Saturday, April 5, 2008

Stop Shopping Recycled

In honor of Crunchy Chicken's Buy Nothing Challenge, which I joined, I'm being truly green and recycling my previously-posted 10 Step Program for Buying Less Stuff. Happy non-consuming to you all.

10. Get Inspired: Set aside 20 minutes to watch The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard and de-program from 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 have. If I empty the vacuum filter when it 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 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 number 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 replacing things more slowly - a new cell phone every two or three years instead of every one - is 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 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 without used goods. Check out Lighter Footstep on the benefits of used stuff.

3. Do Without: 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 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. 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.

And there you have it. Ten ways to kick some non-consumption booty in Crunchy Chicken's Buy Nothing Challenge this month.


Chile said...

Great list!

N. & J. said...

Number 1 is the one that has really made the different. When we just avoid the stores (except the grocery store) and the online shopping sights we aren't tempted and it slowly became easier to avoid them altogether.

Raw Food Diva said...

gosh girl! thanks for the heads up on the story of stuff.
it needs to be seen, I will pass it around.

Green Bean said...

Thanks Chile.

N&J: I feel the same way. If you aren't faced with the stuff, you don't want it and after a while you don't even think about going shopping or wanting X Y or Z.

RFD: It is an eye opener, isn't it!

Jennifer said...

Thanks for the repost of this! It's such an important list to review every once in a while.

I was surprised to see how many changes I had subconciously made from reading this list teh first time... I'm taking much more time in repair now! In fact, I'm off to sand and repaint our wheelbarrow... even though my husband said "why does a wheelbarrow need to hold water?"

Green Bean said...

You go, Jennifer! I'm with you. Writing down that list the first time causes me to repair things much more often. I just hot glue gunned some broken sunglasses back together. ;-) Go enjoy painting your wheelbarrow.

kale for sale said...

I have to second chile's comment - Great list!

I laughed at where you went with love thy neighbor. We share our condo backyard with the neighbors which definately has some big challenges at times but we have one set of backyard tools, half the work and the ladybugs they released last week made thier home as happily on my roses as they did on hers.

Alison said...

This is such an important list. Man, oh man, it is so important.

I've always been a huge believer in thrift shops, and I'm doing so much better about doing without. I was just at the home of a loved one, and she had been to TJ Maxx and filled SO MANY bags - an entire trunkful - with cheap stuff for the girls - clothes that looked like Britney Spears that might wear them, cheap plastic toys, etc. Her rationale was that "it was cheap, so it wouldn't matter if the kids don't need it or like it."


How 'bout we save on the cheap stuff, and instead give the girls a decent planet where they can grow up? (no?)

All that said, I too have to avoid the stores, because when I am honest, I must admit that I'm weak.

Green Bean said...

Alison: your comment made me laugh. Are we perhaps related to the same person? I hear that so often - "it was cheap, if they don't like it throw it away!" We can't really throw away this planet though, can we? So we'd better take care of what we've got.


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