Tuesday, January 8, 2008

10 Step Progam for Buying Less Stuff

Most who voted in my sidebar poll regarding biggest personal changes in '08 voted for reduction in consumer goods. Not surprisng. We are realizing more and more the impact our consumer culture on the environment. The gals at Organic Picks, Melinda at Elements In Time, Crunchy Chicken, and Caroline at Be The Change have all resolved to buy less stuff in 2008. Chile Chews just launched a new challenge which includes reducing the amount of consumer goods we buy.

After much reading and substantial efforts in reducing the junk I buy during 2007, here is Green Bean's Official (ha ha) 10 Step Program for Buying Less Stuff:

10. Get Inspired: Set aside 20 minutes to watch The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard and de-program the need to consume. Next time you feel the urge to buy new shoes because "fat heels" are in this year, remember where all of our stuff comes from and where it goes. Then check out Simply Green Living and No Impact Man for ideas on how to put The Story of Stuff into practice.

9. Maintain, Maintain, Maintain: Take care of the stuff you already have. If I empty the vacuum filter when it actually needs it or take the car in for its regular tune up, it might run better. In turn, I'll be more satisfied and less tempted to replace it. If I put my tools away before it rains, they won't rust and I won't need new ones. Dusting the coils on the refrigerator saves energy and extends the life of the fridge.

8. Repair what you have: Fixing items seems to be a lost art. Indeed, it often costs more to repair an item than to buy a new one. Sometimes, even replacing a battery is more expensive than the item itself and the product, dead battery and all, finds its way into the landfill. I remember loving a hole in my pants as a girl because it meant that mom would sew some uber-cool rainbow or unicorn patch over it. I recently went looking for a patch for my son's pants and faced a very bleak selection. When was the last time you visited the cobbler (the what?) to get your shoes re-soled? How often a year do you take your dull knives and scissors in to be sharpened? Beth at Fake Plastic Fish recently wrote a great post about fixing instead of tossing. Melanie at Bean Sprouts similarly repaired an item that now runs good as new.

7. Make Do: Next time you break something - even something cheap and plastic and easily replaced by a quick jaunt down Target's aisles - follow Burbanmom's example and make do. Suck it up! Use your laundry basket with the broken handle, ignore the fact that the 3 button on your phone has to be pushed five times before it actually dials, consider your worn sofa "shabby chic" and paint your kitchen cabinets instead of replacing them.

6. Wear It Out: Ignore trends and wear the clothes you have (hey, those 1980's shoulder pads still make your waist look thinner), use the chunky old cell phone, haul around your hefty laptop, drive the older model car, don't get a newer, cooler recliner. The list goes on but we hardly ever wear anything out these days. We tire of it or it seems old and dowdy so we replace it with something shiny and new. Even if we replace things more slowly - a new cell phone every two or three years instead of every one - that is still reducing and means fewer trips to the landfill.

5. Love Thy Neighbor: And borrow from them crazy. Do I really need my own pitch fork for turning compost once a month (yes, I know I should do it more)? Can my neighbor borrow my ladder so they don't need to buy one? The blogger at My Journey to a Simple Life recently shared how her neighborhood works together to save money and reduce consumption by lending. Neighbors don't have what you need? Hit the library, rent tools from Home Depot, or sign up with neighborrow, a nifty site pairing lenders and borrowers in certain cities.

4. Second Chance Love Story: There is nothing sweeter than scoring some second hand stuff for a song. Stalk thrift stores, garage sales, Craigslist, Freecycle, Ebay, dumpsters. Because we live in a throw-away society, there is virtually no need that cannot be met with used goods. Check out Lighter Footstep on the benefits of used stuff.

3. Do Without: Rachel at The Compact opined that not everyone needs a personal espresso maker (gasp!) but can instead walk to the local coffee shop to have their needs met. A Mickey Mouse waffle maker for only $20 online? Maybe I can just make Mickey - or better yet, people shaped - pancakes and the kids will survive. Instead of buying a Kill-A-Watt, I can unplug whatever it is and save even more overall energy.

2. In It For the Long Haul: When you do buy something new, consider long term needs and long term quality. Purchase something that will last; that you can pass down to your children and grandchildren. Check out Casaubon's Book for more thoughts on thinking longevity.

And, the number one way to stop buying stuff . . .

1. Don't Go Target: Or the mall, or WalMart, or whatever store or website flips your switch and turns you into a consumptive zombie. Stop shopping! When you have to buy something, avoid the big box stores with their shiny displays. My personal consumer spending plummeted when I started buying staples at the local drugstore instead of Target. Why? Well, the goods I bought closer to home were a tad more expensive but I wasn't lured into buying all that other gewgaws that Target hawks.


Burbanmom said...

Here here! Great Post! Thanks for the tip -- and I agree with your #1... if you're not there, you can't buy it!!

Chile said...

Great list, Green Bean! Thanks for the mention, too.

Chile said...

Ack. I had more problems with my banner image, Green Bean, and had to redo it. Now it's not showing up on yours because it's a new image source. Here's the total code you need:
<a href="http://chilechews.blogspot.com/2008/01/challenging-you-to-rethink-it.html"><img src="http://bp2.blogger.com/_2H3G4C5T6s0/R4UG9tsBYtI/AAAAAAAAAag/K_GjxJyc8SU/s200/Rethink+it+mini.jpg" /></a>

Chile said...

Oops, cut off:
<a href="http://chilechews.blogspot.com/2008/01/challenging-you-to-rethink-it.html"><img src ="http://bp2.blogger.com/_2H3G4C5T6s0/R4UG9tsBYtI/AAAAAAAAAag/
K_GjxJyc8SU/s200/Rethink+it+mini.jpg" /></a>

CindyW said...

Excellent post! I can't fix anything to save my life, but I can do the "make do" and "do without" part pretty well. My second child spent her first 2 months in a laundry basket and she doesn't seem traumatized by the experience :)

When I browse catalogs (in friends' houses), I am always so amazed how many kitchen/household gadgets companies can push out every year. How about a banana peeler?

I totally agree with you about not visiting big box stores. Most of us mortals are unfortunately attracted to glitzy/new/fancy stuff, consciously or subconsciously. Walking down the aisles of Target, I have to fight off the urge of wanting this and that, even knowing they are really not necessary. So instead of going through these inane conversations with myself, I simply stopped going a year ago. And I haven't felt deprived of anything.

Jennifer said...

GREAT post!

I laughed at your cobbler comment... I have a pair of $120 leather and natural rubber shoes that I bought 6 years ago when I got a job waitressing. I wore them every day for 4 years on cement floors and 8 hours shifts (and on my days off, too, because they were comfortable). After four years, they started looking a wee bit worn... some of the stitching had come loose and the sole was pretty worn. I took them to the cobbler, and for $20 I had new soles glued onto my old ones to bring the height back up to normal, all of the stitching repaired, and the shoes were buffed and restained and looked like new! A year ago, a large crack appeared in the toe, where it bends when you walk. I took them back in, and they did a beautiful job of stitching it closed.. it looks like it was supposed to be there! (they did it on the other shoe, too, to make it look nice.) That was $10, I believe.
I still wear them, though not all the time anymore. I suspect they will last me almost indefinitely, and I sure have no reason to go and buy black leather dress pant shoes while they are still kicking (and even looking professional still!).

Whew! THat was long... the point was that buying good quality products enhances your ability TO repair it and wear it out, and that the cobbler is WONDERFUL! (Even if they did dye my raspberry colored shoes RED the last time). :(

Rejin L said...

Nice list!
I love Freecycle, mostly to give away stuff because I always feel I have too much. I also like PaperbackSwap, though I have been using the library more these days.
Eliminating catalogues is also really helpful: both to save trees and to save yourself from browsing.

Amber said...

Great list. This will definitely help me in my own "Buy Less Stuff" resolution for the new year.


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