Day 24: Buy less, share more
Today’s action: Embracing the abundance around us
Today’s action is to find ways to buy less and share more. This isn’t about depriving yourself! It’s about leaning into the abundance that already exists and making room for what matters.
Take a few minutes today to think about how you’ll do this. If you’re not sure, here are some ideas to get you started:
Consider this hierarchy when you need or really want something: Borrow (or ask for) >> Rent >> Buy secondhand >> Buy ethical/durable new.
Here are a few strategies for borrowing or asking for what you need/want:
Ask a friend or neighbor to borrow it.
Use the Buy Nothing app, which supports hyperlocal gift economies. (Another option is Olio, which has a greater focus on food sharing.)
Check your local library to see what’s on offer (some lend tools or even toys!). Some communities also have tool libraries.
If you can’t find a way to borrow or rent, here are tips for when you’re feeling the urge to buy something:
Embrace the Swedish concept of lagom. Lagom is the idea that a sufficient amount–not too much and not too little–is “an amount so perfect that it creates a sense of harmony and serenity.”
Set the bar high for buying something. For example, you can try the 30 wears rule, and only buy clothes that you’ll wear at least 30 times.
Help yourself avoid impulse purchases. Use the 30x30 rule: if a non-urgent item costs more than $30, then write it down on a wish list and wait 30 days. You might not want it by then.
Try a no buy/low buy challenge. If you’re more motivated by challenges, try giving yourself a “no buy” day, week, month, or even year (!) to help you start breaking your shopping habits. Write up whatever rules you need, pick a start date, and if you need accountability, tell some friends.
Buy less, but better. For the times when you’re still going to buy something, there are ways to buy better. Buy secondhand, buy ethical/sustainable, and/or buy products meant to last.
Need more guidance? We’ve got even more tips in the “looking for more” section below.
Why this action? Overconsumption is a significant driver of the climate crisis. Turns out that producing and transporting the stuff we buy requires lots of resources and emits lots of greenhouse gasses. Our approach to buying and tossing is also literally trashing the planet (need proof? Look at these photos of discarded clothes in Chile and Ghana). Oh, also: the supply-chain crisis that everyone was talking about last year? Yup, there were disruptions, but we also imported way more goods in 2021 than in 2019; Americans are just buying a crazy amount of stuff, and we need to cool it to cool the planet. (And transporting those goods is one reason why US emissions surged in 2021.)
Why can’t we all just buy eco-friendly stuff and call it a day? Research shows that this isn’t enough; for safer environmental conditions, we actually need to consume less. It can be hard to break our deeply ingrained consumer habits, but this is another win-win-win action! Really! Buying less helps with the climate crisis, it saves us money, and it improves our well-being; research shows that people who reduce their consumption are happier than people who focus just on “green buying.” Woohoo!
Looking for more? Read on for more info, tips, and related actions, including ditching fast fashion and supporting right-to-repair laws.
Other strategies to help you buy less:
Ask yourself some questions before you buy. You could keep it simple by just asking yourself “Do I need this?” If the answer is no, don’t buy it. If that’s not where you’re going to draw the line (no judgment! Kaitlin struggles with this!), then come up with other questions that will help you assess potential purchases more critically. Some suggestions: “If nobody was allowed to see it but me, would I still buy it?” “Do I already own something like this?” “Do I love this?” "Will I use this enough to justify the resources that went into it?"
Learn what adds value to your life. Try this exercise from the Minimalists: write down your 10 most expensive material purchases from the last decade (e.g., car, house, jewelry, etc.). Then write down the 10 things that have added the most value to your life (e.g., experiences like watching a sunset with a loved one, watching your kids play sports, etc.). Compare your two lists – how much overlap is there? Keep this in mind when you’re craving a purchase.
Cut out media that makes you want more. Are there certain things that trigger your desire to buy (e.g., social media, style blogs, magazines)? Try removing them from your life for a while. Also helpful: unsubscribing from marketing emails and adding an ad blocker to your phone and computer.
Practice the 5Rs and REFUSE what you don’t need. This isn’t necessarily about not buying; it’s also about saying no to things you’re offered that you don’t want or need – freebies, swag, all the random plastic stuff that seems to make its way into your house even though you don’t want it. Saying no helps reduce demand for that kind of stuff.
Sharing more works both ways – taking what you need, but also offering up what you have. For things you want to keep but that you’re also willing to share: offer them proactively to your friends or neighbors who might want to borrow them, so they don't feel too shy to ask. If you have items in good shape that you no longer want, then gift them, donate them to a local charity whose mission you support, or sell them (which sometimes makes it more likely that your stuff ends up with someone who values it, instead of in a garbage heap across the ocean).
Learn and reflect:
Read The Day the World Stops Shopping, by J.B. MacKinnon, an interesting thought experiment predicated on the following: “We can’t stop shopping. And yet we must. This is the consumer dilemma.”
Want some buy nothing inspiration? Read The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan.
Our current consumption habits are based on linear extractive practices: extract resources, use them, throw them out. (And sometimes, our consumption is closer to resembling this Onion article.) This is bad for the planet, but it doesn’t have to be this way! Circular economies offer a different approach.
Governments and economists often focus on economic growth and GDP as the most important measurements. That’s old school, and gives us the wrong goals in our unprecedented times. Check out these videos to learn about doughnut economics and how to “think like a 21st century economist.”
The Story of Stuff is a 20-min video that explains the problems with our production and consumption patterns. Since coming out in 2007, it’s spawned an entire movement, and a slew of additional videos. Check them out and find suggested actions.
Fashion, and particularly fast fashion, is responsible for a crazy amount of our global emissions, as well as for trash crises around the world. To learn more, watch The True Cost or read this Fast Company article. Want to ditch it? Try shopping secondhand (and channel your inner tv fashionista!) and/or supporting slow fashion. But remember, the most sustainable clothing option is the one that’s already in your closet! (So don't just clear out all your current fast fashion clothing now.) If you’re worried that your new efforts will cramp your style, you might be interested in trying the Project 333 challenge, in reading The Curated Closet, or in checking out mindful style blogger Alyssa Beltempo's videos focused on making great outfits with clothes you already own.
Many people practicing voluntary simplicity say it makes them happier, less stressed, and healthier. Check out one of our favorite voluntary simplicity practitioners, Courtney Carver, at Be More With Less, or read her book, Soulful Simplicity.
If you have young kids, you know their stuff (and schedules) seem to multiply at a shocking rate. Kaitlin's favorite parenting book of all time is Simplicity Parenting (and she's going to go re-read it now!).
Re-think gifts. Tree planting, anyone? Or make re-gifting cool.
Keep your stuff longer: mend or repair instead of tossing something. You can learn to do this yourself (there are lots of videos & blogs online to walk you through all sorts of repairing efforts), find a repair cafe, or take it to a professional (cobbler, tailor, etc).
Support right-to-repair laws by writing your state legislators via this website. Companies use planned obsolescence to get us to buy more stuff, and they make it difficult to repair their products so that we just toss them and buy new ones. Right-to-repair legislation helps to ensure that consumers and small businesses have access to the info and parts they need to repair products instead of trashing them.