There are many areas where consumption can be reduced. Reducing the number of groceries purchased each week will help cut down on food waste and help you save money. According to a recent article by Oliver Milman for The Guardian, “Americans waste about a pound of food per person each day” (Milman, 2018). There are many times we overbuy because we are not certain what we will eat for the week or walk into the grocery store hangry, yes I said hangry. Also, don’t shy away from “ugly food.” It is easy to pick over all of the fruits and vegetables to find the perfect one, but in reality what is going to look like once it is prepared and cooked?
I have seen grocery store employees pick through and throw unpurchased produce due to imperfection or blemish. Show some love to the imperfections! Curbing the number of items we buy in general is another way to reduce consumption. My mother taught me at a young age to ask myself two simple questions, “Do you need it?” and “Do you want to spend your money on it.” Chances are the answer to both questions is no. But if you answered yes, then maybe check into buying a used version or repurposing an item to fit your need. Think about how much of your time and effort it took to earn that money and then ask yourself if what you want to buy is worth it. How many of us are caught in the consumerism cycle? Seeing something we want and mistaking it for a need? Never stopping to ask ourselves how much or will it bring value to our life. I talk about myself being deeply embedded in consumerism and overconsumption. I have way too many belongings. I don’t use most of them, be it a book, an electronic device, a kitchen tool or gadget, clothes, or even personal care products. I used to buy just because I have a deep seeded need for it and thought it fulfilled a part of me. But I have come to find out that I can live with so much less and be just as happy, if not happier.
The lifespans of many products, electronic devices, toys, cell phones, furniture, or clothing, generally outlive our need, use, and desire for them leading us to replace them with a bright and shiny new version. What happens to the old product? It usually ends up in the trash, a landfill, or buried in the back of the closet. You can consider donating the items or having a yard sale and letting them become treasures for another person. Which is also an excellent way for you to find new to you things that you can continue to reuse, so find the local thrift stores or check out the yard sales in your area. Or, instead of trying to keep up with all of the latest trends, keep reusing the products for their entire lifespan. Dumped cell phones are causing havoc on the environment. There is constant mining of chemicals, to build the batteries and inside workings of cell phones, that is creating chemical dust clouds over villages. Many workers are becoming ill while making and assembling the phones due to the number of chemicals they have to touch. Plus, these electronic devices are not recyclable (Wears, n.d.). With that in mind, how many new cell phones have you purchased, leased, or traded-in in the past five years? Are you willing to keep the one you have until it doesn’t work any longer?
This point also goes back to reducing.
Recycling can sometimes be tricky. Not knowing what can be recycled in your area is frustrating and can lead to just throwing everything in the garbage instead. Check with your local waste management company or even with your landlord to learn what can be recycled in your area. Also, don’t be opposed to taking it to a transfer station. I used to live in an apartment complex in Salem, MA that didn’t recycle. I found a bin to store the recycling and then headed over to the local transfer station about once a month where I could recycle everything for free. I have been able to find a similar facility in every city and state that I have lived in since then. You can also locate facilities where some electronics and batteries can be recycled instead of ending up creating toxic landfills and seeping into our waterways ("E-waste Is the Toxic," n.d.).
Going past reducing, reusing, and recycling, can those once loved products be repaired? I was lucky growing up, I could take almost anything that I accidentally broke as a kid, and one of my grandparents or parents were able to fix it. In today’s world, many of us are spoiled with the option of just buying something to replace our broken item. However, you will be surprised with how many things ethically-sourced adhesive can fix! Just the other day, I was able to fix a broken pair of hair cutting scissors. I have been cutting my husband’s hair for about five years now (I still can’t believe he was brave enough to let me cut it!), and the handle broke off of the scissors a few weeks ago. I was able to apply adhesive to the handle and reattach it.
I saved an item from going into the trash, and I save they money I would have spent on a new pair. It can sometimes be difficult finding ethically-sourced and made products. Be on the lookout for products that were made without the use of or tested on animals. More to come in later posts about this!
Repurposing an item is something I love to do! I can get my creative ideas flowing! I have been thinking about turning an old pair of my husband’s running shoes into a small flower planter. I know it sounds odd, but they would have a meaning behind them. He has run many marathons in those shoes and it would serves as a reminder of his accomplishments each time he looked at them. I still haven’t decided if the stinky shoe smell will help or hinder the flowers though! Old t-shirts can become sentimental blankets or bags, or even just a rag to help you clean the kitchen. Look around your home to see what you can repurpose and give new life. If a cat can create a bed and play zone from a single cardboard box, then what can you create?
Refusing is as simple as saying no. Saying no to free goodie bags or brochures at expos or conferences, bringing your own toiletries to hotels so you don’t have to use the small plastic bottles that will end up in the trash, or refusing the plastic silverware with your take order. There are many times we can say no and will not be any worse off for it. What are some other areas you can refuse something?