This will be a two part article paired with next week’s article
Yesterday was earth day, but really every day is earth day - we do only have the one after all. One planet that we all share. The unfortunate thing is, we’re not always super good for our planet, well, we’re actually pretty horrible for it. I won’t go into depth as I feel like everyone talks about how we’re destroying our planet, but if you add up all the ways humans positively affect earth and all the ways humans negatively affect earth - one is going to be much, much bigger.
The tough part, and something I have always struggled with, is what to actually do about it. I think it’s safe to say that I, like most people, know that collectively we are destroying our only planet, but it’s not like I’m personally dumping garbage in the ocean. I try to do my share - recycling, composting, etc. but it seems like so many of the things that will help save earth are counter to human nature. We want the things we want in life, and it’s incredibly difficult to personally forgo something in order to minutely help our massive planet. Our brains just don’t work that way.
So what can we do? Well we have to make choices that will benefit both us individually, and our planet as a whole. A great place to start is with the title of this article:
Less but better
We consume too much. As individuals and as a species we consume much more than what the earth can provide. We have to consume less, but we’re humans, and humans are hardwired to want all the things. But we can change that, in a way that benefits both us and the planet.
Less things, but better things. Now if you gave someone the choice between a solid walnut table, and one made of particle board, everyone would choose the solid wood table. But of course when you factor in money, the particle board table will be much cheaper. This is how our consumer culture has run away on us, everything is so cheap. We buy the table knowing it’s not very good, but who cares? ‘I can buy six of these tables for the price of that solid wood table’ you say to yourself as you use an allen key to screw together your new flimsy table. And then a couple years later you go to move and look at your table and it’s a little banged up now so you decide to get a new one instead of trying to move your old one.
Ya trust me I’ve been there, a lot. But I’ve started to change, and it’s waaaaay better. I’ve started to embrace the less but better mentality in all that I can, and I think it’s one of the best things we can do for our planet, and for our mental health.
It’s still tough to think that way though, it’s a little unnatural, especially at first. Spending the extra hard earned dollars for higher quality is tough to do in the moment sometimes. It’s also not always obvious what actually is higher quality, since brands work very hard to make their stuff look high quality even if it isn’t. So here are some helpful thoughts and tips to get you in the right headspace next time you go to make a purchase:
Is it metal, wood, plastic? What type of fabric is it? Is there a different product made from higher quality materials (ex. A metal version over a plastic version)
This is a big one, and something often forgotten. Much in life is timeless, but most is not. Will it look dated in 5 years? 10 years? 50 years?
Some items and materials look better with age, and some look worse. How will this item look with some scratches on it? A leather bag can look better with age, as can a solid wood table - but a nylon bag or a particle board table will inevitably look worse with age
A solid wood table can be sanded down and refinished to look brand new - but a veneer and particle board table only has a thin layer of wood (or wood looking plastic) over sawdust and glue, once it’s chipped and stained - it’s done
Some items really will last longer than your own lifetime. Think leather bags or jackets, cast iron pans, or solid wood furniture - all things that can outlive you.
A nice car won’t last very long if you don’t change the oil. What can you do to keep this product going? Wax it? Polish it? Clean it?
How does the stitching look? The thread? Every product has details that can enhance it, or become its undoing. Make sure you look over a product for all the small details and make sure they’re all up to snuff.
Complicated products with lots of moving parts typically don’t last very long. If only one part breaks, the whole item it toast (unless you can repair it) is there a simpler, sturdier version of that product you want?
The final point for this article is perhaps the most important. Do you actually need that item? Would you grab it in a house fire? If someone snuck into your house and stole it how long would it take you to notice? If you had to move all your items across the country in a uhaul, would you bring it?
We’re hardwired to want things, it’s human nature. But we can change our mindset to want fewer, nicer things, which will help us and the planet. While it might be tough to spend the extra money in the moment, in the long run you’ll be enjoying that solid wood table long after the price has been forgotten.
Sometimes less is more, especially if it’s less but better.