Happy New Year! As we begin 2017 and my pledge to be intentional with respect to my purchasing habits gets underway, the looming questions are now “what exactly will this look like?” coupled with “what exactly do I tend to buy, anyways?”.
My general objective is two-fold: to limit the purchase of new items, and to make meaningful, intentional purchases. I personally would prefer to own used things in most cases, but understand that may prove impossible. Coupled with the fact I also want to support local growers and businesses, I’ve decided I don’t intend to exclusively buy used things or pledge to not purchase anything at all. Instead, I’m looking for a sustainable in-between.
After reviewing the records of my spending from the last year, I’ve discerned that a good deal of it after rent & utilities falls into the following categories, so I’d like to outline the actions I intend to take in those areas. This is not exhaustive, and the bulk of “unnecessary” spending tends to occur on “incidentals”, so I’ll have to evaluate those on a case by case basis and am sure I’ll be engaging with that here as the year goes on.
For any and all purchases, I plan to keep the following in mind:
- Make a good-faith effort to exhaust other options before making new purchases
- Do my research. When buying things, one isn’t simply buying an item, but the associated externalities as well.
- Prioritize post-consumer/recycled content
- Avoid shopping (in store/online/even craigslist) “just because”
I imagine that one could resolve to spend a year (or more) reframing how they think about food, its sources, and preparation. I would love to be able to grow more of my own food, or do more preserving/freezing/self-prep, but current circumstances limit time and space. My roommate and I currently get most of our produce from a local produce box that is about 50% local, 50% bulk grocer. While I don’t consider myself prepared to go full-on locavore this year, there are a few concrete things I can try to do:
- Plan meals
- Buy from the supermarket bulk boxes for nuts, grains and spices. Bring your own container options cut way down on packaging waste, and are potentially cheaper (depending on the item)
- Attempt to eat (mostly) what is in season locally. Is my vegetarian diet hypocritical if I’m eat plants on the basis of efficiency but predominately get produce from the other side of the world?
- Actually take advantage of the farmers’ market!! Our local market is open (almost) 365 days a year and is overwhelmingly full of amazing produce from the region
toiletries & personal/home care
I’ll take this one as an opportunity to get a little experimental. I don’t purchase a wide array of things in this area, but use them on a daily basis. Are there products that I could make instead of buy? Are there products that I frankly don’t need?
- Evaluate what I actually need, and quit buying what I don’t
- Make products wherever possible
- Research & purchase environmentally friendly alternatives as needed. (“Environmentally friendly” can be such a buzzword, and I’d like to learn more about labeling/what that truly means in this area”)
- Invest in reusable alternatives up front where possible. This can range from the simple (bye bye paper napkins) to the adventurous (if I get bold maybe I can give the DivaCup a shot…)
I’m fortunate to live in a place where I can walk to most of the necessities, particularly school & grocery store. I do own a (used) car, and have no intentions of buying a new (to me) one this year, but in terms of transportation:
- Bike & walk whenever possible
- Carpool whenever possible
- Group errands together to limit gas
- Log miles as a sanity check on driving
- Limit air travel (not that I do much of that, but I still want to be conscious of it)
On occasions where I need to find a gift for someone, it’s tempting to grab something off department store shelves in a rush. Luckily, I’ve been slowly breaking myself of that habit. By holding myself to shopping local for gifts, or coming up with alternative gift ideas, I hope to be more intentional with my gift giving and put the thought into giving that my friends & family deserve. I will try to:
- Purchase handmade items
- Give the gift of experiences – restaurant gift cards, tickets to shows, day trips, etc
- Find used books; they’re often in good-as-new condition
- If I know there is a specific item someone wants or needs, and a suitable alternative is not available, I’ll definitely consider gifting that item. Obviously the needs of the people I care about shouldn’t fall by the wayside because of this personal mission, but I want to also do my best to stay true to the spirit of why I’m doing this.
clothing & accessories
This is probably the most straightforward of the categories and can be summed up in two words: buy used.
- Buy used as needed
- Borrow for “one time use” events instead of accumulating clothes I don’t intend to wear again & again
- Support local makers if looking for accessories
- Purchase new on occasions where uniformity is required. If for some reason I find myself as part of a bridal party in 2017, I’ll spring for whatever it is I’m instructed to wear, for example.
- Underwear. I’m not a frequent purchaser of undergarments, but if the need arises I think I’ll opt new on this one.
Thoughts? Feedback? Any glaring omissions? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.