Eco Tips

Stewardship of Things

‘A dog is for life, not just Christmas.’ A message created 40 years ago by the Dogs Trust and still valid today. The Trust encourages people to think carefully before buying a puppy, to thoroughly research the implications of being a dog owner, understanding the needs and demands a dog will make and assessing whether these are compatible with the family’s own lifestyle. And remembering that ability to,love and care for the dog needs to be there for the whole of its life span. 

Each year scientists calculate how much resources are being used globally and the rate at which those resources are being renewed. Are we using more resources than the planet can sustain or less? In 1987 the first recorded Earth Overshoot Day was 23rd October. This year it was 29th July. We are consuming way more resources than the earth can sustain. In such a world we need to give the same consideration when we buy and use things, as we do when we buy a new pet.

  • Only buy what you need and want. Do feel forced into buying something you won’t feel happy with.
  • Consider the life of the thing: will you use it to its full life span? If not, can you see an obvious way in which you could pass it on so that it can continue to be used? Books can readily be passed on to another reader, children’s clothes to another family.
  • Be willing to buy second hand/ pre-loved items.
  • Be willing to rent, borrow or share things. 
  • Research before you buy. Is the item ethically produced? Is it durable? Is it easy to repair? What is its carbon footprint?can it be recycled when its life ends?
  • A well designed item may cost more: can you be a patron of good design and workmanship?
  • An item made with long lasting materials may cost more, but balanced out over its life time, it may be more economic too.
  • Extend the life of what you buy by ensuring you use it properly and keep it well maintained. Eg keep shoes clean and well polished. Regularly clean and service cycles. Don’t over wash woollen goods.
  • Repair things that break. Some things you will be able to repair yourself. Others may need to help of an expert. There is growing trend for repair cafes where even fiddly electronic items can be mended. 
  • Think about the end life of what you are buying. Can you recycle it once its life has come to an end? If not is there something else that is recyclable that you could buy instead?
  • Is what you are buying made for a sustainable or recycled material?
  • Single purpose items may be ideal, but might you get more value from something that serves  a multiple of purposes?
  • Can we repurpose things when their initial use has come to an end?
  • Do all gifts need to be things? Could you gift experiences or services instead? Do we always need to give things to show our love or thanks?

Author: Judith Russenberger

Environmentalist and theologian, with husband and three grown up children plus one cat, living in London SW14. I enjoy running and drinking coffee - ideally with a friend or a book.

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