Our purchasing decisions are responsible for the consumption problem that threatens the planet today. Something as simple as a new t-shirt alone takes so much from the Earth. To grow the cotton to sew a T-shirt, we require 2700 liters of water. Joining the buy nothing new challenge is a great way to reduce the impact of your consumption on our planet and its survival.
Buying nothing new, like books, clothing, and other items, will cut down the amount of manufacturing needed to provide for your needs. The average American uses around seven trees per year in paper and cardboard. Cutting trees down to produce furniture or books is a primary cause of deforestation.
Of course, you likely already realize that trees are essential to sustain life on earth. Not least as they absorb carbon and provide clean oxygen, prevent erosion, and provide a green habitat to different species.
What would happen if you bought nothing new for a year? No new clothing, electronics, jewelry, books, accessories, or any item you already own. It's worthwhile to stop and think about all the packaging, shipping, and resources that go into making all that new stuff you’d save from being required in the first place.
It's not to say you’d go without. Instead of buying new items or clothing, an abundance of pretty much anything you might need has already been made and is available pre-loved or second-hand. Should you accept the challenge of buying nothing new, all you need is some commitment and resourcefulness to seek out items as you may need to replace existing ones that are, well, not new.
What’s more, you’ll quickly come to realize how much of that new we don’t really actually need. And, to boot, some of those second-hand options are unique one-offs, made to last, and better than new anyway.
This way, you won't see the "buy nothing new" as a challenge; instead, you will see it as a way of living sustainably and promoting zero waste.
This challenge encourages you to think before purchasing something and asking yourself if you really need an item. If you do, if there is a sustainable alternative available.
The 4RS, Refusing, Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling, is a helpful framework to keep in mind when aiming to buy nothing new. For more inspiration, check out our zero-waste tips and pick up a sustainable living book.
Stop contributing to the exploitation of clothing factory workers by choosing to buy from online thrift stores. You do not need to sacrifice quality, as you can find great quality second-hand clothes for half their regular price. And often even better.
Kids often need new clothes because they grow out of their clothes at a frightening speed. Meanwhile, a parent has donated a barely used clothing item to your local goodwill somewhere else out there. With a little hunting, you’ll quickly find you can get fairly used clothes for your kids at half the price.
Second-hand clothes aren’t just for kids, of course. If you are the type who loves shopping for new clothes for every season, rising to the "buy nothing new challenge" will help you start a capsule wardrobe that contains must-haves that last. Any person can embark on this kind of challenge.
Some people change their minds after they buy new furniture or may have to move. You can save lots of money and other resources when purchasing high-quality furniture from flea markets or second-hand furniture stores. Furniture consumes resources to make and is a burden to get rid of. Instead of sending them to landfills, we can easily reuse and repurpose them.
Fortunately, this isn’t hard to find. Every day, people buy used cars from dealers, family, friends, or strangers. The process and resources that go into manufacturing, assembling, and transporting a new car are massive burdens on the environment. When you buy a used car, you’re one less person in the new car market.
It may take some time to find a used car that perfectly fits your needs, but in the long run, you will be able to save some money and do a bit to help the environment. You can purchase one from your local dealer or look for one on Craigslist. Ensure that you check if everything is complete and working well before you pay the seller for the used car.
You can be sustainable with your sport equipment purchases. Spending half the money on buying new sports equipment to get a used racket, gym bench, or canoe is a great idea. This simple strategy reduces the use of our resources to make new equipment.
From basketball to baseball to tennis equipment, you can find the right equipment and sizes at the right price with no exceptions. You can also set up a local group that pools sports equipment. So, for example, you can borrow that tennis racket from a neighbor, and they can use those old golf clubs you rarely get out of the closet.
Your focus with this challenge should be to get a long-term use electronic device (if necessary) that you can use for years. There were about 53.6 million metric tons of electronic waste worldwide in 2019. A study backed by the U.N. revealed that the figures might increase by 2021 should the right strategies not reduce the issue. Electronic waste is a growing problem that we need to combat.
Your spending goal should include buying used computers, phones, games, and other electronics when needed. This will help reduce the amount of electronic gear we send off to waste.
To print new books, paper manufacturers have to cut down trees. This sector of our consumption plays a significant role in the deforestation and carbon sequestration issues we currently face worldwide. You can help by looking for a used copy of any book you want to get. Buying used books in a second-hand market is an effective environmental strategy.
Practice the rules of sustainability, and this challenge will be easy to follow. You can follow through with this challenge with your spouse, children, any family member, person, or social media friends. Strategies that impact the environment positively should be adopted when shopping for used items.
Related: Can You Recycle Old Books? And Tips for Reuse
Buying anything used is sometimes up to 80% cheaper than the original price. You can effectively save more money while getting the same value out of your purchases.
The earth's resources are diminishing, and this is because we use them at all times to create new things. Buying used items ensures that your purchase consumes very little/nothing in terms of resources.
When you join this challenge, you will feel better knowing how you are contributing to zero waste. In the US alone, the electric power sector is the largest pollution source, producing 40 percent of all energy-related CO2 emissions.
Much of this energy is used to create products to sell. When more people choose to stop buying new stuff, the market for these manufacturers will reduce. Therefore, cutting down on their industrial consumption.
To enjoy a sustainable life, our goal should be to conserve energy instead of using it. New items consume a lot of energy because of the farming, harvesting, manufacturing, and shipping processes involved. These processes make use of electrical energy generated from natural gas, oil, or coal. Choosing to buy used items will cut down on energy use on an individual level.
Something as simple as packaging also contributes to environmental issues. Packing materials such as plastic and paper are often overused (for marketing purposes) and wasteful. The materials, energy, and resources used in packaging these products also cause their share of global pollution. When the purchases you make are from your family or local second-hand stores, you do not need to use packaging. This makes purchasing used items a more sustainable option.
Buying from family, local resellers, and previous owners helps support the local economy. Some families support good causes, and when you buy their goods, you, in turn, support these causes.
Read more: 10 Reasons to Buy Second Hand Rather Than New
Choosing to buy nothing new is a positive and fun way to bring some creativity into your life. Along the way, you’ll be sure to learn how to clean up, reuse, and repurpose items to suit your needs. If possible, involve those around you in the challenge.
Breaking away from consumerism while adopting sustainable life goals will make it easy for you to buy used items. Earth’s resources are not just for the here and now.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.