Are you growing sick of the over-consumption destroying our planet? Perhaps you’re frustrated by your own habits, and keen to make a change?
Truth is, most of us buy far more than what we need or use, and it’s driving climate change, waste, pollution and harm to the world’s wildlife. Our love of fast fashion is a major global problem, with the fashion industry producing 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions.
Curbing our own impact is a vital first step, but it needn’t mean sacrifice. With the right approach, being more conscious of our buying habits can help us develop new skills, practise a gratitude mindset, and enhance our lives overall. We have everything to gain from owning less.
Here are 5 key ways to cut back on your buying…
1. Fix, alter and upcycle
Throughout lockdown, many of us got busy honing our DIY skills to help us mend and update clothes and accessories, furniture, and even electronics. Extending the life of our things has become a crucial change in mindset amidst the climate crisis, but it also gives us a creative outlet and a huge sense of achievement.
Take inspiration from DIY bloggers and upcycle specialists like Geneva Vanderzeil, The Restart Project, That Perfect Hour and Upcycle That for ideas and tips.
If you don’t have the skills or time to learn (which, let’s face it, many of us don’t!), draw on local experts; sewers and seamstresses, tailors and stylists (head to theseam.uk to find your nearest if you are UK based) or research local repair cafes, pop-ups or events where you can seek expert help to give things a second life.
2. Share and swap with others
We’re often too quick to jump into online shopping if we think we need something new. Instead, check someone you know can’t offer it up first. Sharing and swapping clothes, accessories and household items with friends, family and neighbours can be as simple as setting up a WhatsApp group and putting the idea out there.
Host a Zoom clothes-swap party with friends, and make it a fun dress-up event, or connect with your local community via Facebook freebie or swap groups or apps like Nextdoor, Freecycle or the Buy Nothing Project.
3. Feed your soul
Understand what’s driving your desire to buy. If it’s not genuine need, is it boredom, insecurity, anxiety, unhappiness? Get to the root of it and aim to fill the gap.
Spend time in nature, do some art, ramp up your exercise and reading. Listen to podcasts, take up a DIY hobby or activism! Make self care a priority and practise in ways that work best for you.
Reconnecting with friends and strengthening relationships is an important one too. Lockdown has exacerbated loneliness for so many people. Reach out to others on a regular basis, enjoy long conversations, and seek out fulfilment in a more meaningful way.
4. Check your influences
It’s estimated the average consumer is exposed to anywhere between 5,000 to 10,000 ads or sponsored messages a day. (Is it any wonder we get distracted?!) Managing our social media feeds, ad settings and e-newsletter subscriptions is an important move in eliminating temptation from brands and retailers.
Those ‘unmissable’ bargains and ‘for one day only’ sales are totally designed to fuel our FOMO (yes this applies to shopping too), so do what you can to lessen your exposure.
Flood your feeds instead with minimalist, zero waste and slow fashion advocates such as Venetia La Manna (@venetialamanna), Clare Press’ The Wardrobe Crisis (@thewardrobecrisis), Fashion Revolution (@fash_rev), Waste Free Planet (@wastefreeplanet) and Eco-Age (@ecoage) – to keep you focused on tackling the world’s over-consumption crisis. Read Elizabeth Cline’s The Conscious Closet, Simple Matters by Erin Boyle, and The Joy of Less by Francine Joy. Feel soothed and inspired.
5. Practice patience and gratitude
Got a burning desire to buy something? Sit tight for a few days and see how things change! (It’ll amaze you how often you forget you need something.) In the meantime, incorporate some gratitude habits into your day through journaling. Tip: morning or just before bed works best. Or simply turn your attention to what you already have. Comb through the items in your wardrobe and remind yourself of what you love about them.
Learn how to admire something from afar without wanting to own it. Try adding things to a Pinterest board to appreciate them as a form of inspiration.
Above all – align your buying behaviour with the values you want to live by. Understand the importance of self-awareness, the need for self-discipline, and the power you wield as an individual. The role we each play in creating a better world has never been more important than it is today.
Got any other tips? Please share what steers you away from unnecessary purchases – we‘d love to hear what works for you in the comments below.
Zoe Smith is a British writer, content creator and founder of The Ethical Guide, a lifestyle site offering practical tips and inspiration for all things ethical living.