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Want to Help the Earth? Buy Less Stuff

Want to Help the Earth? Buy Less Stuff

Sometimes it seems as if people in our society are in a contest to see who can fill their house with the most stuff. Because our culture trains us to be consumers, we are often unaware of the many, many benefits to being frugal. Remember, everything you own owns you.

Everything you buy you must maintain, store, repair, clean, and perhaps insure. Our stuff quickly becomes a psychological burden. The more you buy, the more money you need, which increases your work time at the expense of your family and friends. Finally, all of our stuff takes natural resources to produce, making everything we buy environmentally costly. Here are a few pointers to help you buy less stuff:

1. Fix broken things. Our disposable culture encourages us to replace broken items even when they are relatively easy to fix. Just because you can afford a new lawn mower doesnít mean you shouldn’t try to fix your old one.

2. Reuse stuff. You can reuse many so-called disposable items, such as paint brushes, sandwich bags, and plastic containers.

3. Borrow from friends. Borrowing saves resources, money, and time and also helps build community. Check our books, movies and CDs from your local library. Ask your friend id she has a pipe wrench, since you only need it for a day or two.

4. Ask yourself, Do I really need it? Advertising makes us feel as if we’ll be left out if we don’t have the latest gadget or name brand clothing. When it comes down to it, we don’t need much of what we buy.

5. Take a shopping list. Plan ahead before you shop. Decide exactly what you want before you go; otherwise fancy displays, colorful packaging and salespeople might convince you to buy something you donít need.

6. Avoid impulse buys. Companies actually design their stores to encourage impulse buying. Do you really need any of that junk that surrounds you in the check-out line? One powerful technique to avoid impulsively buying big purchases, such as a new stereo, is to wait two weeks before you buy it. If you still really want it, then get it.

Adapted from The Better World Handbook: Small Changes That Make a Big Difference by Ellis Jones, Ross Haenfler, and Brett Johnson (New Society Publishers, 2007).

Read more: Home, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse, , , ,

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Jana Ballinger

Jana Ballinger has more than 15 years of experience as a writer and copy editor for daily newspapers. She lives in a vintage house in Northern California with her husband and an orange cat.

35 comments

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10:21AM PDT on May 29, 2012

@ Lynn D - A saying I always heard was that everything makes you happy twice -- the first time when you get it, and the second when you get rid of it!

My personal technique is to keep a large shopping bag hanging on the back of my bedroom door. Every so often, I come across a piece of clothing that no longer fits right, a book I've read and don't want to keep, etc. -- and I make a point of putting it into that bag, not just thinking that it's not quite right for me anymore and leaving it be. Before I know it, I have a bagful of things I no longer want or need, and it's off to Goodwill for a donation! Not only is it an easy and surefire way to keep my home simple, but I have the added bonus of several tax deductions each year.

6:03PM PDT on May 7, 2012

thanks, I like your great ideas....

11:38AM PDT on May 6, 2012

thanks

9:16PM PST on Dec 26, 2011

good ideas!

4:03PM PST on Nov 30, 2011

yep, forget the tschotskes.
return to what we were taught by our grandparents - recycle & reuse...

10:59AM PST on Nov 11, 2011

I agree, buy less, it is less to dust, polish, take care of and get rid of eventually.

7:43AM PDT on Sep 7, 2011

Great article.
Thank you

7:08PM PDT on Oct 2, 2010

Great article and food for thought!

3:59PM PDT on Sep 24, 2010

Thanks

6:25AM PDT on Jul 25, 2010

How true! My dad always said, "Half your life to collect it and half your life to give it away!" thanks ever so much!

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