There is a strange trend that I keep observing in the intersection I occupy online between frugality/personal finance and sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyles.
At least in certain corners of the internet, some people seem more concerned with showing the world that they are eco-friendly by having certain things and looking a certain way.
But considering how over-consumption and over-population are the biggest contributors to the decimation of natural resources and climate change – there is just no way you can buy yourself a sustainable lifestyle through conventional consumerism.
Sorry, but no amount of bamboo utensils, organic cotton or stainless steel water bottles are going to change anything (and that is coming from someone who loves all those things), unless you change your consumption habits at the same time.
If you throw out a perfectly serviceable couch because it isn’t made of hemp, then you are contributing to landfill just as much as someone who bought a new conventional couch.
If you feel the need to buy new clothes every single week, even organic cotton will be an issue, because it is a very water intensive plant.
We cannot solve our problems with the same way of thinking that got us into those problems in the first place. More consumption, even of less harmful goods, is still consumption.
If you need to replace said hemp couch every five years because of fashion changes, well, then you might be marginally better than couches filled with toxic flame retardants, but you’re still contributing an awful lot to landfill and resource depletion.
On the rare occasion that Mr. E. or myself are exposed to TV-advertisements, we are always struck by how rushed they make everything. It’s always “New, new, new!”, which I suppose is the whole point of advertisement – to sell you more, bigger and “better”.
Contrast that to my grandmother, whose house has looked more or less the same for as long as I can remember.
Yes, she did like to attend flea markets for sport when she had an easier time getting around, but it is the same rust-red couch in her living room, it is the same cupboards in the kitchen, and the bathroom still has the same interior and pictures on the wall.
When stuff gets exchanged in grandma’s house, it is because they genuinely provide lacklustre performance, like her 30 year old stove. Or if her needs have changed, like the new chair because she has trouble getting up and sitting down.
While some might cringe at her unfashionable lace curtains, I find there is a certain charm in a house and items that are well lived-in. They still serve their function, and because they are carefully taken care of, they still look decent.
Sometimes, I think it might fall natural to me to be frugal because in many ways, I am quite lazy.
Getting a new couch? But then I have to administer to sell or give away my old couch. Plus carrying, unwrapping and receiving people to pick up my old stuff and cleaning the living room several times.
I’ll rather just keep the couch.
Same with our dinner plates. They are in at least five different styles. Some we got for free, some I found in a charity shop, some were inherited from family members.
I couldn’t even set a matching table for four, let alone 12 or 24, which some dinner sets advertise.
But they are perfectly serviceable dinner plates. They hold food, are dishwasher safe, have no chips, and most of them have my ever-preferred shades of neutral to blue colours.
When we have friends over for dinner, they are usually more concerned with getting a plate than getting one that looks like their neighbours plate. At least that’s what I have found.
I wish we, as a society, would move away from the endless buying of new things. To embrace things like “buy nothing” challenges for clothes, furniture, kitchen equipment, you name it!
It would be so nice if buying something new would be considered an exceptional action. Something to be pursued only if all other options have been exhausted?
Have you looked for a replacement? Asked a friend or family member to borrow it? Or looked for it used online? Are you handy enough to create what you want? Would it add honest and lasting joy to your life?
I sure don’t want to sound preachy, but this is such an important topic to me. I wish we could all consider, that when we bring something into our house and our life, we try our best to commit to keeping and using it until the end of its life cycle, however long that may be.
I am not saying we should never buy anything new, ever. But there are so many options to the majority of the things we surround ourselves with!
Be a lazy frugalist, you too. Just keep what you already have! 😉
PS: I will admit, I love researching eco-alternatives if something I own is nearing the end of its life. There are few things that will make me more frustrated and exasperated than not being able to find a sustainable alternative if we need one. So I am not saying I don’t understand the appeal of sustainable goods or that you should never buy them, ever.
I’m just trying to say that the most sustainable alternative of them all might simply be to turn the stupid box off, release yourself from knowing the current trends and what the Joneses are purchasing, and just enjoy the stuff you have already spent money on (or not)!