Quality products outlast cheaper ones to the extent that they are better value for money. I know this as I have learned the hard way, through a catalogue of experiences of opting for the cheaper and inferior product I now know that I have paid for it financially.
Yet most of us continue to opt for the cheaper product/service. As a society we do not understand value for money, and this is because it is hidden from us.
Hidden from us with a nice modern design – yet the inner construction and materials used are not fit for purpose. How do you distinguish a quality carpentry joint from a poor one?
Hidden from us with a nice looking fabric – that wears thin after a few months use. How do you know a quality weave from a quick stitch together?
We have been trained to look for bargains, but in this quest for a low price we have lost a real understanding of value for money.
Changing our daily habits is hard, we are all busy so struggle to make small changes that feel inconsequential in the big scheme of things.
For example, I had to make a conscious effort this morning to NOT chuck my old toothbrush in the bin rather than the recycling. The bin was closer to me at the time and because binning the brushes is an old habit I had to make an effort to do this small thing for the environment.
BUT – the point I want to make in this post is that we DO NOT have to make changes that benefit the environment for altruistic reasons. We can benefit the environment through making self-serving decisions too. There really is a win-win.
Given the rise of recycling over the past few decades, it’s evident that consumers today care about protecting the environment and have managed to make changes to our habits. In fact, according to a poll conducted by OgilvyEarth, 80 percent of shoppers claimed that they wanted to make more environmentally sustainable purchasing decisions.
Unfortunately, only 20 percent of those consumers followed their conscience; the rest still buy inexpensive, disposable products that contribute to pollution and excess waste.
Protecting pockets over the environment is understandable; when faced with either buying a £6 T-shirt that looks good to me I struggle to find the justification for paying four or five times as much for an organic, sustainable alternative – being honest I want an accompanying financial reason as I have a family to feed.
Luckily there is one
Reliance on cheap goods comes with high costs for workers (in the form of low wages), high costs for the planet (excess resource usage and pollution), and ultimately it costs the same consumers who are trying to save money by buying cheap, more.
Quality products outlast cheaper ones to the extent that they are better value for money. It is as simple as that.
While recycling helps cut down on landfill waste, people must start buying goods that are built to last and move away from single-use disposable products as soon as possible.
At Made to Last part of our mission is to help people understand the difference between “cheap” and “good value for money” as they are very different things.
We know that everyone cannot be an expert in materials and manufacturing processes so we decided that the best way to simplify the communication of product quality to a customer is through the use of a warranty or guarantee.
Once people understand the long-term value for money of products, then they can make better, and more sustainable buying decisions as it naturally benefits them financially.
At Made to Last, we help our customers to understand value for money by adding a guarantee from the maker to all of the products that we sell. When consumers cross reference price with warranty length, then it helps them to understand value for money.
Recycling Isn’t Enough
In the UK, efforts to encourage recycling have been tremendously successful. Over 44 percent of all household waste made it to the recycling bin in 2015, which is well on track to meet a target goal of 50 percent by 2020. Nonetheless, landfills continue to grow in size, because of cheap furniture, kitchenware, electronics and other products that were never made to last more than a few years.
The worst offender is single-use plastics though.
- The UK uses 38.5 million single-use plastic bottles every day. Of which fewer than 60% ever see a recycling bin.
- Used for just 20 minutes, once discarded a straw can last in the environment for 100s of years.
- Plastic bags fragment in 100-300 years depending on thickness and size, but will remain at large in the environment indefinitely.
- Single-use plastic utensils are often not recycled due to contamination with food and cost of recycling per unit.
- Each person in the UK generates around 175 kg of packaging waste every year.
Running Out of Room
Earth’s resources are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. Population growth is partly responsible, and it’s wonderful that more people are living longer lives than ever before in history. On the downside, humans need a lot of things and produce a lot of waste.
Landfills can contaminate nearby water supplies and forests, which can have devastating ecological consequences. Cheap, disposable consumer goods are also directly responsible for deforestation, soil erosion and rises in carbon emissions.
Small plastic fibres are present in 83% of tap water around the world – this means that we now all have plastic in our bodies with no idea of the health consequences. It cannot even be studied because there are none of us without plastic in our bodies to act as a reliable control in an experiment.
For several years now, the Global Footprint Network has tracked global pollution to determine Earth’s “overshoot day,” or the annual calendar date on which humanity uses more resources than can be replenished within a year. Earth’s overshoot day came as early as August 2 in 2017. In other words, we’re operating at an ecological deficit.
Human consumption first started to surpass Earth’s capacity as early as the 1970s. Unfortunately, the problem isn’t immediately visible to consumers, so many people won’t take notice until it’s too late. Governments, businesses and economic experts acknowledge the impending crisis, yet little is being done to turn the tide. According to GFN, we may need two planets to support all of our food and resource needs by 2030 if our habits remain unchanged.
It should be no surprise that highly industrialised nations are the biggest contributors to global resource usage. Per capita, the UK consumes three times more than what is economically sustainable each year. Nonetheless, developing nations are quickly catching up as their economies grow.
Those of us with limited say over social policy can make an impact through our everyday choices. Buying well-made products that last means that economically you will save in the long run as there will be no need to replace them too soon. Resources from the extra wood, metals, plastics and other materials used to make a replacement product are not required and will not finish their life in a landfill site.
Why Shop Sustainably?
It sounds good in principle but what is really in it for you?
How much thought do you put into sustainable shopping? You may believe that eco-friendly shopping means spending more money and getting less choice.
However – filtering out poor quality, unsustainable products from your shopping lists means long term cost savings and time saved due to a more refined buying process.
The Many Benefits That Come From Purchasing Sustainable Goods
1. long-term Cost Savings
Whenever you need something new, it makes short-term sense to go with the least expensive option. Of course, you usually get what you pay for, so you’ll likely have to buy a replacement before too long. Which adds more waste to landfills, but it also depletes your wallet.
Manufacturers know that consumers will gravitate toward the cheapest price tag, which is why they mass produce so many shoddy products. Goods built to last usually cost a bit more, but making long-term investments can save you money.
For example, a £10 non-stick frying pan might work well for a couple of years before it starts falling apart. The metal may bend, the non stick becomes sticky, or the handle might start to wobble, so you’ll likely end up throwing it away and buying another one. Over the course of a few decades, you could spend up to £100 on pans that were primarily designed to break.
On the other hand, you can find a much higher quality cast-iron or spun-iron skillet for about £40 online that will last you for life. That’s significant savings just on pans, so imagine how much money you could save by applying this principle to other products.
Higher quality products also retain their resale value. If you buy a beautiful sofa today and decide to sell it five years from now, you can ask a higher price assuming that the chair is still in good condition. A cheap sofa with a poor quality frame and upholstery has no resale value, so it could end up in a landfill after it outlives its utility. Therefore, reselling saves you money, and it saves a chair from the landfill, which is perfect for your wallet and the environment.
2. long-term Health Benefits
Some cheap consumer goods contain chemicals that are not good for your health. Due to the proliferation of household cleaning products and air fresheners, indoor air quality in the industrialized world is often worse than outdoor air quality, and allergies to such chemicals are on the rise. Nonetheless, cheap paints are perhaps an even bigger public health threat. Many inexpensive paints used in factories contain volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which can cause mild side effects like headaches and dizziness or even serious illnesses like cancer. If these paints end up in landfills, they can contaminate the surrounding land and water, which can cause exponential damage to the environment and humans. Look at labels and go for products that are non-toxic and free of VOCs for the sake of your health.
3. long-term Ecological Savings
Keep in mind that anytime you do something for the environment, you’re doing it for yourself. The future of humanity depends on our ability to protect the planet we live on. We are already experiencing an ecological crisis, yet in the UK we won’t all feel the full impact of our actions; our grandchildren will and so will those living in locations close to the equator as recent storms have shown. We have an opportunity now to improve their lives, and we must set an example for future generations. The population will continue to grow for a while yet, and our planet could certainly support more people, but not at the rate we are currently depleting natural resources.
Long-term investments in quality, durable products will translate into long-term environmental benefits. Buying products that help save electricity also contribute to reducing waste and pollution. If you must buy disposable goods, buy products that are biodegradable. There are likely several eco-friendly alternatives to the items you currently use every day. For example:
- Bamboo toothbrushes with biodegradable bristles
- Stop using straws – save the pout for your selfie stick
- Don’t buy bottled water – use a refillable flask instead. This saves you a lot of money in the long term.
- Solar powered batteries for electronics
Make sustainable shopping your new normal
It’s hard to preach here as we are all slaves to convenience. I regularly forget to take the reusable shopper bags to the supermarket and end up accepting the throwaway plastic bags.
But aside from food, the next time you want to buy something, think about its lifespan and what is realistic for that type of product.
If the answer is that the product you are considering will not last as well as it should and will end up a landfill prematurely, then find an alternative. We’re running out of space, and the planet is suffering due to our waste.
Patting yourself on the back for recycling while you continue to buy landfill-bound products is hypocritical if you want to lighten your ecological footprint, incorporate some long-term planning into your shopping habits.