After studying my own consumption for a while now, I went down a lot of rabbit holes. Like everyone else I started with decluttering and striving for minimalism and eliminating as many one time use items from my life. Including buying reusable bags, containers for storage and portability etc etc.. I have probably have been hypersensitive to my consumption for about 10 years now. I still consume and discard more than I would like, but I try everyday.
It’s taking me a long time but I have a lot of tricks that throttle my consumption, are quite frugal and suit my lifestyle. The core concept is that buying anything NEW defeats any gains by avoiding consumption. That item still has to be made, and transported, for the most part from far away. A bamboo spoon made and transported has a larger carbon footprint than something from the thriftstore that was already made.
I have been a thriftstore junkie since I learned how to drive 40 years ago. I am a lot happier with items that have already been made and for the most part made my own country and have proven to work well over time. And only recently come to realize that many people don’t have access to thriftstores, which I find appalling. Even if one sources from yard sales, antique shops, Etsy, eBay, or Craigslist knowing WHAT you need and what items are worth the purchase is important. I am quite lucky. I can usually get by without something until I find what I am looking for.
For example: I have a Top Off jar opener that was made for 60 years in Vermont, which works as well or better than anything on the market now. It cost me all of $2 in Goodwill. If I were to shop on ebay I would expect to spend less than $10-15 with shipping and that’s about the same as buying a plastic OXO one in Bed and Bath, which had to be made in China, and shipped across the ocean in a cardboard box, handled and vended in a store etc etc.. I didn’t cause another plastic device to be made and end up in a landfill.
These days I use 100 year old bowls from thrift and antique shops, very inexpensive if you avoid ones with makers marks or perfect appearance. (I was using the same clear pyrex ones I had for decades, but I just didn’t have the room to store everything) old Metal bakeware where the tin has worn off and I just keep it seasoned as if it were one of my vintage cast iron pans. (i do have an non stick aluminum pan..it really is awesome for eggs.) I use Ball Jars for almost all my storage, including in the fridge and freezer, if you stick to wide mouth it’s easier and all the lids will match. I use biscuit and other tins (like the kind you see at christmas) for some baked goods, biscuits, tea bags, cookies, and spaghetti, you just have to keep them VERY dry to avoid rust, use clear nailpolish to seal seams or cover any bare spots that may rust. I made some waxed linen food wrappers, and cut some round ones that I use to seal pottery crocks (like french mustard or beanpots) which I use for dry herb storage, herbs don’t like light so the ball jars are problematic. I reuse old olive oil bottles, milk bottles, patent medicine and other 19th century bottles for oils, vinegars and homemade vanilla etc.. ( you just have to clean them with alcohol and rock salt, sometimes CLR for mineral deposits. ) I prefer rubber stopperssince they are washable and never dry out. I have a couple of Stanley stainless coffee mugs, large and small Aladdin GLASS lined vacuum beverage containers...glass lined works better than anything else, and a several Kleen Kanteens, even a Stanley flask – all from thrift stores (Kleen Kanteens turn up quite often people freeze them and the bottom pops out and they discard them…just grab it firmly and smack it flat on the ground to fix it) Although I plan on making my own plastic free insulated lunch bag one day, I found a nice black one from Coleman at Goodwill for $2 of course. Which I stock with thriftstore Airline flatware, a bandana. My car camping kit which isn’t limited by weight but by durability, I settled on enameled steel plates and cups. I like the look and texture, and vintage ones aren’t really that hard to source. I use a lot of enamelware basins and plates in my cooking, I just cover the chipped parts with clear nail polish.
I RARELY buy paper towels. sometimes I do…when one of my pets are sick..like now.. or I was washing the inside of the fridge. I use cotton kitchen towels from second hand stores, sometimes I buy curtains or table cloths and cut them up and sew up the hem. But I abuse them badly, so I buy packages of terry towels from Home Depot 60 for $20 which last me about 2 years. When they are white and clean I use them for everything, when they get stained and torn they end up being used on the floor and to clean up after the pets and then tossed. But they DO leave lint so I wash them separately from the cotton kitchen towels.
Here comes a confession… I use PLASTIC containers! ohmigawd..it is completely impractical to use glass to transport fluids. I need to carry food with me, expecially when hiking. After years of experimentation, I settled on Ziplock TwistnLock 16 ounce rounds, I have had the same 6 or 9 for a bunch of years now. They seem to be much tougher than less expensive brands, I have yet to destroy one. They freeze and thaw nicely without distortion and don’t retain tomato sauce stains. I always have them going in and out of the freezer with leftover servings.
Food handling seems to be the topic most of those interested in anticonsumption start with. A lot of the foods I buy are still coming in cans and bottle and bags, my recycling bin stays pretty busy. But my actual TRASH bag every week is quite small. Every year I try to eliminate more and more processed foods, I buy very little semiprepared, but unlike a lot of people I have time to make things even if I slack off.
I gave myself a present a couple of years ago and cut my hair short. Now I use Ligget’s shampoo bar which lasts me about 3 months and Kirk’s Castile Bar Soap, a heritage brand with very few ingredients. I could use baking soda for toothpaste but that’s just too extreme for me.
I culled my clothing down to my own variation on the capsule wardrobe, these days I only really need to go shopping when I have destroyed something, and it will be thriftshopped. I knit my own socks now, and finally mastered the replaceable heel, so I don’t seem myself ever buying socks again but I went through enough in the previous 50 years that it’s not a big savings. I used to buy 12 pairs all the same, which would last a few years and was easy to match. I finally have some high quality shoes and boots now (also thrifted) although I have had to buy NEW summer hiking boots from LLBean as I destroyed the less expensive pair in 1 summer. I will never have to buy sheets again, as I have a stock pile now, I would buy vintage muslin sheets still in their original packaging from ebay; much cheaper than buying brand new ones.
I’ve been trying to figure out the reasons people don’t RETAIN things that work perfectly well.. obviously people have always looked for the better shinier mouse trap; otherwise we wouldn’t have replaced all our appliances with avocado and gold in the 70s and then rereplaced them with stainless steel and now are rereplacing them all with goes with everything white. you get the picture. I’m sort of doing the same thing, except in reverse, I am DONATING back to Goodwill the modern items I no longer need. Even vintage items are taking a trip back to the thriftstore if I don’t need it.