Nothing New in ’22

Nothing new in 2022

Hi! I’m Gemma, one of the Ailuna Action creators. In January (2022) I accepted the Nothing New in ’22 challenge set by Sustainable(ish). “How hard could it be? I already buy second hand” I thought. Well, a year on and I can safely say I am a little less brash. 

The challenge excluded food, medicines and consumables for fixing things. I also excluded anything which we’d need for the health or development of our baby daughter!

For the whole of 2022, we (a family of three) set out to swap, borrow, make or mend in the first instance and buy second hand when we need something. If we couldn’t find second hand we’d buy new – ideally made from recycled materials, sourced locally and/or from companies with an ethical stance.

My favourite part of the buy nothing new challenge was repurposing a toilet and bathtub into a planter and pond for my garden!

9 minutes to read

by Gemma Annan  / Jan 2023

Easier said than done!

Here are some of the challenges I faced:

Temptation. I’m happy to avoid high street stores and head for charity shops or boutiques, but visiting local markets is torture! There are so many colourful and wonderful things, instead, I browse quickly to gather inspiration should I ever have time to sit and get creative.

Being unprepared. In the first week of January it was my Nan’s birthday and in true Gemma style I picked something up last minute. In hindsight, I should have simply treated her to lunch which she would have enjoyed more. Why do we feel the need to gift things?!

Short on time. Sometimes we need things right here, right now – that’s life! I’ve found at times the item I need isn’t locally available on the second hand market, when I need it. 

Receiving presents from family members. People love to buy for babies – say no more!

Tips to avoid buying new

Before buying anything, second-hand or otherwise, we tried to swap, borrow, make, or mend so here are a few tips that will hopefully help you do the same.

Swap a skill

No good with a sewing needle? Can someone help and you teach them a few words of French in exchange? My friend is going to fix my sewing machine and I’ll bake her some cookies – a good excuse for a cuppa and a natter!

Learn a new skill

Is there a local wood making or seamstress class you can join to learn some handy skills? Otherwise YouTube is full of tutorials on everything from sock darning to upcycling furniture.

Ask your friends and family

Sounds simple but before searching for those new goods, ask if someone has one lurking in a cupboard. We bagged 2 phone charging leads and cushion covers this way!

Make things last longer

To avoid buying new I now search the internet for the item I want to last longer, such as ‘make my phone charging cable last longer’ and then I search for the best tip! You can also check out our blog post on making your clothes last longer for some additional tips. Sugru can also be your best friend when it comes to creative mending.

Tips for second-hand shopping

If you can’t swap, borrow, repair, or rent the item you’re looking for, shopping secondhand is usually the next best option. Here are some of the pointers I’ve picked up over the years when shopping for second-hand items.

Visit and revisit charity shops

Don’t be put off by not finding anything you like. That’s the beauty of charity shops, they are full of unique items, revisit again and I’m sure you’ll find something delightful!

Watch out for dropshipping

Dropshipping is where a seller doesn’t keep the item they are selling in stock or personally own it. The seller buys the product from a third party and then ships the item to the customer. People have started using second-hand sites to sell goods that are not second-hand.

Ways to spot dropshipping:

  • Do the photos seem genuine? Do they look like stock images/taken from an Instagram account? If so, ask the seller to send additional photos, no photos – red flag!
  • Are there multiple sizes and colours? Dropshippers have endless amounts of stock. Generally, someone selling their own clothes won’t have!
  • How long is the shipping time? Dropshipped items generally take 2-4 weeks to receive. Bear in mind that genuine small businesses may take a while to send when handmade.

Adopt the 20x rule when buying clothes

Spot a nice pair of jeans, snazzy t-shirt or cosy jumper? Ask yourself if you’re likely to wear it 20 times? If yes then go ahead and treat yourself, if no, ask yourself if you really need it – or can you rent it instead? The magic number is 30 times when buying new but as the item has likely been worn before I feel a bit of leeway can be made with second-hand – as long as it’s rehomed when you no longer wear it.

folded jumpers on a shelf

Think in advance

The item you want might not be available when you want it so if you anticipate needing something then start searching for it in advance. I keep a list of things I need now and in the near future. This is especially important for buying gifts. I was able to avoid buying new over the festive period, but it did mean hours spent making gifts and being ultra prepared – dedication!

Don’t travel unless necessary

Have you driven miles to pick up something secondhand? Unless you are heading that way, spare a thought for the carbon and other emissions of your journey.

Opt for a greener delivery

At check out, if given the option to have the item delivered to a store instead of your home this could save the fumes emitted from driving around the streets to reach your house. Also, if you have direct contact with the seller ask for limited packaging where possible.

Check out our Second Hand September blog for more tips on buying second hand, and my fellow team member Louise’s blog on stocking up when you’re expecting a baby.

When you have to buy new

It’s inevitable we need to buy new at times so here are a few tips on buying new as sustainably as possible.

Speak to retail staff

See if your chosen retailer has offcuts, spares, returns, ex-display, and end-of-line – which they’ll sell at a discounted rate. We got ‘wonky’ wood at a DIY store for our raised planter!

Seek out the leftovers

See if the retailer has an ex-display/end-of-line range. We picked up a refurbished extractor fan with a dent in it, and lucky for us the dent made it cheaper!

Check how ethical a company is

Ethical Consumer is a reliable website (limited info available without paying for a subscription) for rating brands and products in terms of their sustainability.

My highlight

During the year we set out to improve our garden for us and wildlife. We upcycled an old bath into a pond, old pallets into furniture, a washing machine drum into a fire pit, and wood offcuts into a raised planter. We bought solar lights, plants, and metal for the planter but mostly we managed to source free and used stuff for our ‘new’ garden.

Buying nothing new was a healthy challenge, but it’s been good to take on and get my partner involved. He appreciated the money-saving aspect! I still haven’t rented anything and this is an avenue I’d like to explore more in 2023. 

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