Monday, October 11, 2010

Buying Stuff: Checklist

Our DVD recorder no longer records.  It cost us $200 about 4 years ago.  It has NOT been used heavily.  It was supposed to be a good brand. Panasonic.  Frustrated.  (this is a panasonic player-but not the one we have--still we may never buy Panasonic again..Our Panasonic phones have had very poor quality/performance as well.)

Because I am often frustrated with buying things that break, or finding out they are toxic, or there is a recall, etc, I thought I'd make a list of questions to ask myself before making a purchase.  (keeping in mind sustainability as well) 

Here is my preliminary list.

  1. Materials:  toxic?  will the toxicity impact our bodies, or a landfill?  If this item is for making food-what is it made of?? will it leach toxins into the food you eat/drink? Toys--lead, phalates, BPA? Was it made from recycled or raw materials?  How are those materials extracted? 
  2. How are the people treated who extract and manufacture your product?  How is the land treated in the process?  pesticides?  toxins disposed of?  trees cut down/replanted? 
  3. Place of manufacture and extraction of materials--what toxins were released in its creation?  was it made locally or from many places?  Was rainforest destroyed making this product?
  4. How will it be disposed of?  --recycled?  will it cause more toxins in its disposal?
  5. Quality Expectations and Price balance-How long will it last?   And is this item something I can afford?  Will the cheaper one ultimately save money?  what is the (true cost) of the cheaper one--did someone else pay the price (cheap labor, someone else's backyard destroyed?) Would delaying gratification--(saving and waiting for the better one) ultimately enable me to have one that will last much longer?  Can I really afford the true cost of the item?  Am I buying the cheaper one just because I can't wait to save up?  (if I absolutely can't ever afford it, can I get it used?)
  6. Can I make this item? 
  7. Can I use something else to substitute for this item instead of "buying" something new?
  8. Can I buy it used?
  9. Can I borrow it?  How often will I use it?  (do I REALLY need it?)
  10. Can I live without it?  (Do I REALLY need to replace my dishwasher?) Does handwashing really take more time? 
  11. What do I need this item for?  Will I need it NOW or can it put it off for when I will really need it?
  12. Am I responding to external pressure to buy it?  --a sale/ is popular to have this item.   an impulse.  they might run out of them. 
  13. If I am buying it new, have I read the reviews on it?  Are the reviews from people who have used it 1-5x, or someone who has owned it for years? 
  14. Instant Gratification--What is my mindset?  Am I being impulsive or am I able to walk away and resist it?  Am I in charge or is the "impulse" in charge of me? 
  15. Do I need to be dependent on this product?  Is there a way to live without it?  what creative way could I go without it?
  16. Is it replacing a broken item that could be fixed? (it may be cheaper to buy a new one instead of fixing it, but remember that a new one requires the manufacturing of new raw materials too)  Can you support a local artisan/mechanic by having it fixed instead?  Can you fix it yourself?
  17. Does this item have the ability to fix/replace parts?  Does it have metal or plastic internal parts?  Is it all integrated-so if one part fails, you are forced to replace the whole thing?
  18. Your own criteria?  Is buying this item congruent with your values?  --what you value in life?
  19. Each time you buy something you are taking a VOTE--what and who are you supporting by this purchase?  small farm vs. big agribusiness?  organic or GMO?  local, sustainable business??  or large corporation that might be exploiting people, earth, natural resources?  cheaply made or artfully constructed?
  20. Sometimes the less toxic, sustainable purchase may not work as well as the toxic, cheaper product. What to do then?  (sometimes dishwashing soap may not perform as well)--but it is gentler on the environment, and much less toxic to you.  Which do you choose? Performance vs. its environmental impact?  Is a little bit of sacrifice on performance worth the advantage to the environment??
Rember everything you own, is ultimately something more you have to "take care of"--take a look at what you have and how much time you spend "taking care of your stuff"--can you afford to have one more thing to "take care of"?  Remember our stuff can be just as much of a burden as they can be time savers..  Does this item truly save time?  or cost you Life Energy?  what is its true cost?  in hours worked to buy it?  and time spent taking care of it?  is this item truly worth it?  Will this item take you away from the things that really matter?  (for example computer games, movies, --time spent in front of a screen rather than time spent in recreation with your family--directly interating with them)

I recommend reading The Story of Stuff and Your Money or Your Life--for more thoughts on this whole process of consuming.  (should you buy the books or check them out from the library-or find them used, or borrow them??)  (-; 

What do you use as a guide for buying stuff?? What is YOUR criteria??


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