Green Purchasing — What is Best?

by Katy on June 5, 2009 · 19 comments

In recognition of World Environment Day, please enjoy this previously published blog.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Want to start living the green life?

Retailers would have you believe green living is all about organically grown hemp sheets and sustainably harvested bamboo living room sets.


The best green purchase you can make is the one not taken.

Every time you purchase a brand new product you make a dent in the environment. Even when you’re making a green choice. That product had to be produced by materials that had to be shipped to the point of manufacturing. They were then shipped to the place of purchase, to be taken home by you, the consumer.

If there’s something you feel you just can’t live without, consider buying it used. Whether it be a book, clothing, appliance, toy or gift. Most anything can be found used.

A second hand regular item is better for the environment than a brand-new green product.

It’s already manufactured, the damage has already been done.

I’m part of a world wide non-consumer group called The Compact. (Buy nothing new.) Since joining in January 2007, I’ve only bought a few new items here and there. I went into it thinking I would try it for a month, but I doubt I’ll ever stop. The things I thought would be difficult, (gifts, family acceptance) have been a cinch. Really, a non-issue.

Not only do I feel good that my possessions did not have to be manufactured specifically for me, I’ve also saved a ton of money!

So next time you’re about to buy a brand-new product, pause a moment to think whether it could be found used.

Or maybe even not bought at all.

Agree? Disagree? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Jinger June 5, 2009 at 5:53 am

I’m not a compacter, per se, as I do shop at Ross for some things…prices there pretty much equal thrift stores on what I buy….but, I am not a consumer either. I spend little money beyond basic bills, so I guess it all equals out.


GLM June 5, 2009 at 7:18 am

I don’t compact – most of what I purchase is new for a specific reason. But what I’ve spent money on this year versus last year has definately gone down.

And honestly, that’s not because of the economy. It’s because I’m trying to get out of debt. It’s easily been 3 months since I bought a book (new or used) or CD. That’s actually pretty good for me.


Angela June 5, 2009 at 10:42 am

I just joined the Compact this January as an experiment for a year, and I am surprised at how easy it’s been. Like you said, gifts are a non-issue. In every case so far I’ve been able to come up with something used (antique Bauer pottery, anyone?), something I make myself, an event (concert or play tickets) or service (spa gift certificate), or a charity. For children, I have even re-gifted, they don’t know the difference. That could work for anyone really, if you think it’s something they would like.

My husband is not doing The Compact, so it brings up an interesting paradox about him just going out and buying something anyway. But right now he’s out looking at a used refrigerator he found on Craigslist, and I hope he buys it! He was determined to buy a new one until I talked him into just looking at some of the listings. When he saw how much he could save, he changed his mind.


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl June 5, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Great article, Katy! I think this is one of your best.

I’m not a compacter officially, but I’m also not a die-hard consume-a-holic. It just makes good sense not to buy everything in sight and to buy used when possible(or get used stuff free!).


Clean Simple June 5, 2009 at 5:20 pm

I totally with this statement “A second hand regular item is better for the environment than a brand-new green product.”

There are some things that must be bought new: paint and food come to mind, but most everything else can be found used. And I’d rather have a used, 40 year old American-made baking pan than a new one made in China. The quality is better, it’s better for the environment and it keeps an item out of a landfill.


Sierra June 5, 2009 at 6:10 pm

I just joined the Compact a few weeks ago, but I have been living this ethic for years – buy second-hand whenever possible! It’s mystified me to see people scrambling to buy “organic” clothing when there are thrift stores everywhere. The same with “green” furniture, housewares, etc.

One of the biggest places I run into issues with this is children’s toys. People give us a lot of newly-minted plastic toys for the kids, which of course my hippy friends look down on – you let your child play with that?!? They in turn buy a lot of sustainably-harvested, organic, handmade, etc. toys.

Me? I don’t buy toys. Not plastic or wood, not new or old. I take what we’re given and make the best of it.

Here’s what I gave my daughter for her fifth birthday last week:


BarbG June 5, 2009 at 6:42 pm

I agree Katy. The best way to be green is to do without or buy second hand.stuff new.

One of my favourite things to buy used is bed sheets. Gross you say? Not anywhere close to going to a hotel and sleeping in beds that thousands of people have slept in. When I buy sheets they are the nice high thread count that grandma’s use that were made ages ago. They are in impeccable shape and have the funkiest patterns. I pay about $6.00 for a queen set.

Anyway…this post just reminded me that I need to get a cast iron pan. I got rid of my Teflon last week. I am off to the thrift shop!


Mary C June 5, 2009 at 8:10 pm

I agree that it is better to buy used- there are plenty of thrift stores out there and rummage sale season is in full swing. I too prefer an old used American made item to a cheap new made in China item. I have been trying to do the Compact since Feb although I have slipped up recently and purchased a new punch and a few stamps for my scrapbooking hobby/addiction. Overall my consumption habits have been dramatically reduced though.


Non Consumer Girl June 5, 2009 at 11:18 pm

I’ve been undertaking the Compact this year, and it has become easier as time goes on.

It helps me to put more thought into the gifts that I give, and I have been giving more service or experience type gifts, like massages, movie tickets, theatre tickets and exhibitions and concerts.

It takes a little while to get in the habit of not buying new, but it is a great habit to get into!


Rekindled June 6, 2009 at 1:18 am

Yes! I totally agree with you. The best way to shop green is to shop less! I did the compact for 6 months a couple of years ago but I still avoid buying new whenever I can, by using freecycle and eBay etc as well as looking in charity shops when I can. I can’t understand people who treat shopping as entertainment. For some people it seems to be their main, or even only, hobby!


Julia June 6, 2009 at 6:50 am

We’ve been homeschooling for about 9 months. We get books from the library, and if it turns out that my son loves a certain book in the 4 (or 8 or 12!) weeks that we have it, then we put it on our book buying list. For the last several months, I’ve been buying those books used instead of new, usually by buying them from individual sellers or small book shops on, since you can tell what’s available and we wouldn’t have to take a chance driving to our favorite local used bookstore and then not finding the book there. (The local store’s for when we feel like a little book roulette, browsing to see what’s available.) Books have come to us from all over the country, and my son thinks it’s funny that two of them (from were former library books. We only had one problem: a paperback that smelled like smoke and perfume when we got it. That grossed us out. But a few days in the fresh air fixed it, and now that book is the one my son reads all the time and takes in the car with us…


mari June 6, 2009 at 6:39 pm

I can’t see buying “green” cleaning solutions when baking soda,vinegar,ammonia and dish soap would do. It may take a little more awareness to find second hand clothes that look like you just bought it off the rack. but it is worth it. There are some things I will not buy use, like underwear and tennis shoes. but the things that I do own I maintain and keep for a long time. I also look at things as in how much maintanance value. How much work do I need to put into keep the clothes, car etc. up to keep it looking good. and is it worth it.


Kristie-ND June 7, 2009 at 7:28 pm

I also homeschool my kids. I have benefited by “hand me down” curric as my children moved up(my daughter is graduating this year..yeah!), so I have tried to reciprocate by donating no longer needed curric to the library for a homeschool exchange. Saves money, and saves something new being produced. When you homeschool it can get extremely expensive while you try and find the right curric for your children. I have spent a ridiculous amount of money over the years, and it makes you stop and think about the amount of money, AND materials and energy that comes through your fingers, only to realize it doesn’t work for your kids. Better to pass it along, vs have something new made kwim?

I am always a bit perplexed when I hear “green” folks that don’t mention buying USED. Mercury filled light bulbs? Yes. Updated appliances? Yes, but I think that is a drop in the bucket compared to the difference buying used OR not buying at all makes, but maybe that is just me.

I love thrift stores, and most of what you buy used is older and more reliable and sturdier than the new, flimsy stuff that is available now


karen June 9, 2009 at 7:48 am

Another item most people wont buy used are shoes. My solution is to buy the good brand/fitting shoes from the thrift shop/garage sale, take out the insole layer & buy a store brand version of Dr Sholls insole liners for a couple bucks. For less than $5, I have a ‘new’ pair of comfortable shoes. It works for me 🙂
“your mileage may vary….”


penelope June 9, 2009 at 3:37 pm

good topic, never thought about this one! nice


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