Alternatives to our default buying patterns

Money

I remember one day I bought a wire fruits and vegetables basket for my kitchen and while I was organising some kiwis I noticed all the little particles that were falling under the basket which I had just cleaned some minutes earlier.

My first thought was: “Gosh! I need to buy something to cover the bottom of this basket asap!” and then I started thinking about all the type of products I could buy and places where I could find them. Two minutes later my awareness kicked in and I realised I didn’t have to buy anything. I ran to the bedroom where I had an old shirt from my husband, I cut it to size and voilà, 10 minutes later I was covering the basket with that fabric.

That day I wondered how many times in the past, my default “I need to buy” thought had led me to buy things that I don’t really need or I could have solved using things I already own. Unfortunately we live in a environment where we hear this message all the time: we have to buy!!! It is on TV, radio, internet, billboards. And even when we are not aware of it, our unconscious mind is listening and in autopilot mode we go and of course buy.

Today’s post is about rethinking our shopping habits, about being more creative and sometimes find alternatives so that we don’t spend our money in things we don’t need and hurt the environment in the process.

Be resourceful

As the example at the beginning of the post, in many cases we can solve that “need” by simply reusing stuff we already own. This might sound extremely obvious to you, even silly, but the reality is we tend to miss it all the time, because again by default we go and buy. I have been there many times!

Our brain likes to be challenged: re-purposing objects around the house, combining and reusing stuff, it is all about creativity and and thinking outside the box. Finding other ways to solve everyday problems with things we already have.

I have to admit that as a “default behaviour” I have had my entire life, it hasn’t been that easy to change the pattern and sometimes I still fall into the trap. It takes effort to change that habit and over time we can all swap the “I need to buy” for “Can I make it with something I already own?”. In many instances the answer is: Yes!

Repair it!

Many of you know I come from South America and while growing up there my parents used to repair all type of objects around the house. “The blender stopped working. Let’s take it to the repair shop” my mum used to say. It was quite common: TVs, Computers, Clothes, Hair dryers, you name it! Of course it was way cheaper to repair these products than buying them new.

I kept that mindset as an adult living there, however when I came to Australia I realised that this behaviour is quite uncommon here. Most people throw away stuff when they stop working and buy them new. At the beginning I couldn’t understand why, but quickly I learnt that here it is usually cheaper to buy new than repair stuff. The cost of labour is quite high, so driven by prices the “repair” mindset is almost non-existent.

I still find that quite sad, because it is wasteful. These products take a lot of resources to be made and usually only one small part/component is broken and it can be easily fixed/replaced.

Now, even when buying new it is the norm in many countries like Australia, it doesn’t mean that there are not other options.

Repair Cafes

Repair cafes are places where you can take any broken item you have at home to fix it. You’ll find tools and volunteers to help you repair them. This help is free of change but they receive donations.

I love this concept because you are giving these items another chance, you are meeting people in your community and also helping the environment by reducing the demand on new stuff and sending less trash to landfill.

Visit RepairCafe.org and check what repair cafes are available in your country, they have 1554 cafes around the world to this date.

Manufacturer

If you don’t have a repair cafe nearby get in touch with the manufacturer, sometimes depending on the product they offer repair options. Give that option a go before buying it new.

Can I borrow it?

Sometimes trying to be resourceful has its limits and we might find out that we still need a particular product, but do we really need to own it? For instance, how many times a year do you use a drill around the house? if you are like most people maybe a couple.

In those instances it is not worth it to buy these items, a better and cheaper option would be to borrow them from family, friends or neighbours. You bring it home for a couple of days, return it and express your gratitude!

In case you can’t find what you need, these days you can also rent stuff which is another alternative to buying products we’ll hardly use.

I don’t know if you have heard the term “Sharing Economy” but these days thanks to the Internet there are many ways to share access to goods and services and even if it is for profit, the fact is these options reduce environmental impacts.

Buy Nothing Project

Buy Nothing Project offers you the platform to connect with people in your neighbourhood to share, loan or give away products and services.

They have groups all over the world and they use Facebook to connect people in the same suburb. I love this project, especially because their foundation is: local community. It is a great way to meet people near you, help each other, help the environment and save money!

Please visit BuyNothingProject.org  and check if there are groups in your suburb, if not maybe you can create one. They have all the details in their website.

Buy second-hand

When we fall into the “I need to buy” default mindset, we immediately think about brands, shopping centres, companies and in general places where we can buy those products, new of course. This approach increases the demand on more resources which are needed to manufacture those products and creates more pollution and CO2 emissions.

On  the contrary, second-hand objects were already manufactured, they are free of packaging (think plastic and packing foam for example), they retain their functionality and they are cheaper!  Isn’t this a great alternative after all?  I have bought clothes, kitchen gadgets, accessories, books, furniture, electronic gadgets, small appliances and many more.

Pre-loved bowls

Recently my salad bowl broke and I bought these great quality pre-loved bowls. Just $7

Do I buy everything second-hand? No, I don’t. There are times when I can’t find what I need second-hand, or I need something quick to solve a problem or there are products I prefer to buy new (I am sure the idea of buying second-hand underwear is not that appealing to many).

Regardless, we need to open our minds to this possibility. I remember the first time I bought a second-hand jacket and told a girl I knew, she gave me a disgusted look and told me she’d never buy pre-loved clothes. And I get it, many years ago I would have probably said something similar, but it is just our beliefs and the meaning we give to certain things.

There are many products we can buy second-hand and reap the benefits. You can try:

  • Opportunity/Thrift stores.
  • Use websites like Gumtree, Ebay, FreeCycle.
  • Use social media, there are heaps of groups (e.g. noticeboard groups) where you can offer/buy products in your city or suburb. You can also use Facebook Marketplace.

“When you limit your consumption to a level that enables the earth to regenerate itself, you can live sustainability” – Michael Grosvenor

Gaining awareness about all these default patterns is key and it is the only way we can actually do something about it, re-think our behaviour and find better alternatives for the planet and even our pockets because I guarantee you’ll save money.

This is all for this week. Hope you have found useful info if so please share with your family and friend. Also tell us in the comments, do you tend to repair items around the house? do you buy second-hand? Any website or tip to share?

These are my social media accounts for more tips about Green living

Thanks for reading,

Diana

By | 2018-08-19T15:56:39+10:00 May 4th, 2018|Habits, Reflections|6 Comments

About the Author:

I am Diana. I write about my journey trying to live a greener lifestyle and how we collectively can make a difference revisiting our beliefs and daily habits, learning more about the environment and being an active participant.

6 Comments

  1. Jenna Flood May 6, 2018 at 10:06 am - Reply

    “I remember the first time I bought a second-hand jacket and told a girl I knew, she gave me a disgusted look and told me she’d never buy pre-loved clothes.”

    I find this bit funny! I work in retail and the number of times clothing is returned and then placed back on the shop floor for resale is crazy. so even when you buy “brand new” you could possibly be buying second hand! Even when garments are tried on… that makes them basically second hand!

    We really need to change our behaviour towards consuming. Great article though, I am struggling to turn my consumer brain off as its so ingrained in me to buy the latest trend or search for the “perfect” jacket. But I’m working on it!

    Jenna
    Ironic Minimalist

    • GreenerIdentity May 10, 2018 at 5:31 pm - Reply

      Hi Jenna
      That’s so true! Many garments are pre-loved even when we pay full price. Great that you are sharing that information about retail realities because often we don’t tend to think about it.

      I know I get it, it is hard, I still fall into the trap from time to time but I have realised that gradually I am more aware about this habit and far less inclined to buy stuff I don’t need.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
      Cheers
      Diana

  2. Elena May 7, 2018 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    Thanks Diana, as always, your tips and advices are useful and practical. I do love repairing stuff, or even make them myself. Nowadays with free tutorials on YouTube you can practically fix or make anything.

    • GreenerIdentity May 10, 2018 at 5:38 pm - Reply

      Hi Elena.
      No worries. Nice to hear you found it useful. I know you love making stuff which is great. Totally true, we have access to so many resources these days 🙂
      Thanks for leaving the comment 😉

  3. katherinegehrke August 1, 2018 at 5:59 am - Reply

    The observation that it’s often cheaper to buy new in Australia, than to get something repaired is a huge challenge. Plus most of those cheap new products probably come from places where the makers are not paid a fair income. I’ve had shoes repaired before, and it cost me about the same price as it was to buy the shoes on special, then they ended up breaking not long after anyway. When I was waiting to find a good option for a new kettle, my mum ended up just buying me a cheap one (just as she’d bought me two others before that), and so I don’t expect it to last more than the next 2 years (if that). Plus it’s ugly, so while environmentally I’d want to get it repaired, financially and aesthetically it doesn’t make sense. I’ve also had cheap watches bought for me before, and at about the same time that the battery died, the internal mechanisms also go dodgy such that the watch requires repair or replacement.
    Also I’ve been trying to think how to end this comment but my brain is tired, so I’ll just leave it there haha

    • GreenerIdentity August 19, 2018 at 3:55 pm - Reply

      Thanks for taking the time (even being so tired lol) to leave the comment. I know, it is a challenge here because it is very expensive to repair. In Venezuela to be honest I don’t remember having issues with my repaired items, but I suppose it depends and how lucky (or unlucky) you get.
      When repairing stuff is not an option, we try second-hand and if new is the only option then we always try to go for quality. Cheap stuff as you mentioned only generate more waste, it is a pity you ended up with another cheap kettle – mine I bought maybe 8 years ago and it is still working normally. Good quality even when it is more expensive is a best option (long term) for the environment and also the our pockets 😉
      Cheers
      Diana

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