12Nov The last thing the planet, and you, need is more stuff
The last thing the planet, and you, need is more stuff
The title above is taken from the brilliant Martin Dorey's book, No. More. Rubbish. Excuses - a really excellent book to buy, enjoy and pass on.
You might be forgiven for thinking that giving a blog post the title; 'The last thing the planet, and you, need is more stuff' is a very strange thing to do, especially for an online shop. After all, the point of a shop is to sell stuff.
No matter what that 'stuff' is, surely we want to sell more?
To a point, we agree. We certainly jump for joy when we consider the fact that since opening our shop, we've sold over 10,000 rolls of paper tape. 10,000! That's mind blowing. By selling those 10,000 rolls of paper tape, we've saved 10,000 rolls of plastic sticky tape from being used, which is an awful lot of single use plastic that won't be polluting the environment. At the same time, swapping plastic tape for paper tape makes the gifts and craft projects that the tape was used on even more likely to be recycled because paper tape doesn't cause problems in the paper recycling process.
Paper tape is pretty much one of the win-wins that the planet has been crying out for (in our humble opinion!) and the more that we (and anyone else for that matter) sells, the better.
Likewise, seeing as every plastic toothbrush you've ever owned, most likely still exists and will continue to exist for many many years to come, the fact that we've sold almost 8,000 bamboo toothbrushes since opening the shop back in early 2018, really is amazing. We all need to brush our teeth, so why not do our best to make the brushing as eco friendly as possible? Combining a bamboo toothbrush with denttabs rather than a plastic tube of toothpaste really is a magically simple way to reduce your plastic usage with almost no effort and we will cheer each and every toothbrush that we sell.
You can see that if we hadn't sold those toothbrushes, or those paper tapes, then we wouldn't have saved the world from upteen plastic toothbrushes and plastic sticky tapes, and we are really grateful to every single person who decided to buy differently. So of course, selling stuff is important to us, not just as a small business and as people with families but also as folk who really care about the world we live in. We wouldn't be able to do what we do if we didn't sell products.
There is, however, a difference in the way that we view selling what is needed or useful or which will last a long time, compared with persuading you to buy stuff that you don't need. Martin's book, No. More. Rubbish. Excuses, and particularly this one point, about not needing more stuff, really does sum up how we feel about the never-ending accumulation of things and the constant desire to buy more, regardless of whether we need it and/or our ability to afford it.
Most of us really don't need more stuff. Not now, not this Christmas, not this Black Friday.
If we just stopped desiring the latest fashion, the most fragrant of new candles or the very most gorgeous something new, then this planet might have a chance of providing us with what we do need. Of course, our definitions of 'what we need' varies hugely depending on where you live, what sort of life you have and on loads of other factors.
We can't say what you need, or don't need. But what we can, rather confidently, say is that if you have three bottles of shampoo in the bathroom at home, you don't need more shampoo. Not even a brilliant plastic free bar of shampoo. Not yet. Use up what you have, and then when you get halfway through the last bottle, come check out our shampoo bars (or head to any other shop that sells shampoo bars and support ANY small business!) If you bought a reusable water bottle last year, you don't need another one. No matter how pretty the latest styles are, or how discounted they are at the moment. Just use the bottle you have.
I know it's boring and a tad old fashioned, but maybe that's what we need. A bit of a boring attitude to shopping and an old fashioned approach to reusing what you already have.
After all, dressing up consumerism in a cheeky green hat doesn't really change much, does it? It is still consumerism, just consumerism in a green hat.
Green Friday, in it's original form, is hoping to be a counter weight to the craziness and consumerism of Black Friday. The lovely website: Green Friday has some wonderful suggestions of ways of avoiding Black Friday, for example, by heading out into nature, doing something creative, or doing something to support a local cause. For people who can't take time out and head to the hills, you can even just pledge to not buy anything new on Black Friday. Just stick your wallet down the back of the sofa and forget about it for a few hours! By not being a consumer on Black Friday, you really are making a difference.
Of course, what about 'Green Friday' deals? Shouldn't you support businesses who are offering loads of 'Green Friday' discounts?
Well, it's a tricky one, for sure, and we can only share our thoughts on the matter:
Black Friday is all about moving more stock through a shop by reducing prices for a short time so that people will buy more.
Some folk rely on Black Friday to enable them to make big important purchases and that's cool, especially this year. Other people use Black Friday to stock up on items that they use a lot of, and again, if that works for you, then grand, go for it.
However, many businesses use Black Friday as a way of shifting more stock. Drop the price, and people will buy more. It's quite simple, and many businesses like to frame their shifting of stock as an eco-friendly option by borrowing the name Green Friday.
While Green Friday deals are about selling through more environmentally friendly goods, it is still about getting consumers to buy more stuff. It isn't about making it easier for you to buy things you need. If that was the concern of retailers, wouldn't they just price their goods more fairly in the first place? (and by 'fair', we mean fair for consumers and suppliers and manufacturers and all the people in between. The costs of all the steps in selling still have to be covered, and is it fair for a small producer in a place far away to have to take the hit on the price just because we want cheaper bamboo?)
Sometimes it feels like we are banging our heads against a brick wall, especially as we head into 'Green Friday is the new Black Friday' season. With the internet giants making gazillions of pounds profit every moment at the expense of humans and the environment, it feels like we are in a huge flowing river, trying to paddle upstream in a little (wooden, of course) boat and that there's almost no point in trying to fight it. Why not get you to buy three of everything with some special deals? Why not jump in with the other Black/Green Friday boats and float down the big river with discounts, offers and upgrades? Why stay ethical when it pays to make you, the customer, want more?
We don't know what the answer is to all the greenwashing of consumerism
(although Martin Dorey does a pretty darned good job in his book of getting us to think about so many aspects of buying, using and waste) but we do know that as a shop, we have a responsibility to our customers and the environment. That's why we price our products fairly to start with so that we don't have to run special deals to try to persuade you that you really do need one of our lunchboxes! While a good Green Friday promotion might do wonders for our bank balance, it wouldn't do much for our earth-loving souls.
To be fair, it feels a bit weird to be asking people to not buy loads of stuff even though we are a shop that relies on people buying goods to keep us, and our small independent suppliers in business. We aren't saying 'buy nothing ever again' because that's pretty unrealistic for most people (although if you want a bit of inspiration about not buying anything new for a year, we highly recommend The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide by Jen Gale who will get even the most stubborn soul feeling a bit optimistic about taking small steps).
What we are saying, or suggesting, is to consider if you really do need something?
If you already have a really good rucksack, could you get by with using it even though there's one on sale for half price? Maybe giving it a bit of a clean and a re-waterproofing might be all it needs to become a wonderful rucksack once more. Could you keep using those plastic coat hangers until they break, rather than ditching them and getting some very lovely wooden ones just because they are plastic free? Could you just use up the roll of sticky tape in your cupboard before buying some lovely paper tape? It might not fit with your planned wrapping style this year, but what the heck - be thrifty and proud!
Of course, we aren't trying to tell you what to buy. We aren't even trying to tell you that you have to buy from us (although, as a small business that works closely with makers and suppliers to bring you goods which are good for you and the world, we do rejoice when you place an order with us!) All we are asking is that you ponder a little before you get carried away by the special offers that abound at Black Friday and consider if you really do need more.
On our side, we promise that we will continue to choose our product offering carefully so that you can be confident when you buy from us. We will keep our prices fair so that you can shop with us without having to worry if something will be on sale next week - the only time we discount our products is if the packaging or product is damaged but still functional. We will wrap up your orders in recycled packaging as much as possible, and send them to you as efficiently as we can.
And we will never try to get you to buy stuff you don't need by jumping onto the Black/Green Friday/Three for Two/Boxing Day bandwagon.
Because the last thing the world, and you, need, is more stuff.