How to buy sustainable in 6 steps (The Buyerarchy of Needs)

I’ve written guides before on this blog. Here you can read how to make sustainable food choices and I’ve also written an article on buying sustainable clothing. Yet, these are just two categories of everything you can buy. Yes, they are the most important in my life, the two things I buy the most. But I think there is more to consider than just food and clothes. And so today, I’ve come to share the Buyarchy of Needs from Sarah Lazarovic for when you buy just about anything.

Buying stuff

If you try to live more sustainable, it’s best to start making changes where they are most needed. And so, it’s easiest to change the habit in your life that causes the biggest negative impact in your life. Don’t know where to start? Then you should read The Hidden Impact by Babette Porcelijn. She tells you anything you need to know. Spoiler alert: the number one thing that causes the biggest negative impact on the planet is buying new stuff. At least, for the average Dutch person. And so, if you can reduce the amount of new stuff you buy, you can reduce your impact drastically.

‘The number one thing that causes the biggest negative impact on the planet is buying new stuff.’

In our society this can be a hard task, because literally everything is designed to make you buy new stuff. Ads are there to make you feel miserable, but hey, there’s always that one thing you can buy and all of a sudden your life will be perfect. Spoiler again: this is not how this works. This might be a wrong timing for this blogpost since Black Friday was just three days ago. But anyway, here are the 6 steps you need to consider whenever you think about buying something new. The Buyarchy of Needs by Sarah Lazarovic (all credits go to her of course, I’m just here to share). 

1. Use what you have

The first step is to use what you have and therefore think whether you really need this item you’re planning to buy. Think about why you want it. Is it because you feel ugly because of that ad you saw? Or does it just seem fancy? Whatever the reason it is, it can be right. Yet, you just really need to think about why you want it and whether it will really add value to your life. Also, can you use something you already own? A lot of resources are saved when you don’t buy something.

An example: kitchen tools. There are a million kitchen tools out there for just about everything. I’ve seen banana slicers, avocado slicers and even more. This is an example where whatever you have will probably do the trick as well. I can use a knife and a spoon to cut an avocado, I don’t need a special thing for that.

2. Borrow

There are so many things we use and therefore buy in our western society which is just ridiculous. Things we mostly use once or twice in our lives. I would sort of call these items a just-in-case item because whenever I ask someone why they own something that they never use, it’s always ‘just in case’. But if you own it and your neighbors own it too, that is such a sin. All these items which were produced to be used so little. Less resources need to be used if we would all share a bit more. You can just borrow it from each other.

An example: machinery. I always see this with drills, special saws and other equipment. I mean how many times do you drill a hole in your house? Not that often. What if you share this item with your neighbors? Then altogether, the entire neighborhood just needs one drill. A great app for borrowing items with neighbors is Peerby.

3. Swap

You can swap just about anything and I feel like the difference in prices would not need to matter. If someone else owns something you need and you have something they need, why not swap? If that one thing you own does not make you happy anymore and you need something else, why hold onto it? You can swap anything, you could even swap your computer for someone else’s phone. If you both get value out of that, do it! No resources are wasted this way since nobody gets rid of things, but there are also no new resources needed for production. Win-Win!

An example: you see this often with clothing. If you find a group of people, you can swap all together. Everybody brings clothes which they do not get value from any longer. You throw it all on one pile and swap! You might find something you will wear and others might wear your clothes.

4. Thrift

Can’t use what you have, borrow or swap something? And you feel like you do really need it? Then buy is secondhand. I’ve experienced that anything can be bought secondhand, you just have to look more carefully than most of us are used to. Visit some thrift shops, there are even a bunch online which makes the search even easier (Marktplaats in The Netherlands). Whenever I need something, I write it down on a list in my phone (which also makes you consider your purchase multiple times. Remember, do I really need this?) and whenever I visit a thrift shop I grab the list and look for those things. When you buy secondhand no new resources are needed since the thing you buy is basically someone else’s trash (which is already produced).

An example: I have not bought it, but I have even found secondhand underwear online and so that proves that just about anything can be bought secondhand.  

5. Make

Thrift shops are changing all the time, they might have different stuff next time you’re visiting. That’s why it’s good to be patient something. But what happens when you just can’t find something secondhand? Buying new is the last option, but there is one thing that you might be able to do in between. This is to make something yourself. You need to be a little creative here, but that might be fun!

Some examples: my mom makes bags out of old jeans! They’re very cool. If you’re looking for napkins, you can make those out of old sheets. And it’s useful that this step comes after thrifting, because you can for example then buy these sheets at a local thrift shop. If you’re not that handy with crafting things, you might have a friend who likes doing it. Just ask!

6. Buy new

If all of the above-mentioned steps are somehow not possible, then you buy new. For me, all these steps have reduced my new purchases by about 99% I’d say. I would like to emphasize that whenever you do buy new, please buy sustainable and ethical. An often heard excuse for not buying sustainable or ethical is a lack of money (which is bullsh*t for most people in the western world). If you reduce your purchases, you have more money left for the sustainable and ethical purchases. Which is great!

An example: about a year ago I bought some tights from Swedish Stockings. I really needed one and could not borrow, swap, thrift or make one. I chose Swedish Stockings because they’re a sustainable and ethical brand. The tights are expensive, but it’s definitely worth it.

These are the steps I consider whenever I buy something. Do you apply them?

Yours sincerely,
Romee


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