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How To Stay Sustainable Now The Shops Are Open

Posted by Melanie Fisher on
How To Stay Sustainable Now The Shops Are Open

With lockdown rules easing and the message that 'summer is coming', it suddenly feels like there is pressure to be, do, go, wear, mingle and basically look like a walking advert.

Even the idea of newness is enticing after the year we've had, so getting new clothes, tech, a new car or house, or even going to a new bar or restaurant sounds like an adventure! Shops I've entered have reported big peaks and troughs as we all navigate our way around moving from essential-only shopping, back into the world of commercialised consumption.

At ZWG we're all about celebrations, but we're also about keeping them sustainable. So if you are shopping for summer, run through this checklist of questions and you can't go wrong with any purchase you decide to make.

1. Can I wait 24 hours?

I was taught this one by my Mum when I was about 16 years old. My Mum and I would go shopping together and, inevitably, I'd spy something outrageous or expensive. Most of the time she would let me try it on and if I loved it, she'd ask me to 'sleep on it' - much to my disgruntlement. Even though this tactic was irritating at the time ("of course I want it, Mum"), I often found that by the next day the item had lost it's appeal, I wasn't thinking about it a lot, or might not have actually loved it as much as I thought. If, however, I couldn't stop thinking about it, felt it would bring value to my life and that I was prepared to invest and look after it, then I could go and take a second look. Most of the time the feeling passed like a craving, but if not, I got the added benefit of delayed gratification in my purchase. Spontaneous reward is great, but delayed can feel greater still.

In the world of the one-click-buy button, we're actively conditioned to buy first and think later. Being taught to take a step back and say 'do I really need this' has been a valuable tool I've used myself time and time again.

More often than not, Mum was right!

2. Can I get creative?

Making a purchase doesn't have to be a knee jerk reaction either. If you need or decide you want something, are you willing to get creative in how you acquire the item (and no, I don't mean robbing anyone). Why not:

  • Call a friend or neighbour to see if they might lend you the item
  • Go to local Facebook groups or Library of Things to borrow or hire
  • Use a rental platform like Fat Llama, Bundlee Baby, HURR or others to hire equipment, baby clothes or fashion wear
  • Take a look on Freecycle, or sign up to Neighbourly and find surplus products in your local area that need a new home


3. How much am I prepared to invest?

Let's talk money!

The ecological cost of a product is not reflected in the retail prices or our economic systems. This means that the value of a tree remaining as a tree is not reflected in the price of paper. Mainstream retail prices do not take into consideration the affect of resource extraction, neither at the time nor in the future. (A future that now will find itself without that resource in it's original form within the natural ecosystem). It's important then, that YOU do this work. Price is an indicator of the cost of production. Labour and finite materials, when valued properly, means that well made items can typically be more expensive. Not everyone has the means to shop this way, which is understandable. But, you can still ask yourself this question, what am I prepared to invest, no matter your circumstances. 

If you are able to, invest your money in something where you will get a good rate of return. Taking this analogy further means you're asking yourself whether the item you bought stand the test of time and bring you value at an increasing rate into the future. 

4. Where should I buy this from?

Sometimes you can't hire, borrow, beg, steal or barter your item. If the decision has been made to purchase and you know how much you can spend, the next question is where do I get it from? When you give money to a brand for a product, you're voting for the kind of world you want to live in. Do you want to fund more destruction and mayhem, or fund ethical supply chains, zero waste practices, fair wages and regenerative circular practices? That's what you're doing when you select your product and who made it. Research here is important and it can be fun!

Good places to look are:

  • Secondhand shops and charities
  • Digital marketplaces like FB, Vinted, Depop
  • Ethical independent brands or artisan sellers
  • Etsy
  • Brands who we know are trust to be ethical and sustainable (you can look in our Green Goods Directory, Pebble, Buy me Once

5. How will this enrich my life?

We all love great ideas and good products. When they're made well, they can bring joy, change lives, save lives, bring happiness and connect people. Products should made us feel great and be a valuable asset to society. When you feel good about a purchase and you appreciate it, three things happen.

  1. You take care of the item better - reducing it's carbon footprint (with more use) and extend it's life
  2. You don't need to replace it and it becomes more likely you'll fix it if it does break, than throw it and simply get a new one
  3. You're less likely to shop more as you're satisfied with what you have and feel grateful for the items you currently own

The latter, in turn, can help us move away from a materialistic way of shopping where item = self worth or value in society, to item = enriches life but isn't tied to intrinsic value of the owner. This, I think, is a good thing.

6. Who else will benefit from my purchase?

Often we only think of ourselves when we're buying - unless it's a gift of course. But a whole host of things had to happen to get that product into your hands, a whole lot of good things potentially too. Some of which could be:

  • funding someone's dream or livelihood
  • supporting ethical supply chains and resource management
  • paying workers a fair wage and increasing their prospects
  • keeping artisan skills alive
  • helping others learn about great ideas and products
  • supporting charities or reforestation initiatives
  • reducing waste and increasing the value of the  market for recycled or upcycled goods
  • demonstrating to investors or industry at large that sustainable businesses are popular, thus increasing their viability as investments and increasing their access to resources as they grow

So, to conclude, whenever you're thinking about making a purchase, ask yourself these questions and see what happens. This process gets much easier over time too and, in the end, will be a huge benefit to the environment and set an example for those around you.

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