You know the feeling, you walk into the store and the brightly coloured, well lit display shouts “Buy ME!” You pop it in your basket, pay for it and take it home, filled with a sense of almost euphoria. Even more pervasive are the little ads on your computer, you browse that pretty dress, then every time you log on to check your email or browse Facebook, there it is, looking at you, whispering “go on buy me, you know you want me” Marketing is everywhere and our whole economy is based on the buy more, buy more mentality.
There’s just one problem. Our earth’s resources are limited, and everything we buy has to be disposed of eventually, whether because we have fallen out of love with it, or because it has worn out.
This is why the first level in the waste reduction triangle is REFUSE.
It is also the hardest of the steps to zero waste for me. I’m a retailer, I love things. My personal achilles heels are stationary and clothes. I end up with so much. The other day I found a jumper at the back of my cupboard. I’d forgotten I even had it, yet I loved it when I bought it. It is enjoying a new lease of life as I am wearing it again, but I was horrified that I had so many clothes, I could forget I owned some. (A piece of research by M&S and Oxfam in 2016 showed that people only wear an average of 44% of clothes in their wardrobes regularly, so I’m not alone).
It’s also hard because there will be times we actually NEED new things (children grow out of things, things wear out and get broken).
So what’s the solution?
For me I started with a no spend month. It was back in September, prompted by a large purchase that came sooner than I had budgeted for (taking advantage of a second-hand bargain that came up!). It was amazing. I could ignore adverts, walk past shiny displays, let the whole marketing industry flow past me. I was not too hardcore in my no-spending, if you want a really inspirational read check out this lady – she gave up spending for a whole year!
A month, however, gives you chance to ask “do I really need it?” “Can I borrow it from somewhere?” (there is a growing network of libraries of “things”, I run a sling library for example) Just accepting less into our houses will reduce our waste automatically.
Next time I will be looking at the next rung of the waste reduction ladder – reduce – but in the meantime, let me know how you are getting on with REFUSE!