Taking one look in your trashcan it’s easy to see that we need to be responsible with the disposal of our waste. That’s precisely why I’ve been so hyper focused on this aspect of our waste. But there is an important step that comes before any of this: the purchase.
There is a very simple solution for all of us to reduce our waste dramatically, which is to just buy less stuff. Our consistent need to buy new things, particularly of the cheap throwaway variety, is horrible financially and environmentally. Don’t get me wrong; I can be guilty of it too, but I am consistently trying to be conscientious with the purchases I make.
One of the easiest places to start is: If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. This requires separating our wants from our needs. Do you really NEED that new pair of shoes or do you just WANT them? Do you really NEED all those gadgets and knickknacks or did you just WANT them?
Sometimes in an effort to make our life convenient and simpler, we actually make things more complicated. I have a friend that has every kitchen gadget imaginable. They have things like avocado scoops and egg cutters. We really don’t NEED these things. In fact, I would imagine that they actually only make our lives more complicated. We could just as easily get by using a knife and spoon to remove the avocado peel. Oftentimes they don’t even remember these specialty devices, so it just creates extra clutter in the house. By keeping it simple it results in less things to keep organized and it forces us to think about what we really use.
I would argue that clothes and fashion are the exact same way (that might just be because I’m uncultured). A lot of people feel the need to have the next season’s most up to date fashion trends. The question is what happens to most of this in a few months when it is no longer “trendy?” I would guess that it either ends up in the trash, donated, or resold.
Some estimates of the fashion industry believe it makes up 10% of carbon emissions and nearly 20% of wastewater. So this is an easy place for us to direct our attention when we are making purchase decisions.
I feel like companies like Patagonia have done an excellent job taking this into consideration from a holistic perspective. Not only do they advertise in educational formats, but they also seem to back up what they say. One of the things that I appreciate that they do is making robust clothing that lasts, a lot of which is covered by a lifetime warranty. So once you buy one of their products you know you will get a lot of life out of it. This is good for both the environment and your wallet in the long run.
If you don’t have a big enough budget to afford premium clothing, you can always take a play out of Macklemore’s playbook and go to a thrift shop. This is another way to take an environmental approach by utilizing clothing that will otherwise be thrown away. Plus you can get it for much cheaper. Once again I’m probably not the one you want to turn to for fashion advice but I love several of my thrift shop finds.
Regardless of what you are buying, remember to ask yourself: Do I NEED this? We all buy things sometimes that we might not need, but simply try to keep that to a minimum. If you decide to buy something be sure that you get the most life out of it. If that means patching a hole or replacing a button, it’s worth it. Is there anything in your life that you’ve realized you can live without? Let me know in the comments. We can all learn from each other.