Shopping Just For The Sake of Buying “Green”.


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There has been a lot of talk lately about consumers “buying green” and what it means for the environmental movement. Does buying a green product make sense when you don’t need it in the first place? Not really…I have been guilty of it as well but am trying to become more aware of what I am spending my money on. Am I buying it just to “be green” or am I buying it because I “need” it and I should be buying a green version? Argh…it’s tough.

If you were to throw out a perfectly good dining table just to buy a new one made from reclaimed lumber, you would not be doing the environment any good. While the labor and lumber that went into your table could have been better spent making a table for someone who doesn’t have one at all, your perfectly good table is probably going into the recycling bin or the dump. It’s strange, really. I see some of these home-improvement shows redo an entire house in a “green” way when the house was perfectly fine in the first place. And never mind the items we actually need in our houses – we are being sold green versions of products that we don’t need at all – think aluminum can compactors sold as “eco-friendly” – and being told it is OK to consume as long as we consume green…but nothing could be further from the truth.

I am not above falling for this advice…as I have mentioned before, I like me some eco-shoes. But do I need several pairs or would one do just fine? And a $300 can crusher? What purpose does that serve that the bottom of my shoes can’t for much cheaper? It is very easy to fall prey to “if you buy green, it is OK to consume“. Ad agencies and marketing companies are very good at making us think we need things that we don’t need at all…and with the new green movement, they have yet another psychological avenue to exploit. The key is trying to avoid falling into the trap.

If a person needs a new dining room table, then by all means they should try to buy a pre-used one or at least one made from reclaimed materials. If some new clothes are needed, try to seek out some sort of environmentally-friendly alternative to what you normally buy – or better yet, check out a thrift store. But if the backpack that you have now works fine, wait till it doesn’t anymore before buying a new one. Same goes for anything that already works fine inside your home or office; why send yet more trash to the landfill just to spend money on a “green” version? In exchange for buying green, we send more to landfills, recycling centers, etc.. It kind of defeats the purpose.

The one place I say to buy green right away is in cleaning supplies and body products. I don’t really understand the in’s and out’s of getting rid of the toxic stuff in each town; I imagine your community would have a place or certain dates during the year you can get rid of chemicals without having to dump them in the drain. But switching to natural and biodegradable soaps and cleaners makes sense in terms of your individual health and should probably be done right away. This is not a consumption issue, its a toxicity issue!

None of us are perfect when it comes to this kind of mentality – I fall for it quite often, and sometimes I manage to catch myself and sometimes I don’t. I guess all we can expect to do is try our best to consume when necessary and when necessary buy green!

Photo from Shutterstock

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  1. This is so true! I have been saying for years that I can’t afford to “Go Green”, I will just keep doing what I can and making changes when necessary, but the industry that has grown up in the Green movement is often just as guilty of promoting consumption and green-washing of course. So glad there are other ‘good humans’ out there who also have common sense!

  2. Well put. “Green” is a market now and businesses know it! We can all afford to “go green” if we do so by replacing worn-out items rather than perfectly good ones.

  3. Great post! My neighbors are all proud of themselves for tearing out and landfilling 2 year old carpeting and installing bamboo floors. Ug. I may not like my carpets right now but keeping them is better (environmentally) than buying something new.

  4. So true! Makes total sense IF you need the product, but to buy it just because it’s green is a waste.

    Making your own cleaning supplies is a great choice too.

  5. Thanks for this post. It’s so true. It bothers me when people throw away perfectly usable ‘conventionally made’ items just to replace it for ‘green things’. using what you have, mending it when its broken, and only then buying green to replace it when its completely used up is the best way to go

  6. One pair of shoes is enough. Thats basically all I wear – get one good pair and they will last for several years and be repairable too.

    About the only time we have recycled something to get a green product is if the original item was toxic…I have immune system problems and we need to keep the toxins way down in the house.

    Basically, Im sick to death of consumerism. I can count on my hand the number of times in a year we buy stuff in a regular store besides groceries.
    I also believe that instead of buying a new, Green product, if a re-used or thrift store item is available, get that…

  7. The one I’m struggling with is light bulbs. As they burn out, I’m replacing them with CFLs or LEDs, but I can’t bring myself to toss a bunch of working bulbs into the trash… I don’t replace things for green-sake (I just finally traded my old, but running well, Jeep with 327K miles on it for a Prius), but I have replaced all cleaning products with vinegar, baking soda, Bronner’s soap, etc. The light bulbs are on the line between and I don’t know which side is best. Input?

  8. I actually, a few years back when I changed to CFL’s, donated my incandescents. This accomplished three things:

    1. Saved me money on energy
    2. Saved the bulbs from going to a landfill before they were used up
    3. Gave lightbulbs to people who may have needed them.

    I figured it was a win win for all.

  9. I love how non-dogmatic you are! You make great points without finger-pointing.

    My motto is seeing if I really need an item (or at least REALLY want it), then I try to find a used version of whatever I want or need, including clothing. If I cant find it use or pre-owned, then I go try to find a “greener” or more eco-friendly version of the item withing my budget. That alone eliminates a lot of wasteful spending for me.

  10. @Sally,

    I am “one of those” who cannot live in a home with carpet due to the toxic chemicals used in conventional carpets. The newer they are, the worst they are for me. I get horrible migraines, and even endocrine and hormonal issues from it. I would like to give your neighborhoods the benefit of the doubt and hope the they just didnt rip it up because they wanted to blindly “go green” – they may have had more important reason for it.

    I wonder if there is a better way to dispose of it though. We are looking to possibly buy a house and if it has carpet, it is coming OUT before we move in.

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