If You Can’t Buy Eco, At Least Buy Well-Made

January 24, 2012

$299 for organic cotton jeans. $20 for a pair of organic cotton socks. $3,000 for a coffee table made of reclaimed wood. “Going green” can be an expensive endeavor if you are to only buy eco-friendly goods made entirely from sustainably-harvested materials with fair-trade labor practices. Let’s be honest, most of us cannot afford to fill our house with the latest and greatest green fashion or furniture – it’s very pricey stuff.

While the best way to go green is to buy goods used or pre-owned and give them another life, what if you need something new but cannot afford to spend the money on the eco-friendly version? You can at least do your best to buy something that is built to last, rather than a disposable, easily-trashed item that will barely last a year with normal use.

Our culture has become one filled with single-use, disposable items sold for dirt cheap at big-box convenience stores. And there will be hell to pay for all this convenience eventually, as all this “stuff” isn’t going anywhere – it’s being dumped into landfills, where it will stick around long enough to do some serious environmental damage. Poorly-built particleboard furniture, thin $3 t-shirts, “free” cellphones, inexpensive lead-laden jewelry, “As seen on TV” exercise equipment, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic shower curtains, knock-off Chinese tools – you name it, chances are your favorite store is full of cheap, disposable items designed to encourage consumption but also to only last for a short while in your home. (See Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture for more) So while at first glance you believed you saved $10 on a certain item compared to a pricer, better-made alternative, the truth is that the purchase is probably harming the planet, yourself, and costing you more in the long run because it will need to be replaced over and over again.

That’s where buying well-made goods comes into play. Sure, they are more expensive. And yes, it may take a little while longer to save up the money necessary to buy said product. But given the fact that cheap goods don’t last long, are easily broken, are potentially full of toxic ingredients, and need to be replaced more often than something that is well-made, well, it’s kind of a no-brainer to spend the extra money on a solid product. It may not be entirely eco-friendly, but at least it will stand the test of time, stay out of a landfill for much longer, and will save you money over the long-term. Buy once, keep forever when possible.

Here are a few examples of some products we often try to save money on, only to find ourselves back at the store the following year picking out yet another one:

  • Shoes
  • Jeans
  • T-Shirts
  • Luggage
  • Particleboard Furniture
  • Cheap Jewelry
  • Tools
  • Appliances
  • Kitchen Utensils
  • Cellphones
  • Vacuums
  • Pots & Pans
  • Toys
  • Designer Knockoffs

If something is cheap, there is usually a reason for it being so. As planetary stewards in charge of our own destiny here on Earth, we all have to do our part to reduce our solid waste and stop the Walmartization of America. When you need to shop, I encourage you to look for pre-owned goods on both Ebay and Craigslist, check out handmade goods at Etsy, and then if you don’t see what you need to really consider purchasing the most well-made piece you can possibly afford rather than the cheapest version you can find. If you cannot buy green or eco-friendly, buying products made with care and designed to last a lifetime are your next best alternative. The planet and its future inhabitants will thank you for your effort… and for the products you leave behind for them to buy second-hand!

Image from BigStockPhoto

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Comments (1)

  1. Nicki says:

    This is a great article. A huge problem people forget to think about is the “life expectancy” of their clothing. A great way to stay sustainable is to buy timeless, well-made pieces that will stay in your closet forever.
    I think this is what makes brands like Reco Jeans so great. They are well made, eco-friendly, jeans. So not only is the actual production much better for the environment, but they will last, meaning you won’t be forced to go buy another pair of jeans next season.
    Their production is actually really interesting. They take scraps from jeans factories that are usually simply thrown away and reweave the fibers that are strong into a new durable fabric used to make their jeans.
    You should really check them out. Recojeans.com