How to Be Green: Make Smarter Purchasing Decisions (or None at All!)

How to Be Green: Make Smarter Purchasing Decisions (or None at All!)

It happens every year. You resolve to do something when the calendar turns onto a brand new year. Maybe 2015 can be your greenest year yet-and not just by donating that box in the basement, or your old torn-up clothes…

When we turned the corner in years past, there was a movement called "The Compact", which meant joining this pact to not buy anything new in the new year. Pretty simple, right? Use what you have, or find a way to do without. Well, for most people, this really doesn't work. It's an easy idea to get behind-who doesn't want to spend less?-but we all know that unless you are a super planner and stocked up on every little thing already, there will come a time when you need something.

My resolution is a bit more realistic…

Quality matters

For the purchases I will be making, I want them to be the healthiest for my home, and friendliest to the earth. For me, this means splurging on an organic twin mattress (sans flame retardants) for my daughter, even though it costs at least four times as much as a conventional one.

If you truly cannot afford to buy a reasonably good choice for an item, and cannot wait until the time comes that you will, consider buying used-in these days of excess, so many things go barely used, that buying used can be just like buying new, except the item has been aired out a bit. If you need a new sweater, consider paying a bit more for a good quality one, instead of a cheaply made one that isn't going to hold up past a few washes and wears. When a $50 sweater lasts 8 years without mending, it's a far better value than having to buy a new $15 sweater every year.

Take some time with your trash

Many people donate by filling garbage bags with torn or outdated clothing, knick-knacks they've always hated, or chipped dishes. While these things certainly need to be purged from your home, consider a few other things when you want to clear things out: repurposing, rehoming, and recycling.


If you have an item that works, is good quality, but just doesn't work for what you wanted it-consider what it might be used for somewhere else. I actually have old tape cartridge storage drawers in my kitchen cabinets to store food cans! Perhaps that old nightstand or entertainment center could be an adorable kitchen for a child in your life, or that knick-knack shelf you took down years ago could be a nice little shoe rack. Broken pots and dishes make cute, whimsical fairy gardens for kids, or a nice new mosaic top for an old table.


Of course, many of the things we no longer need would serve a much better purpose in another home. This can be achieved by donating, but you may also find a home for things by thinking about them a bit. Perhaps your nephew just moved out for college, and might just love your old futon, or your cousin just lost a ton of weight but might not have a big budget to go shopping for all new right-size-clothing, and she might really appreciate a few gently used items from your closet.

Read more about organic clothing

We all seem to have hesitation when offering people our used things, but you just never know until you ask or offer. When you recognize a specific need that someone may have, the item might be better received than an offer blasted out to all of your friends and family or a plea to take things off your hands. Being a parent, I have tons of children's clothing and items, and I make a habit of asking around to see if there are friends of a friend who might be in need. I love making care packages with new or gently used clothing, nursing accessories, a cozy blanket and some small toys. Rehoming these things to someone in need certainly makes me feel better than dumping them into a collection box.


I bet most of you already sort your plastics, cardboard and newspapers from your normal trash to recycle them (I surely hope your town offers recycling-but if not, please speak up about it and make it happen!) but did you know that almost everything can be recycled? Baby car seats (which are turned away from donation centers since they cannot verify safety and condition) can be recycled piece by piece, but you do need to work for it. There are recycling centers and companies available for almost everything, from textiles, wood, plastic, foam, metal and glass.

Do you really need a new one? And do you need to buy it?

It's certainly not a new idea to ask yourself if a purchase is a need or a want, but take it a step further…and think if there is something else you already own, that you can repurpose as in the suggestion above.

Do you really need a new kitchen table, or could you refinish yours, put a tablecloth on it, or maybe even barter with someone for a new one? Do you really need to buy new doll clothes for your daughter's doll, or could you try to make some with old clothes or scraps of fabric? I made a wrap dress with only two cuts in an old cloth napkin, and about a dozen hand stitches for the strap and closure!

Read more about repurposing and 'upcycling'

I know we discussed buying used above, and I'll say it again-if you can't fix it, make it yourself, or make do without, perhaps you can buy it or trade for it with someone else. There are thrift stores just about everywhere (The Salvation Army, Goodwill, Savers, etc) and community yard sale websites like Freecycle, Craigslist, or buy and sell groups/pages on Facebook.

This also goes for food, whether it's items like produce, which you might just be able to grow yourself, or convenience items like mac and cheese, or other boxed foods. Consider taking a weekend to learn how to make them, and if you happen to have the freezer space-make large batches to make your own convenience items at a much lower cost (not to mention better health.)

How will you make 2015 more green?

BONUS: Listen to this Green Divas Foodie-Philes podcast with some awesome, easy 5 minute meals-sure to help you buy less packaged dinners…

Written by Green Diva Christine (Christine Zadykovich) for The Green Divas.

Image: Stacie

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