Too much!

Filed in Blog, Guest Posts by on January 14, 2010 18 Comments
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How to avoid the urge to buy more waste!

How to avoid the urge to buy more waste!

This week’s guest poster is Marieke Zech.

Marieke lives in the south east with her husband, 2 children, 2 cats and 2 rabbits. They try to live greener while still indulging in their love of good food and the good things in life in general.

They aim to buy things second-hand or make things themselves Last year they added 2 raised vegetable beds to the garden, which provided them with lots of beautiful fresh veggies in the last months. Marieke is looking forward to even more this year as they’ll benefit from the whole growing season!

In this thought provoking post, Marieke talks openly about the seduction of shopping and how to resist the urge to create more waste.

And I’ve done it again; now it’s too late to make a present for my little nephew who’ll be 2 in a few days, so I’ll have to go and buy something. Fortunately I did have something in mind, I knew where to get it and I did have enough time to go and do it. So this gorgeous sunny Sunday morning I left the children with their Dad doing homework and braved what was until recently the South’s largest shopping centre.

I try to avoid places like this, they bring out the worst in me. They make me want everything I see, and I do mean Want, and I do mean Everything! It started as soon as I walked through the revolving doors of the department store. Right by the entrance sat a display showing home wares in that style I find so cute. Coffee mugs with ditsy flowers in pale blue and pink, tea towels which would go just so with the mugs when I would be lovingly washing them with the washing up brush in a colour-coordinated stripey pattern. If I had all these things my life would be absolutely perfect. My husband would come home from work smiling, the happy children would be playing board games at the kitchen table while I would be baking cookies all day long. Of course.

And that was only the beginning. On it went from stationary to biscuit tins, via duvet covers with matching night lights and slippers, through to peg bags and vases , not forgetting fashion and perfumes on the second floor. All the way through the shop they shouted ‘Buy me! Buy me! Owning me will fulfil you! I will make you truly happy for the rest of your life!’

But I already have coffee mugs, and plenty of clothes, and duvets, and all the rest.’ I don’t need this’, I kept repeating to myself in almost a mantra. ‘I really don’t NEED any of this, so just get what you came for and walk away!’ I am an intelligent person, with a reasonable idea of how I would like to lead my life and how I would like to leave the earth for my children, and yet I was sooo tempted! So I suppose people who are not so sure haven’t got a chance!

This time I pretty much managed to leave the shop with only the things I came for in my bag… well, actually, I have a confession to make. I did fall for temptation. I couldn’t resist it any longer. I bought a book on sewing things for the home with ‘repurposed’ materials (charity shop finds to you and me). And you know what? It is making me so happy, and even more now I have found 4 woollen jumpers in my charity shop, in matching colours, perfect for felting and making cuddly toys for my nephews for Christmas, well in time! How good is that!

The book is called ‘Sewing Green. 25 Projects made with repurposed & organic materials’ by Betz White (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009).

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (18)

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  1. John Costigane says:

    Reducing has great value in avoiding unsustainable products and practices. However, the Zero Waste perspective is to actively promote sustainable options to remove all unsustainable things with time. This is where consumers have the power to encourage the necessary changes.

    A recent example is Tetra Pak which is aiming for full sustainability in its packaging. They are prepared to take back the complete waste package, suitably flattened, from UK consumers, giving us all a Zero Waste outcome. They may not yet be fully sustainable within their own industrial processes but the intention is clear. If we buy these products exclusively other companies will adapt their practices to meet this sustainable challenge.

    Until recently, Tetra Paks were not a consideration but now I always buy these milk & juice containing products in the weekly shop. This is one thing newcomers can easily do as well to add impetus to the campaign.

  2. Marieke – you’re absolutely right about shopping in these places. I used to adore John Lewis in particular and could easily have justified something from every department….but these days my visits have reduced to the bare minimum. I’ve most definitely changed in the last couple of years since working actively to reduce our waste and only yesterday wrote a blogpost about how my own mother doesn’t recognise me anymore thanks to decades of impulse buying having come to a gradual end. Like you I now visit with a clear path of intention and only come out with what I needed in the first place…..after enjoying a good browse of course. 🙂

    If anyone else wants to curb their shopping habits, I can recommend a book by John Naish called Enough: Breaking free from the world of more. And if you don’t want to buy it, there’s always the library 😀

  3. Marieke Zech says:

    @John Costigane:

    Hi John, I hear what you’re saying. However not all councils recycle tetra packs! I have contacted my council twice now over the last couple of years, asking when they plan to start this, but they fob me off with a statement how they recycle nearly all their waste within the borough (because there happens to be a composting facility and a waste to energy plant here) and they want to keep that rate high. Laudable definitely, but it still doesn’t help me! I’m not sure where to go from here, tips gratefully received!


  4. I also salivate when walking round shops. They actually give me a psychological boost too (I guess millions is spent on ensuring this exactly outcome!) so I just stay away.

    I like the sound of that book too ….


  5. Janet says:

    We live in the Kent, and the whole area of Kent has no Tetra Pak recycling, the nearest one I know is in Eastbourne, 55 miles from us and I cannot justify a trip like that to get rid of my Tetra Paks.

  6. Marieke Zech says:

    Hi Janet,

    I understand Medway council does tetra pak recycling, but don’t know if that’s any good for you. Annnoying, isn’t it!

  7. Janet says:

    Unfortunatly we are in south east kent (the land time forgot ) and Medway is about the same distance and even worse to get to .

  8. clair says:

    Marieke, I can relate hugely to your article and whats worse is that these type of displays are also often targetted at children. And whilst it is easy (ish!) for us to say I don’tneed that to fulfil me, it is so much harder for a child to do it,especially when modern society bombards them with “stuff”! I’d love to see an end to consumerism 😀 Thanks for a good article.

  9. John Costigane says:

    @Marieke Zech: We have a commingled collection which allows a vast range of recyclables and this is a growing feature countrywide due to the high percentage of households taking part. EfW locally always demands the maximum amount of waste, including recyclables, and is therefore an unpopular choice for new waste facilities.

    Do you see any drawbacks locally for this incinerator? UkWin is the leading site for local anti EfW Incineration movements and one of the arguments they use is the unsustainable burning of recyclable material . Some locations, Coventry for example, have one already and removing them is big challenge for locals.

  10. John Costigane says:

    @Janet: It might be worthwhile contacting Tetra Pak to ask about facilities since they are keen to make the returns a success. Community bins would be one option for the local council since it would be the simplest system to organise, though a busy town centre would be the best location.

    As usual, there are a host of imperfections in recycling and patience is often required. Things can change overnight however. I had a local source segregated boxes system for many years with a fixed 50% participation. Recently the better commingled system was announced out of the blue and now is running smoothly with 90%+ participation.

  11. Jane says:

    Don’t forget that Tetra-Paks may be recyclable at supermarketsor leisure centres within your area and these may not be listed on your Council website. Also you may find that they are recyclable in banks at a supermarket or leisure centre in a neighbouring county/borough. Flattening them makes a lot of difference!

  12. Jane says:

    Lots of people travel distances to work – or perhaps you travel every so often to visit your granny or brother etc etc. Check out their recycling facilities!

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @Janet: Janet, you sound very frustrated about the lack of Tetra Pak recycling; understandably so. How far is Rother from you – there are 5 locations there but I don’t know if that’s any help?

  14. Linda Ryan says:

    Hi All

    I’m new but loving the website very much.

    We have a good friend who buys hand knitted sweaters and cardigans etc from Charity shops for very little money. She takes them home, and unravels and washes the skiens (if needed) then knits them up into lovely garments for the family. Knitting wool is quite expensive, but you can buy a ‘never worn’ ‘hand knitted’ garment for a fraction of the money it would cost to knit – unravel it – and knit something you wanted.

    Keep up the good work.

  15. Jane says:

    Returning from a childhood abroad I found the local habit of dressing up and going to the shops on Saturday very odd. This was a new and not particularly enjoyable dimension. We had been brought up to only go shopping when we needed something. Now we went somewhere but we didn’t have the money so parents were pestered. Credit of course later changed all that! We spent our time doing much more interesting things before and deciding to give experiences and give time to our children is very valuable. It is lovely to all sit down and talk about something that we did together!

    ALWAYS make a list before you go shopping (even if you don’t stick to it exactly) and NEVER go shopping when you are hungry!

    The displays in the shops can look good because of the large amount of space that they have to just show a small amount of living space. Stop and remind yourself you don’t live in a shop!

  16. Sandie says:

    As a normally sane person, I can lose the plot completely when shopping in seductive surroundings….

    This new year’s resolution was to ‘only buy what I needed’.

    I’ve almost achieved it!

    I recently organised ‘The Really Really FREE Table’ at Bristol’s Biggest Indoor Picnic, where we all brought our useful clothes, toys, books etc and took away whatever we wanted, with no money changing hands. This gave me a BIGGER BUZZ than the shopping, because I got my fix of new items, however, they were recycled, free of charge and helping to unclutter someone elses home.

  17. Layla says:

    Marieke, great article/blog post!!

    I usually prefer to stay away from temptations (& distractions) too! Luckily I have quite selective taste (sometimes) so at times there were years when nothing in the shops looked good!! 🙂
    (Fashion OR furniture!)

    Those books both sound good!

    Sandie, great idea about the free stuff at the picnic!!

    Janet, we live not so far from a EfW incinerator too & the tetrapaks are burnt there, I hear. They wanted to collect them but couldn’t find anyone to buy/take them! As they are difficult to recycle, apparently can only be recycled to 70%. (And apparently the tetrapaks also weren’t clean enough…) So better solution: try to find other packaging options! That’s what we try to do!

    Lately yogurt has been offered in plastic bottles in shops, and we buy that. (By ‘we’ I mean Sis or Mom, cause I prefer homemade yogurt from zero waste milk.) Plastic bottles are not always recycled either (I’ve heard estimates of only 20% of them being recycled-?), although they are as far as I know fully recycable! (And can be made into Patagonia fleeces or such!) I hope that if clean, they will get recycled! (Of course, Wales is building a new plastic bottle recycling facility instead of EfW incinerators so there’s more hope for you guys over there!)

  18. Jane says:

    There is nothing more satisfying than wearing your clothes until they wear out!

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