Again, a list. Lists sell well. But this list aims to make things sell worse. There are a few things you could stop buying today and live a more environmentally neutral life (as long as you don’t replace them with more environmentally damaging stuff). I have stopped buying these things, and yes, I buy other things that make me guilty – but at least I’ve gotten these off of my shopping list (and conscience). Do you buy any of these, at all? And will you?
- Bananas, oranges, mangoes… and other tropical fruit. Why? Because it’s tropical. And Scotland isn’t the tropic. It doesn’t grow here. And it’s extremely pretentious.
- KeepCups. There are so many! I feel like the world hasn’t gotten better because there are fewer takeaway cups in circulation; there are just as many sturdy, reusable plastic cups. One market replaced another. And these reusable cups stink inside. I’ve got two and I use them when I have to, but I think that buying KeepCups is utterly pointless – there are so many you can get second-hand, or for free, and not fuel this crazy pointless market that B2B has become.
- Tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, bell peppers – all of these found in the UK supermarkets come from the Netherlands, Spain, or even further countries. If you must eat these things, get them for quadruple the supermarket price at a local farmer’s market. Save bell pepper curries for when you’re in India. (Which means, never).
- BLENDERS. If you buy a blender to make yourself smoothies or – ever worse – blended SOUPS, then move out first, please, because I can’t stand blended foods. I mean, I understand protein shakes. But using blenders for anything other than that is just a cruelty done to food. One, soups are meant to be chunky (it’s not a traditional Middle Eastern soup if it requires a blender; how the fuck did they make that soup in the 15th century?), and two, smoothies are one of the most pretentious foods you can eat. Do yourself a favour and lower your score on the Pretentiousness scale by not owning a blender.
- First-hand T-shirts. Honestly, there are so many T-shirts that people are just dying to give away, you don’t have to fuel the child/modern slavery machine and buy new T-shirts in shops. However much you might love the print, no matter how great is the fandom reference, tame your vanity and put on an old second-hand T-shirt that you picked up from a charity shop, a Zero Waste Hub, or someone’s giveaway party. The Earth will thank you. (And random T-shirts are the alternative-est T-shirts. Don’t you want to be alternative?)
- Crisps. Uh, those packets! You can crunch on carrots instead. Carrots are local. Contain vitamin A. And when sprinkled with salt (or powdered stock), they give you pretty much the ultimate crisp experience. (You’re welcome for that tip).
- Fresh bread. So much bread goes to waste. It one of the most often wasted foodstuffs in the world. You can pick up so much bread from bins or foodsharing or your local Zero Waste Hub. There is so much wasted bread that people have to come up with ever weirder bread pudding recipes just to use up the leftovers. Don’t be a leech, don’t buy bread new. Get it when it’s ripe and ready for the (industrial) bin.
- First-hand mugs, cutlery, crockery. Especially if you live in a university towns, each year students leaving accommodation for the summer are leaving behind overwhelming amounts of kitchenware. (Think e.g. about the annual Freshers’ Freeshop at Edinburgh University. A third of it, at least, is kitchenware). You certainly do not need to get a mug brand new. Even if it has a funny print. Even if it’s personalised. Even if it’s a souvenir. A mug (/plate/bowl/fork) has already been produced, and it’s waiting for you to give it second (/third/fourth/…) life. The few smiles of yours that this funny mug will produce are not worth its environmental cost. Just get a damn second hand mug. You can find really good ones in charity shops, ones that’ll make your socks fall off your feet (because you’d be so impressed). “Mugs? My favourite breed is rescue!” <– Make that your motto!
- New books. There’s libraries, second-hand shops, eBay and ebooks. Pick your favourite. (You can also ask somebody to lend their copy to you).
- Spices. People always have too much spices, and are always giving them away. Spices come from various countries very, very far away from Britain. Use local herbs or other seasonings that grow here naturally – e.g. wild garlic, parsley, chives, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, even basil. And salt. Salt grows in the sea and in caves, and you have both of these in Europe.
And when you need root spices for your Christmas gingerbread, find someone throwing them away before the winter season. It’s definitely doable.
Am I right? Am I wrong to say some of these things? Opinions welcome. Let me know what things you don’t buy. Maybe I’ll stop buying them too.
(For those interested: the featured image shows the chilled food section shelves in a supermarket in Athens, Greece. Photo taken August 2019).