You have probably heard the saying “You get what you pay for“. We often want cheap prices because we feel we need to make a good use and stretch our hard-earned money, but when we only focus on low prices, we often forget the other side of the coin: quality.
And behind those small choices there are other consequences, including the impact on the environment. For today’s post I’ve decided to share a personal story that perhaps will illustrate my point.
My first winter, my first slippers
When I first came to Australia, one of the things I struggled the most was the cold weather. I came in early Spring and Gosh I felt so cold (I am afraid I still feel it), those days of 15 °C were freezing. Fortunately, we were so busy that the time passed by really quickly and before we knew it summer came to my rescue.
My first Winter was a bummer! So damn cold and of course I didn’t have the appropriate clothes to help me cope with the weather, as I had lived my entire life in a tropical country.
At that time, one of the first items I decided to buy was a pair of slippers. I love being comfy at home, so a pair of those fluffy warm slippers would be of course the solution to my cold feet problems (literally).
I decided to go to a big department store here in Australia, which is famous for cheap and affordable stuff. I couldn’t believe how cheap they were, the price of these slippers was only $10. What a bargain, I thought!
Sadly, the slippers didn’t fix my cold feet issues, but they were comfortable and wore them almost every single day during Winter, Spring and Autumn.
As the time went by, I noticed how my slippers started looking a bit old and holes started to appear in the insole, especially near the area where my heels rested. The shape was not the best either.
When they were less than 1 year old, I had to start thinking about a replacement. I thought: “Well, they were only $10 and I wore them all these months, I can’t complain really!”.
I kept wearing these slippers for a while, even when they had a little sad and embarrassing look – I wore them at home, so I didn’t really care.
My second pair
This time I decided to go to another department store, similar to the previous one but their products are a bit more expensive, so I thought the quality would probably be better. I found these grey fluffy slippers that looked nice. I can’t remember exactly the price, but I am sure it was a bit less than $20.
In my mind this pair of shoes looked better, came from a store of better quality, so it should be fine. Unfortunately, I discovered I was wrong quite soon!
Perhaps 6 months after I bought them, I started feeling how the material cushioning the insole started changing its shape until it became like a small hump. The shoes’ shape was also not right after a while, they were wider and flat.
This pair I couldn’t continue wearing for long, because the hump became really tough over time and they were very uncomfortable.
After this second experience, I remember I was getting a bit frustrated! How come these products were so crappy and didn’t last more than a year.
By the time I had to buy my third pair of slippers, I was on a mission to resolve this issue (at least that’s what I thought). This time I went to a fancy department store and selected these slippers from a brand that I knew about it – at that time I reckon I had one pair of shoes from this particular brand.
These were also very cute, they were navy blue with a little bow. For this pair, I think I paid around $30, that was three times the price of the my first slippers, therefore these shoes should be durable – no question about it.
Well, I wasn’t entirely wrong, they lasted longer than the other two pairs, but not what I had in mine. I can’t remember exactly how long it was, but I would guess that in relatively good condition they lasted perhaps 1.5 – 2 years.
Again, as the other two pairs, holes started to appear in the insole fabric. However, as with the first pair, I kept wearing them and I extended their lifespan as much as I could even when they looked really bad on the inside.
When my last pair started dying, I knew way more about the environment and I felt that I had had enough. I couldn’t continue doing the same (following the standard buying pattern) and keep expecting different results.
This time I did some research and decided to buy some hand-made felted wool slippers with natural rubber sole. I bought them online from a small family business, the only bad thing was that I had to get them overseas, here at that time I couldn’t find slippers with the features I wanted.
The price of the shoes (at that time they were on sale) was around $65 but because I had to paid international delivery, that increased the price to around $80.
When I received the shoes, I was very surprised, they looked so great, the sole and insole are sewn together (not glued), you could tell these had been made with love and attention to detail.
Long story short, I have been using my shoes for around 1 year, and they look like as great as they did the first day, they are warm and I couldn’t be happier with my purchase.
- $60 buying cheap slippers
- $80 buying a pair good quality slippers
- I generated three plastic soles that I could not recycle and I had to send to landfill – I am sure, they are still there polluting the environment.
- Three bunches of synthetic fabric that again I couldn’t recycle and ended up in landfill. Sadly, these pieces of fabric will also remain there for many years. Perhaps, I could have cut part of that fabric and send it to one of those companies that transform torn fabrics into industrial rags, but at time I didn’t know much about it.
The Moral of the story
When we only see the financial component and we buy the stuff we need merely based on price, we often end up generating unnecessary waste.
It is time to consider the materials, the quality, who made the product, where is going to end up when you are done with it. In other words, the full product life cycle including its disposal.
Quality and environmentally friendly products are usually more expensive and I know that’s a huge limitation, but if we can afford them, in the long run they are often cheaper and less harmful for the planet.
Of course, good part of this story I am telling you happened long time ago, and I didn’t know any better. My green journey had just started, and there was so much to learn.
When I bought the last pair of shoes, I was in a better position to make a different choice, thinking about the quality, the materials and durability of the product and also being conscious about the fact that how I spend my money really counts.
I know that when it is time to let these slippers go, the wool will go my compost bin as it is a natural fibre and hopefully I will find a way to recycle the natural rubber shoe soles, at least these don’t come from petrochemicals.
It is not always easy to make the right choices, even if we can afford it, it still takes time and effort to find other options. But hey, it is not about being perfect, I am sure I am not, but I try to remind myself of this story when I need to buy something that I can’t get second hand.
There are always better alternatives, if we invest a little bit of time and effort and break our default habits.
“My two favourite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything” – Peter Golkin
That’s it for today. Let me know in the comments below: Have you found yourself in a similar situation with a product? What was it? Have you found a long-lasting solution?
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Thanks for reading,