist and Kijiji, you can find everything from kid’s gear to furniture to electronics to housewares to moving boxes (allow some extra time to scan through listings to make sure the items are in good shape and the seller is reputable).
Buying inexpensive stuff is like leasing – you don’t need as much up front capital, but you end up paying more over the long run. Yes, some larger ticket items are hard to swallow. But there are ways to budget for more expensive, higher quality items that last longer, such as buying less in the first place, reducing your energy bills, and watching for sales (end-of-season is a great time if you can plan ahead).
Buying locally made goods is not only better for the planet (the stuff didn’t have to fly halfway across the world), but also supports the local economy.
Look for third party certifications on products to help avoid greenwashing. Start by choosing one or two causes you’re passionate about (i.e. organic, recycled content, compostable, etc…) to help you avoid burnout. You can build on your awareness as you go – before you know it, label reading becomes second nature.
How do you buy better?