Zero Waste Tips for Buying New Things

Beyond buying your household basics, apply zero waste thinking to the way you approach all new purchases.

Here are the guidelines I use to incorporating zero waste thinking into the way I shop. As a result I buy less which means I save time and spend less money, and I have higher-quality items which I really enjoy owning.

1. Buy less.
If there’s one thing we learned from Marie Kondo is that we all have too much stuff. There is an environmental and human impact to everything we purchase, and consuming less stuff is one of the easiest things any of us can do to preserve our beautiful planet. Second-hand and consignment stores are also great ways to buy “new” without making a big impact.

2. Eliminate what you don’t need from your routine.
Before looking to any “zero waste replacements” to items you have, have a think about if you really need that item in the first place. Nowadays my beauty routine is very simplified with just a few products, and I just use one all-purpose household cleaner. Before, the drawer under my sink was exploding with half-used bottles of lotions and who knows what, and I had an entire cabinet full of cleaning supplies. I spend much less time and money running errands and shopping since I reduced what I consume to the items that I really love and need. 

3. Always choose a plastic-free alternative.
The natural extension of living zero waste has been to reduce the amount of plastic I buy altogether. I’ve realized that basically anything you purchase now that’s made of plastic can be purchased without it. It may be more expensive upfront but items made with natural materials are almost always better quality and will last longer than the plastic counterpart. Plus, they can be composted or recycled at the end of their long life.

My mother-in-law has stainless steel cups that were hers as a kid and now my kids use when we visit her. Plastic cups from her childhood would be long gone but these have held up for 50 years and going! Whether it’s an ice cube tray or plant pot, or even synthetic clothing, it just takes getting into the habit of thinking twice before making that next purchase, and determining if a desirable plastic alternative exists. Most likely it does.

4. Buy to last.
When you do need to buy new, opt for buying high quality items over cheaper alternatives. Cheaply made goods are likely not to last, and you will spend more money over time replacing them. I still use my grandmother’s cast iron cooking pans; cheaper versions would surely be discarded in a landfill by now.

In a world that promotes consumption and disposal, and keeping up with new trends, keeping things for 50 years is a bit of a weird idea. But it works. Buying to last is necessary if we want to reduce our waste.

If you want to continue on the zero waste journey even further, here are some ideas to become a zero waste advocate.

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