More Love Less Waste #2 – Sustainable Purchasing Habits

Welcome back to the More Love Less Waste blog series! It’s great to see you again. Are you ready to talk about sustainable purchasing?

If you missed the first article, you may want to have a quick read to remind yourself about why we should consider living in a more eco-friendly way. We warn you, some of it’s a little gloomy, BUT the good news is that this series will help you make small changes that really make a difference. The best bit? We’re not suggesting that you dramatically change your life, spend lots of money, or feel guilty if some suggestions don’t work with your lifestyle at the moment. The most important thing is that you’re thinking about how your actions impact the planet, which you obviously do as you’re reading this series!

This week we’re thinking about our consumption practices. So without further ado, let’s talk a little bit about our sustainable purchasing habits and how to kick that Amazon Prime-Fast-fashion mindset! 

Becoming a more conscious consumer

Being a conscious consumer means making decisions that have a positive environmental, social and economic impact. When shopping, we aim to purchase local, ethical and environmentally friendly products and services. Our actions are good for people and the planet.

The Buyerarchy of Needs  

One of the most effective ways to reduce consumption is by thinking more about our buying habits.

Sarah Lazarovic’s Buyerarchy of Needs

Let’s face it, many of us are caught in an endless loop of buying items we don’t truly need.

Like that fancy new TV (despite your old one working just fine), or yet another new pair of jeans (how many’s that in the wardrobe now? 5 pairs? 6?)…

Yet trying to be more conscious about consumption is hard without a practical framework. Fortunately, thanks to Sarah Lazarovic’s Buyerarchy of Needs, we can all differentiate between what we need and what we want.

Loosely modelled on Maslow’s well-known Hierarchy of Needs. It works as a rough checklist of tiers to run through when we are considering a purchase. Thinking about this can allow us to switch to more sustainable purchasing habits.

Use What You Have

Rule number 1: Before buying any new items, we should consider what we already own. Using our existing items reduces our reliance on already strained environmental resources. 

Borrow

Rule number 2: If an item is essential, but we don’t have it, the next option is to borrow it. From clothes and tools to books and cooking equipment, see if your friends and neighbours can lend you it! Similarly, pay it forward by offering what you can to those around you.

Swap

The next tier to consider is swapping items. This is old-school trade at its finest! Swapping goods that you don’t need for goods that you do gives those unneeded things a new lease of life. Several online forums make this simple, including Y’earn, which focuses on baby & kids items (for your sustainable purchasing needs).

Thrift

Thrift stores – or as we may call them vintage clothes shops – are an excellent way to purchase goods. Look hard enough, and you’ll find almost everything you need and at a bargain price to boot!

Make

From there, consider getting creative. Why not make what you need?! You could even go the extra mile by making items from recycled materials.

Buy

Run through the previous tiers and still empty-handed? It’s time to buy. Sometimes buying is unavoidable! But you can still keep environmental damage to a minimum by a) exhausting the other avenues first and b) being conscious about what you buy and where you buy it from. This consciousness is what creates a more sustainable purchase.

The 5 Rs of Zero Waste 

Another framework we love is the 5Rs of zero waste. We like that it focuses on what you already have, which means less waste from new products as well as less waste from old ones. Win, win! 

Refuse

Say no to what you don’t need. Carrier bags are an obvious one, but it’s also cutlery (especially of the plastic variety) with takeout food or freebies that you know deep down you’ll never use. It also means refusing to buy products that have unnecessary packaging (we’re looking at you bananas wrapped in plastic!). 

Reduce

This bit has two parts to it as well: 1) Having a clear-out and letting someone else make use of things you have lying around the house (don’t forget you can use Y’earn to make money from any Baby & Kids items!) and 2) Reducing the amount of things you accept or buy (the Buyerarchy of Needs is helpful here).

Reuse

In a throwaway society it’s sometimes hard to buy products that last and can be reused, especially as many are designed to be short lived (this is called planned obsolescence; we talk about how it shouldn’t be a thing on our podcast!). However, you can still mend items, upcycle them and find other uses for them. Alternatively, buy stuff that’s designed to last instead of throwaway items. Good examples include fabric makeup removers versus cotton pads, and reusable coffee cups (very nice types of sustainable purchasing).    

Recycle

Buy recyclable products and use the correct options available to you. Keep in mind that lots of things can’t be recycled though! Treat this as a last resort. Here’s our post about what can really be recycled

Rot

Compost food waste and other compostable items wherever and whenever possible! If you don’t have a garden, then you may be interested in creating a worm farm – the kids will love it, trust us! If you can afford it, then look at an “Insinkerator” or a “Food Cycler”, which grind food scraps into dust. They may not seem like a huge issue but food waste isn’t aerated in landfills and creates methane, which heats the planet 25 times faster than CO2 does.

Top tip:

Like the tiers in the Buyerarchy of Needs, these Rs go in order! If you refuse and reduce, then you’ll have less in your home. If you reuse, then less things will be wasted. And, if you worry about those three Rs, then there’ll be less to recycle or rot! 

When you need to buy

The main take home message of this series is to think more carefully about how and what we buy in a bid to reduce the strain on the earth’s resources.

We’re not saying you have to live under a rock! Seriously, we’re always going to indulge in a spot of retail therapy every now and again! However, when you do decide you need to buy something, here are some options to help you do it more sustainably:

Charity Shops

We LOVE charity shops.

Charity shops hold a wealth of goods available to buy pre-loved, all at a cheaper price with profits going to a worthwhile cause.

They’re a fantastic place to find a wide range of goods. Sure, the quality varies, but there are always bargains to be found on clothes, technology, toys…and almost every other household item under the sun. Likewise, when your kids outgrow certain clothes or toys, you can drop them off at your local charity shop instead of chucking them out. From here, they can find a new lease of life.

Second-hand Online Marketplaces

eBay, Vinted, Gumtree, Preloved, and other such marketplaces are all great places to buy or sell second-hand goods online.

Instead of purchasing new items that require further resources, water, and transportation (all of which harms the environment), we can use something that’s already here. Top tip: check out the appendix for a list of sites and the different items you can buy or sell on each!

In-Person Swaps or Sales

Remember the Buyerarchy of Needs? Swaps featured right up there as an awesome alternative to buying things new.

Better still, social media has made us more connected than ever, which makes it a breeze to arrange in-person swaps and sales. Of course, classic methods like swapping items with friends or neighbours works too! We also love NCT sales and Mum2Mum events for Baby & Kids items. But don’t forget, most items can now be rented on Y’earn!

Rent Rather Than Buy

Rent, don’t buy! It’s another excellent way to eliminate unnecessary waste.

Let’s put an end to the vast number of items we use once before leaving to collect dust, or sending to landfill! Y’earn is a great example of a new small business that helps you do exactly that. We’re a marketplace to rent aby and kids items from local families, or to make money from items you don’t need right now!

We’re bridging the gap between the retail price and secondhand experience by providing a cleaning and delivery service, plus a guarantee against damage if you want your items back. We even plant trees and donate to children’s charities for every rental (but we’ll tell you more about us later!).

Thankfully, renting’s becoming increasingly common too. We can’t get enough of services like The Library of Things, which keeps consumption low by borrowing items instead.

They have everything you need for cleaning, cooking, DIY, gardening, and more. Oh, and it’ll keep your home and shed a little less cluttered!

Choosing the Right Brands

Give yourselves a pat on the back! Our collective shopping habits are improving. People are more conscious than ever about the problems with single-use items, plastics, fast fashion, and so on! It’s great to see.

However, voting with your pound can make an even bigger impact.

Supporting environmentally conscious brands alters the very system that causes so much harm to our planet. From increasing demand for long-lasting sustainable goods or buying from eco-friendly brands, we can use our power as consumers to make a difference.

We know many people are cost conscious, especially when raising a family. But there are a couple of things to bear in mind here. Sustainable items are often built to last, which means you don’t have to keep replacing them! Likewise, some products save you a bunch of cash in the long run, with a minimal upfront cost, like the Mooncup.

Having said that, there’s no denying that some sustainable brands are more expensive than others. Our suggestion? Do what you can! If all you can afford to invest in right now is a reusable water bottle, then that’s 100% ok. More than that, it’s 100% perfect.

Shop Locally

Where do we start with this one?

There are sooo many benefits to shopping locally! First, buying from large multinational stores puts money into the pockets of shareholders and giant corporations. If you buy local, then your cash will circulate around your community, supporting jobs and strengthening the local economy.

Additionally, sourcing produce from the local area reduces excessive food miles! Things aren’t travelling nearly as far, which means less pollution from trucks, sea freight, or air travel. 

Use Refill and Zero Waste Stores

When it comes to reducing household waste, you won’t find many better solutions than shopping at refill stores.

Remember the old-fashioned sweet shops you used to find on highstreets around the country? Where big glass jars held all manner of delicious treats that the shopkeeper would weigh out on their scales?

Well, refill and zero waste stores are a bit like that.

The only difference is that their jars are full of organic spices, cereals, grains, nuts and seeds, and all manner of other edible essentials. It’s usually possible to buy things like cooking oil, baking goods, vinegars, and cleaning products as well.

There’s no plastic in sight. You simply take along empty containers from your home, weigh them, and purchase as much as you need of each product! There are brown paper bags to use (and glass jars to buy) if you lack your own containers.

If you don’t know where to start with this one, check out our guide on how to make the most out of refilling and reusing.

This approach to grocery shopping kills two birds with one stone. Firstly, the shelves aren’t stacked with single-use plastic packaging. And, second, you’re reusing and repurposing containers you already possess! It’s no wonder the refill movement has prevented a whopping 100 million pieces of plastic at source. That’s a big deal considering 35.8 million plastic bottles get used every single day in the UK right now!

Summary

We tried to keep it snappy, but change is hard and there was a LOT of information, so here’s a quick summary from this article (the second in the series):

Key points

  • As consumers, we must take accountability and realise that our current consumption habits are harming the planet.
  • Sustainable living doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. 
  • We should work towards breaking the production/consumption cycle by using existing items and treating recycling as a last resort.
  • Shopping locally is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • There are new types of businesses that allow you to rent and swap rather than buy everything you need! 

Tips

  • Before you shop, consider the Buyerarchy Of Needs and the 5 Rs of Zero Waste
  • Always ask yourself ‘Does this action/purchase support More Love, Less Waste?’
  • Before you throw something away, consider whether it could be repurposed or upcycled.
  • Make use of apps and technology that make it easier to live sustainably.
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself with the thought of change and try one thing at a time.

Hopefully you have some new tools and inspiration to help you shift some of your purchasing habits. Remember, the goal isn’t to change everything you do at once, but in the first place, just your outlook on shopping. You might enjoy upcycling, or hosting a clothes swap. The best way to stick to change is to take small steps – and have fun with it!

Of course, your ability to be more eco-conscious also depends on how busy you are in your life and we understand that it’s particularly difficult to change your habits during the crazy and special moments in life. In the next article in this series, we’re going to talk you through ways you can live sustainably during pregnancy and early parenthood (so you don’t have to think too much about it!). 

If you love what we’re trying to do, please spread the word and help us to grow as a community. Invite people to our More Love, Less Waste Facebook Group, share our podcast, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram, or become an Ambassador for our marketplace and earn rewards. 

P.S. Join our newsletter and get the series straight to your inbox, plus info about our eco-friendly giveaways. Or, if you’re like us and a little impatient, you can download the series as an e-Guide.

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If this is your first visit, hello, let us introduce ourselves. Y’earn is a parent-to-parent marketplace to rent Baby & Kids items from people in your community or make some cash if you have items you don’t need right now.

We know that it can feel like a struggle when you want to do good for your kids, the 🌎 and your community. That’s why we want to make it easier for you to embark on your own #MoreLoveLessWaste journey:

  • Info and advice in our Podcast and Blog – from startups, to big brands, experts and policy makers. Focused on how and what we buy, to lower waste and save the planet.
  • Daily tips, discussion and a chance to ask your questions in our FB Group
  • Offers and a monthly prize if you join our newsletter – so you never miss what’s going on.
  • And of course, saving and making money with our marketplace. We even plant 🌲, adopt 🐝 and donate to children’s charities, together.

Expect a big helping of humour and a lack of judgement. We’re helping each other and the planet, one rental at a time. #MoreLoveLessWaste 💙

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Y'earn Baby & Kids

Y’earn is a parent-to-parent marketplace to rent Baby & Kids items from people and small businesses in your community or make some cash if you have items you don't need right now. We plant 🌲 and adopt 🐝, plus give to children’s charities.

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