Tips to avoid buying new stuff to save money and the planet

Here are some resources and ideas for people interested in opting out of always buying new and embracing the reduced, reused, recycled, refurbished and repaired.

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Everywhere you turn these days it seems that someone is trying to sell you something, mostly stuff you really don’t need. But at the same time, people are becoming more aware that the linear cycle of making, using and disposing of material goods like electronics, clothing, furniture, packaging and more at such a rapid pace costs families a lot of money while growing our landfills, depleting our natural resources and warming our climate. 

As a result, there’s a growing trend of people rejecting or reducing the new stuff and embracing the reduced, reused, recycled, refurbished and repaired. Here are some resources and ideas for those interested in opting out of the “buy new” culture where they can and embracing the “waste less, want less” lifestyle:

Buy less, live more

The first and biggest thing you can do as an individual to lower your impact is to opt out of buying things– new, used or otherwise– that you don’t need. We’ve all spent countless hours organizing closets, sorting through cupboards and cleaning out garages and attics. The truth is, there is a lot of stuff we can live without, and in doing so we can find other, more meaningful ways to spend our time and energy. 

As the old adage goes, “enough is too much.”

Giving or getting things second hand for free or cheap

Buy Nothing: Buy Nothing is a neighborhood-based gift economy project where you can give away things you no longer use and/or get free stuff your neighbors are giving away. No selling, buying or trading allowed. You can sign up for your neighborhood Buy Nothing group on the Buy Nothing app, website or through Facebook. If your neighborhood doesn’t yet have one, you can start one!

Freecycle Network: Freecycle is similar to Buy Nothing, in that it’s a place based program where you can sign up to give or receive free stuff in your community. One way that Freecycle is different from Buy Nothing is that you can form a “Friends Circle” with your local friends in addition to giving and receiving from other people in your town. You can sign up on their website.

Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor: Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor can be great places to find affordably priced second hand items that people in your community are looking to get rid of, instead of buying new. Sometimes you can find things that are being given away for free. Just beware of potential scams and counterfeit items

Thrift/reuse stores: Thrift stores are the tried and true places where you can find new-to-you clothing and other household items that are second hand, usually for affordable prices. But beyond traditional thrift stores, you may also be able to find a store near you that has used building materials, tools, art, craft supplies or other specialty items that you wouldn’t be able to find at a traditional thrift store. 

Hands fixing a computer
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Repairing what you own

iFixit: iFixit is a website dedicated to helping people fix their stuff. They have everything you need from replacement parts to tools to step-by-step repair guides for thousands of products ranging from appliances and personal electronic devices to toys and musical instruments. Repairing your stuff is a great way to keep it in use for longer and out of the landfill. 

Repair shops and cafes: Underconfident about your ability to repair your own stuff? Look for an independent repair shop or repair cafe in your town where trusted repair professionals or volunteers can either fix your stuff for you or show you how to do it.

Little Free Library

Borrowing instead of buying

Tool Libraries: Tools can be really expensive, and sometimes you only need certain tools one time for a specific project you’re working on. Why buy all the tools to tile your bathroom or put in a new fence if you can borrow them instead? Tool libraries are popping up across the country, where people can check out tools for a few days and then return them for free. Check and see if there’s one in your town next time you are doing a project. 

Libraries of stuff: Another concept that is popping up around the country are “libraries of stuff.” These are libraries that build on the “sharing economy,” where instead of only checking out books, you can also check out a whole range of things like puzzles, board games, specialty kitchen appliances, tools, museum and zoo passes and more. 

Little Free Libraries: Speaking of libraries, “Little Free Libraries” are very local sharing economies where people put up mini libraries in front of their home and you can grab a book to borrow on your walk around the neighborhood and return it when you’re done, or bring books from home to share. These are a great way to build community, and it doesn’t just have to be books– it can also be art, flowers, toys or anything else that neighbors want to share. If you have the means, consider putting in your own Little Free Library in your neighborhood.

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Cutting down on packaging and foodware

Bring your own: An obvious way to opt out of the “buy new” lifestyle is to opt out of “single-use” products where possible. Whether it’s grocery bags, water bottles, coffee mugs, straws, cutlery, food containers, using reusable items instead of relying on single-use products can significantly cut down on waste.

Reusable foodware services: If you find yourself eating a lot of takeout but are tired of all the wasteful packaging that comes with it, see if there is a local third party reusable container business that you can subscribe to. These types of businesses are launching in some cities, and they partner with local restaurants to offer reusable takeout containers that you can return to dropoff locations nearby to get sanitized and used again. 

Zero waste stores: A zero-waste store is a business that sells most of its products with little to no packaging. They use methods to package and sell their products, including reduced packaging, refillable containers and non-plastic, recyclable packaging such as paper, aluminum and glass. Some zero-waste stores sell just cleaning or beauty supplies, while others sell dry goods and groceries. They usually sell sustainable brands or items from local small businesses. There are around 1,300 stores that are focused on zero waste or have large zero-waste sections across America. See if there’s one near you!

And finally, in addition to taking action in your own life to reduce waste, please take a moment to sign our petition to Amazon urging them to reduce wasteful single-use plastic packaging.


Celeste Meiffren-Swango

State Director, Environment Oregon

As director of Environment Oregon, Celeste develops and runs campaigns to win real results for Oregon's environment. She has worked on issues ranging from preventing plastic pollution, stopping global warming, defending clean water, and protecting our beautiful places. Celeste's organizing has helped to reduce kids' exposure to lead in drinking water at childcare facilities in Oregon, encourage transportation electrification, ban single-use plastic grocery bags, defend our bedrock environmental laws and more. She is also the author of the children's book, Myrtle the Turtle, empowering kids to prevent plastic pollution. Celeste lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and two daughters, where they frequently enjoy the bounty of Oregon's natural beauty.

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