Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cheap vs Quality (and environmental impact)

Which do you think is more environmentally sound: buying three new sweaters for $100, or buying one new sweater? If you answered one, you're correct.

Alice made a point in a comment recently, and it solidified something that had been pinging around my head for a while: cheap products are not environmentally sound. I’ve written before about how while I love some of the clothes at Target (my favorite “fun” skirt is from there), I won’t buy their sweaters – even if they’re on sale. Why? Because they pill after being worn maybe 2-3 times. So, those are not deals in any sense of the word. In my experience, anything made with acrylic is not something that you will be wearing three years from now.

Let’s look at this from a different perspective: what happens to those three sweaters? Maybe the buyer uses 1-2 as “at home” sweaters (e.g. lounging, gardening, whatever). More likely, they end up in the trash or Goodwill donation. And really, does anyone ever buy a pilled sweater in a thrift shop??

Based on my personal experience, the sweater material that has lasted the longest and looks as good today as it did originally is this: fine gauge wool. I bought a couple sweaters in charity shops in Scotland, and they have lasted longer than any other sweater I’ve bought and worn as much. Based on the brand of sweater, each probably cost $50-100 new.

My father had the same two pairs of shoes for as long as I could remember. They were subtle wingtips, and he wore them nearly every day. Occasionally, he would have the shoes re-soled and that was it. Oh, and he’d have to buy new shoelaces now and then. I honestly think my father had those same shoes for 20 years. Yes, there was some expense in maintenance, though that’s not the same in cost or waste when compared to someone who buys (and wears out) two pairs of shoes per year.

These are brief examples, to be sure, though it illustrates how buying quality is better for the environment. By purchasing things which will last longer, the buyer will have more money in the future (since they’re not constantly replacing cheap items), and the environment will be better because there will be less waste. Hopefully, too, it will lower demand for cheap items and raise the standard that clothing manufacturers need to follow.


Katie Gregg said...

I agree with you 100%. In fact, I just blogged about this. I would rather spend more on an item I'll have for years, than less on something I'll toss in a matter of months. It's more frugal, and more environmentally responsible.

Kim said...

I am so agree, I will not buy clothing from Walmart anymore. I bought two pairs of $10 "deal" jeans. Within 2 week, they developed up and down tears in them. Not a deal at all.

So now I pay $40 for my jeans and they last a couple of years. Look better too!