Off-Piste Consumer

Okay, so I'm not talking about shopping for ski essentials here. Rather, I'm talking about being a consumer (a person who purchases services and goods) in an alternative way; separate from the way that’s been prepared for me. Off-piste, if you will. After years of allowing a product's price to determine if I would buy something or not, I now have completely different filters to persuade me whether or not to spend my money. I'm quite proud to boast that I think I am not the ideal consumer for sellers because I don't buy mindlessly anymore. And I have an inkling that sellers would like us to be mindless consumers. So, here it is...

An upfront look at how my shopping habits have changed after deciding to live consciously.



I determine many of the products I buy by how long they will last. Is this bottle, or coat, or shoe built well? Can it endure the wears and tears of life? Even better, could it potentially function for me for the rest of my life? (They're the best finds out there - and they're out there.) This is a sustainable discipline because it means that over time my life is filled with less products which are better quality. This also means that I've started avoiding poorly built items like the plague. I won't shop at dollar/pound stores anymore. I won't buy from 'fast-fashion' shops which sell in-style clothes built to as long as the fleeting style (stores like Primark, H&M, Forever 21, Old Navy and Joe Fresh). In turn, I take much better care of what I do own because it has a higher value to me.


Since I'm interested in buying products which I'll use for years and years, my sense of style has changed somewhat. I tend to buy items that are simpler looking - blacks, whites, greys, pinks. If there's a certain style in trend, for instance marble-effect bottles or tropical print laptop sleeves, I'll try and avoid it. That's not to say I don't like that style, I actually really like the deep greens of tropical prints, but I suspect that in a few year's time I'll be less enthusiastic about it. My tastes will have matured and evolved. Because of that, I don't want to commit to fads which will lead me to resent a functional item I own because I've started lusting after another design.

When it comes to clothes, I resist buying items that I like but know I won't be able to take care of it well enough. I rarely buy white garments anymore. A plush white jumper over wintertime sounds lovely, but I find it hard to keep whites white and I tend to spill my food, so I don't want to buy a product that I'll damage whilst it’s still not that old.


This is perhaps the least surprising byproduct of shopping consciously - it tends to cost more. I've heard a lot of people comment that they can't afford to begin buying sustainable items because of the price jump. I do think it takes time to allow your budget and priorities to alter in favour of being able to afford higher-quality items, but I also think that sustainable living (eventually) saves you money. Yes, the products I buy cost a lot more than their cheaper equivalents, but man am I buying less stuff. My bathroom products barely run out (read more here), I own more items that have multiple functions and what I do own lasts a long time or was sold by a company promising to fix any damages.


One of the biggest changes in how I shop has been the frequency - I spend money less and I save money more. Because I want to buy items built by companies I'm proud to support who sell products that will last a long time, I spend time researching before I shop. Sometimes this takes me months. Or sometimes I know what I want to buy, but it takes a while to save up for it. Last month I bought hiking boots (that I intend to use and upkeep for the rest of my life - let's be honest, my feet aren't going to grow any more) which I saved for for a year. Before that I bought myself a leather bag which I'd been saving for for about a year and a half. I also buy littler items like my phone case or deodorant which I have my eye on for a month or so before I can afford to buy them.

This sense of pace has actually been my favourite byproduct of sustainable living. My desire to shop has slowed dramatically and instead I have a heightened sense of gratitude and contentment for what I do own.

Bethan Uitterdijk