With each of our wallets, we have a choice: to buy or not to buy. In fact the choice gets even better – with so many shops having so many ranges year round, the choice gets larger and larger. What should we buy? How often should we buy? Should we buy at all?
Everyone is different in their purchasing habits, which is why I can only speak for myself, but I am trying to make a conscious change at the moment to buy better. I find myself mysteriously wanting a midi leopard-print skirt the moment I see it being put on in fast-forward on Instagram, and thinking about buying a new gold mirror when I see a Made-dot-com advert on the tube. However, in this age of consumerism, waste and neglect, I am desperately trying to come up with ways to spend my money better.
As an ‘influencer’, I think it’s important to remember that gifting (when a blogger/influencer will get sent something for free in the hope that they might post about it) is not impact-free. Just because it didn’t cost anything, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact, so for the purposes of this post, I am including accepting gifting as purchasing something.
I am not perfect, and have constant cognitive dissonance with my job – do I work with a brand that promotes consumerism? What brand doesn’t? Am I perpetuating the problem by advertising stuff or by using my platform to educate and provide greener alternatives am I actually helping? I don’t think the answer is simple or clear-cut, but I hope that I can at least have some positive impact while I’m here on this earth.
So, without further ado, here are some of my self-imposed purchasing rules for non-essential items.
- Ask myself if I can imagine myself using/wearing an item when I am in my own house in 5 years time. At 5 years it has already significantly beaten the average lifespan of an item of clothing in the UK (2-3 years), so may well be worth buying. Timeless pieces and the perfect jumpsuit are often worth buying. Everything else is often not. Basically, you can do consumerism as well as you like, but if you’re still buying stuff, you’re still contributing to having more things. We don’t need more things, we need less.
- Message a brand if their product arrives in excess packaging. This isn’t to seem like a dick, but I think it’s actually really important to make your voice known when it comes to your purchases. I recently received a very generous amount of fitness clothing from a brand (that I didn’t know was being sent) and each item was individually wrapped in plastic. So I messaged the brand to ask if they had any plans to reduce plastic packaging in future – hopefully if enough people ask, they will consider taking the requests onboard.
- Share amazing brands doing amazing things. Small brands rely on dedicated people and word of mouth. I work with an incredible brand called Freda that sells sustainable and ethical period products with a social mission. For me, buying from a brand like this is a no-brainer – they’re not significantly more expensive than Tampax, have a MUCH lower environmental footprint and have a ‘giveback’ (a proportion of the profits go towards ending period poverty in the UK). However, as start-ups, brands like Freda don’t have huge advertising budgets, or the ability to gift to hundreds of influencers in the hope that they’ll post. It’s by getting loyal customers who share by word of mouth that the message gets round, and each and every one of us can provide that service to brands we love and that we feel should do well. Put your money and your mouth where your values lie – it’s only in this way that small brands that do good can compete with big brands that don’t!
- If a highstreet brand has a ‘sustainable/ethical’ range, purchase from that (if you have to buy something). If I’m just looking for ‘something’ (e.g. for an event), I will often head to highstreet stores. Ideally I would be able to shop in advance in more sustainable shops, but sometimes it’s not possible in time, so the highstreet offers a speedy alternative. Whilst a ‘sustainable’ range from Zara is unlikely to have anywhere near the positive credentials as something from a small eco-friendly brand, imagine if Zara suddenly find that 25% of their customers are preferentially buying from their small ‘eco’ range compared to their ‘normal’ clothes. The proportion of ‘eco’ clothes are going to increase, and at that point we can ask for more from them. We have so much purchasing power and brands really are listening!
- One in, one out. When it comes to clothes, the vast majority of us have too many. We forget what we own, end up buying more and then check everything back into the same drawer. I do quarterly clear-outs to friends and charity shops, and then maintain that level of clothes – a level where I know what I own, know my special-occasion outfits and try not to buy more. If something new comes in, something I haven’t worn recently goes out. It’s a good system that means everything gets worn!
These are just some of the ways I try to improve the way I live through my purchasing power. I’d love to hear your ideas and tips!