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Upbeat music plays, and everything is so shiny and new that you’re in the mood to shop till you drop. But a trip to the shopping centre is all too often followed by spend regret. How can we stop living in a material world?
“Many of us are bogged down by how much stuff we have, yet continue to buy more.” Despite the best intentions, these words from Tamara DiMattina ring true for many.
DiMattina is the ideas girl behind October’s Buy Nothing New Month, a campaign that encourages people to consider their purchases more carefully. There’s not only clutter and cost to consider; on average, every dollar of consumption in Australia creates 720 grams of greenhouse gas emissions and 28 litres of water. “Our wardrobes are stuffed full, yet we say we have nothing to wear!” she continues. “Is this because we’ve been seduced by clever advertising telling us we constantly need new, improved stuff to be a functioning, acceptable human?”
“The hardest part is getting to that point where you’re willing to change,” says Lisa Heinze, who shares her story as a fashionista turned environmentalist in her e-book Sustainability with Style. “It was hard for me to change my clothes because I used fashion to create my identity.” No longer a slave to fashion, Heinze now describes herself as “super proud of the green”, and she looks smart and polished, saying that “green is a big part of my identity now”.
“In Australia we spend just under two billion dollars each year on clothes we never use, so that’s about $100 per person per year in unused clothing,” says Heinze. But it’s not just fashion – other unnecessary and unused items contribute substantially to our impact, so here’s how to change your habits and stop shopping.
Change for impact
“The first step is to recognise where you can make the biggest impact. For me it was buying new clothes,” says Heinze. “Beauty, make up and hair products were probably the easiest for me,” says Heinze, who now also makes her own cleaning products, and has organic produce delivered so she rarely even needs to go into the supermarket. “But everything had to come in stages. I had to slow down and take one thing at a time.”
Shop your closet
“Have that ‘wardrobe full of clothes, nothing to wear’ feeling? Instead of heading to the shops, try mixing and matching pieces you’ve never worn together before and accessorising in a new way – you’ll be amazed at the creations you make,” suggests Heinze.
Research first, buy second
Before buying new, avoid impulse purchases and do your homework before hitting the shops. Write a list and ask ‘do I really need this?’ before pulling out the credit card.
Swap don’t shop
“Attend a clothes swap to refresh your wardrobe without increasing your eco-footprint. One of my favourite things about swapping is that you can often pick up modern pieces that you can’t always find in vintage shops, which is great if your personal style isn’t vintage,” says Heinze.
Discovering the joys of renting is one of the most ethical decisions you’ll make. Rent anything from a bag to an evening gown on sites such as Strawberry Handbags and Can I Borrow That. Heinze says one of the best things about renting clothes and accessories is “you’re wearing stuff that you often couldn’t afford, so you can wear a fantastic dress for an event, and give it back”.
Quality not quantity
“Many fashionistas are already aware of this golden rule, and it bodes well for those interested in eco-shopping,” says Heinze. “Avoid high street shops, seek high-quality items, and take care of your clothes – a great way to maintain your style, sustainably.”
In your rhythm
“Wear an iPod,” warns Heinze. She says that listening to her own music in the shops, even the supermarket, helps to keep her focussed and in her own mindset so she only buys what she’s there to get.
Think of the benefits
Efficient, practical shoppers have more time, money and less clutter. “I never just browse shops on the weekend like I used to. This has freed up so much time!” says DiMattina. Saving money is an obvious one, but when put in perspective, it can mean saving enough for a weekend health retreat, or an overseas adventure. DiMattina now says “instead of spending money on more ‘stuff’ I try make choices that have less environmental impact, and for me, are more awesome, like experiences with mates, education, holidays”.