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We see it a lot, especially in the zero waste movement: minimalist, high quality, and streamlined products which are organized, beautiful, and sustainable. They not only make us feel good because of their lesser footprint, but also because they are high end and, to put it simply: pretty to look at.
It’s the fancy toothpaste tabs, the sleek and modern bulk food jars, the cool and hip looking water bottle or coffee mug.
There is something to be said about being so intentional to the point where we only have things that, in the words of Marie Kondo: “spark joy.” But since we’ve learned about how every product we buy (no matter how eco-friendly it is) has a footprint, is buying a bunch of new and fancy “eco-friendly” products really all that great?
This then, leaves us with the unanswered question: is it better to buy new eco friendly products or is best to just use what we have?
We aren’t creating an all new demand for a product. Instead we are just using the demand that we’ve already created from the product we have.
These products are also familiar since we have used them before. We may not know how well they will work, but we will at least have an idea. 💭
Oftentimes when we repurpose things, we aren’t using them for their intended use. This can be fine and not bothersome at all, but it has potential for these products to be slightly less effective.
Since our repurposed items can be mismatched and not exactly what we want, this could be a little bit unmotivating compared to having exactly what works for us in an organized, streamlined fashion.
Using what we have can look like a lot of different things.
Purchasing a new (or used) product allows us the opportunity to find something that serves the exact purpose we are looking for. As opposed to something that was designed for other things.
By purchasing a product that is more in line with our values, this starts to change our mindset in a way. We may begin to feel excited and more invested in the changes we wish to make.
By purchasing something, we are sending a message about the products we as a society want to support. And while not buying anything also sends its own message, this can feel a little more active in a way.
We are bringing a new thing into our lives, and anytime we do this we ought to make sure that product will contribute to our experience rather than take away from it. This can be a heavy consideration to make. And this means there is a potential for more clutter in our lives if we aren’t careful.
Every. Single. Product. Has a footprint. No matter how eco friendly, no matter how thoughtful the company is, no matter how many trees are planted per purchase, whatever it may be...it has a footprint.
Another downside could be the cost of these things. There is a strong argument to make about zero waste products costing us up front as compared to single use items costing us down the line. But if we can simply use what we already have, then both costs can be avoided.
Bringing a product into our lives can be applicable and useful in a number of ways.
When it comes to replacing things we consume regularly such as floss, toothpaste, cotton swabs, cups, bottles, etc. etc. and we don’t currently have a reusable alternative already available, it’s best to purchase one.
Another great time for purchasing an eco friendly alternative is when the products we already have are ready to be replaced. If we purchase something and throw it away before it’s used up just to buy a more eco friendly alternative, well that isn’t very eco friendly at all.
That being said, a good example of this being okay is if we currently have something like a gas powered car and have the means to sell that car and instead go electric, or car free! Especially since the footprint of the manufactured old car isn’t going to waste.
Like most “vs” articles at LastObject, we usually arrive at a decision that isn’t vs at all. But instead we wind up with the answer: it depends.
If purchasing a new water bottle that you’re actually excited about is what gets you to stick with a new habit, then do that!
If you get excited about repurposing old jars and things around the house, then do that!
Maybe a lot of us will wind up doing both.
With a dilemma like this, it comes down to being intentional and actually thinking about our actions. Many companies out there would like us to believe we need to buy their products in order to live an eco friendly life. Sometimes, they may be right. But only if it is right for us.
We, as individuals, only know what works best for us. So trust your gut, make mistakes, and figure out what works best for you.