Buy Second Hand
You hipster fuck.
In the world of planet-saving waste management there are three, five or eight principles of sustainability depending on who you listen to. These are, in different combinations and according to varying levels of fundamentalism: Rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, repurpose, recycle and rot.
We should rethink every penny we spend to make sure we’re not casually buying our way to oblivion. We should refuse polluting products made from dirty-bad oil and other non-recyclables, choosing sustainable materials all the time always. We should reduce the stuff we buy, giving first world materialism what for. We should reuse stuff as much as possible, rejecting the single-use disposability we’ve passed off as convenience. We should repair our broken stuff instead of replacing it, even if it’s more expensive. We should repurpose unwanted stuff we’ve got knocking about, turning a jam jar into a plant pot, upcycling a hot water bottle into a hipster colostomy bag. We should recycle whatever we haven’t rethought or refused and can’t reuse, repair or repurpose, turning junk into future non-junk. And we should let degradable stuff rot, composting what can be composted to circle us some life.
At least three of the above Rs got together to ruin my childhood, destroy my playground street cred and inspire this Butterfly: Buying second hand.
Picture now that last CD you bought. Trees were cut down and transported to make the paper sleeve, oil was drilled and transported to make the plastic disc and case. You, being a monster, bought it brand new.
Picture now some other schlub buying the same CD. Trees were cut down and transported to make their paper sleeve, oil was drilled and transported to make their plastic disc and case. They also bought it brand new, listened to it twice and ditched it at a charity shop.
Calculate now some enviro-maths: Had you bought their CD second hand it would have used half the oil, half the paper, saved you a bit of money and given some cash to charity. You don’t need a brand new copy of Thriller. It’s stupid and wasteful. We’ve got 60 million copies knocking about the surface of the earth. Get one of them instead. This is basic.
You can buy pretty much everything second hand: Yer clothes, yer furniture, yer bikes, yer knick-knacks. Yer bric. Even yer brac. Buy second hand clothes, you’ve saved the massive amounts of water it takes to make cotton, the oil it takes to make synthetic fabrics and the animals it takes to make wool, and given fast fashion one in the eye. Buy second hand furniture you’ve saved the trees it takes to make wood, and delayed non-recyclable fibreboard and laminates’ eventual trips to landfill. Buy a clapped-out teapot, you’ve got a hipster’s plant pot. Buy a former stepladder, you’ve got an upcycler’s bookcase. Buy anything owned by anyone before, you’ve done a good thing.
Naturally, this being The Zero, there are some enviro-ethics to torture ourselves with: Buying second hand books and CDs stiffs authors and artists on royalties, many of them already boned by profitless multibuys and lousy returns from streaming services. Yer Stephen Kings, yer Beyoncés might be able to go without your cash but yer up and comers will struggle to both up and come. Maybe we should decide on an author-by-author, artist-by-artist basis whether to prioritise the planet or its bards and minstrels.
Mostly, though, buying second hand is ace, no longer the last refuge of the single parent, no longer the shame of children of ne’er-do-wells. Buying second hand saves resources and energy and reduces carbon emissions from production and transportation. It doesn’t mean our dad lives in a bin, it doesn’t mean our mum works the street, and getting free school dinners doesn’t make us tramps. And I didn’t need friends anyway. I had plenty to do on my lunch breaks, like crying alone and planning my kick-ass entrance at a future school reunion. Speaking of which, I’m off to see a man about a second hand helicopter…
Buy second hand
Save the goddamn world
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