Green Purchasing — What Is Best?

by Katy on October 28, 2008 · 11 comments

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.”

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

CanadianKate October 29, 2008 at 7:21 am

Mainly agree. It certainly has been easier than I ever imagined.

But now that my year is up, I have bought a few new things. The first item was my step stool. No more dragging a chair around and the additional height is much appreciated. I suppose I might have found a used one but I love my new one (and technically, I didn’t buy it, it was my birthday present from my dh.)

The second item was an extra set of duvet covers. I line dry my sheets year round and in the winter we use duvets. It was an experiment started just before I joined the Compact and so we had only bought one set. Last winter I had to run my dryer for the duvet covers since they needed to be washed and put back onto the bed the same day and Mondays were not always conducive to line drying. In the summer, this isn’t an issue since I have two sets of top and bottom sheets.

So once the duvets went onto the bed, I bought a second set. I figure it will come close to hitting break even on environmental impact since the duvets will last twice as long (I’m only using them every second week) and they’ll last even longer because they are being line dried as oppose to the dryer. Plus, there’s the energy saved by not running the dryer for the 40 – 50 minutes it takes to dry them.

This was the first week for using the second set. It is Wednesday and we’ve had nothing but rain and snow so far but Friday will be fine so already, I’ve avoided using the dryer.


Kate October 29, 2008 at 8:23 am

I think what amazes me the most about the new “buy green” marketing is that people are throwing out perfectly working older things to buy the new green items. Sort of the opposite of reduce!


S.R. October 29, 2008 at 8:27 am

I agree with you
I have not officially joined the compact but im trying out getting things on freecycle and at the thrift store, so far its been working out
my main goals are to be debt free and have my existence negatively impact the earth as little as possible 🙂


Linda October 29, 2008 at 10:54 am

I agree but am having a difficult time convincing my husband & kids, husband especially. He loves buying things, getting the lastest & shinyest. I did make some progress with my son though. 2 weeks ago he wanted to buy a book at the book fair at school. I told him he couldn’t buy it, that I would get it at the library for him. He was pretty unhappy. Well, I had to put it on hold. He had to wait a week to read the book (gasp!). Then it took him a whole 2 hours to finish the book cover to cover. He was very happy that he hadn’t spent $10 on the book after all. He sheepishly admitted I was right….Hooray!


thepennypincher October 29, 2008 at 11:05 am

I agree, “green” products are still manufactured, they are still shipped, they still require a lot of resources to create. Buying something used saves on all the energy and resources required to produce it in the first place. It would be the equivalent of junking your used car to get a hybrid. Yes, you save on gas, but how long do you have to drive to save on the energy used to manufacture that car? Keeping your used car a few extra years, carpooling if possible, and not getting a second car will likely do much more good to the environment than a brand new hybrid.


Gina October 29, 2008 at 8:03 pm

I agree 100%. I have been a buy used shopper for many years. But unfortunately, this is so subversive! Our democracy depends upon a growing economy and if we stop buying the world may very well come to an end… or so some would have us believe. I wonder if there is any discussion out there about having a sustainable economy rather than a constantly growing one. It certainly seems as if the time has come to rethink our economic dependence on stuff stuff stuff.


Jessica Wolk-Stanley October 31, 2008 at 12:33 am

It seems like there will always be folks out there that think used items are “gross.” If people like us weren’t buying people’s old stuff, these things would be taking up space in a landfill, etc. Do we really want to be supporting an economy that relies on cheap goods manufactured in factories that have unsafe, toxic and unfair working conditions? Viva la Goodwill!


thepennypincher October 31, 2008 at 5:09 am

Gina, I agree with you that the economy depends on buying stuff. However, there are two options: consumers can buy stuff they don’t need to fuel the economy or that money can be spent by states and others to improve the infrastructure. It doesn’t matter from the economic point of view whether the stuff being bought is a new plasma television or cities buying new buses for public transportation for example that would contribute to what I would say is the greater good.


Magdalena Julie Bragdon Perks October 31, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Some of the stuff I need I can’t find used (or new at a good price, even.) Where can you get a hand wringer (what the Brits call a mangle)? Who has a pressure canner for sale? Small kitchen and household stuff is easy to find, but the old-fashioned and energy-free things I need to replace seem to be impossible!


BHC November 2, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Awsome article, I’m not a “Green” person but I do believe in using resources wisely. I hate waste.


Jan November 22, 2008 at 4:15 am

I hadn’t heard of the compact before, but I’m pledging to do so right now! I’ll mark this date on my calendar & see how I do. I’m not a big spender anyways, and other than my underthings (which I would NEVER buy used), I know I can make it without buying anything new.

I’m losing my job come Jan. so I think this is an easy challenge for me! I’m excited! Thanks for posting this!


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