Are we defined by what we own?

Whatever your answer, Born Free’s Education team suggests we should perhaps, instead, be defined by how sustainably we live. 

A rail of colourful shirts and blouses on wooden hangers

How sustainable are we? Do we buy due to our needs, rather than our wants? How carefully do we consider our purchases before we make them?  
Our current, unsustainable consumer habits are at the heart of the planet’s environmental crisis. Whether contributing to climate change through factory emissions and transportation, or impacting biodiversity through extraction of raw materials, pollution, habitat destruction and waste materials, our need to own the latest electronic device or follow the latest fashion trend has led many countries to consume natural resources at a rate that far exceeds the planet’s capacity to renew them.

But what can we all do about this? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Consider if your next purchase is essential
  • Think about what you wear:
    ~ Ensure you resell or recycle unwanted or unnecessary clothing
    ~ Do your shopping at second-hand shops – there are many online outlets if you cannot get down to your local high streets
    ~If you need to buy new clothes, go for quality over quantity, considering what material they are made from and the company that produces them. Also, think about the materials your clothes are made of. For example, have you tried eco-friendly, sustainable and comfortable clothes made from hemp yet?!
  • Be more conscious of your electronics:
    ~ Ask the question, do I need that phone/tablet/console/computer upgrade? If the answer is yes, then consider a purchasing refurbished tech
    ~ Resell old electronics, if they still work, or try and repair them if they break – more and more companies are making this possible
    ~ If the above is not possible, please recycle your old electronics.
  • If you are a teacher, please download our Great Debate resources, a five-lesson scheme of work for KS2, 3 and 4, completely free, dealing with the issue of overconsumption.

With Christmas fast approaching, here are some personal tips from the Born Free team about how we can buy, sell or invest*: 

A woman holding a pile of denim jeans“In terms of clothing, I am a big fan of pre-loved, both buying and selling, Vinted is my current go to website. Any clothing that is unsellable goes to a local ‘rags’ company for recycling. None of our clothing hits landfill. I also love a car boot, great for picking up pre-loved gardening equipment, tools and kids toys.”

“When we buy new clothes we try to use the likes of Rapanui, who claim: To focus on sustainability and reducing environmental footprint; To use only organic materials, renewable energy and plastic-free packaging; To print to order, to reduce overproduction and waste; When you’ve finished with an item of clothing you can return it for recycling.”

“I really like the look of Fairphone. They also do headphones. It’s supposed to be a much more repairable and recyclable phone, to reduce the extraordinary electronic waste piling up from phones, and also to be able to reuse the materials within phones.”

“We bank with Triodos which claims to be an ‘ethical bank’. It publishes details of all its investments and aims to invest only in ventures that satisfy its ethics and sustainability criteria. Banking, pensions and other financial products are things many people don’t think about when it comes to sustainability.”

“We have just paid to have a settee bought for £45 in an auction, two chairs bought in an auction for £50 the pair and one smaller chair bought for £10 in an auction, recovered by a proper upholsterer. Cost a fair bit but they are quality, well-made items that would have ended up on a skip! They are now beautiful and will last for years and years.”

“Reduce your waste by refilling reusable bottles and containers – more and more shops are offering this as an option for everything from cereal and milk to shampoo and perfume, and it can make it cheaper for you too!”

*These are personal recommendations provided by individuals and do not represent any organisational affiliations, or an exhaustive list of available companies.