One of the easiest ways we can lessen our impact on the environment is by changing how much we consume. My first year out of college was extremely difficult, and, unfortunately, I found that my go-to coping mechanism was buying makeup. I would end up in Fred Meyer wandering the cosmetic aisles in a stupor. I remember feeling like I had to buy something. If I couldn’t immediately change my unsatisfying employment situation, at least I could buy lipstick. This habit was not only expensive, it was wasteful. I’ve thrown out too many products that I bought on a whim but never used. As I make steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle, I feel the most conflicted about shopping for makeup. Makeup is by no means a necessity, but I love the routine of applying it in the morning and have no intention of giving it up. Unfortunately, makeup is usually packaged in plastic and I’m sure the ingredients are not typically sourced in an environmentally friendly way. And so, I am making an effort to curb my consumerism and reduce the amount of makeup I buy by making some changes to how I buy makeup.
While makeup has been my go-to, I’m sure many of use have some type of thing we buy just to have more stuff rather than needing. Below are some ways I’m trying to cut back on my consumerism that I hope work for you too.
1: Remove unnecessary sources of temptation
One of the biggest influences on my newfound obsession with makeup has been watching YouTube. I have spent countless hours watching people put on makeup, review makeup, declutter makeup, and “haul” makeup. These videos have influenced many trips to Sephora and drug stores where I have bought makeup that I don’t need to add to my collection. Recently, I have been feeling uncomfortable with the unnecessary consumption these videos promote. A lot of the beauty gurus I watched had rooms dedicated to makeup and collections that included 20+ foundations and hundreds of lipsticks. While collecting these items is their job, their job is also to influence people to buy these things, whether or not we need them. They also buy A LOT of makeup for gag type videos, buying makeup from places like the Dollar Store, Claire’s, or shady online stores just for the purpose of making a video. It is one thing to buy a lot of makeup you fully intend to use, it is another to buy it knowing you will only use it once in order to put something on social media. I have started to unsubscribe from a lot of channels so that I feel less inclined to go buy a product just because it is recommended on the internet.
I have also unsubscribed from emails from most stores. Every day places like HauteLook, Old Navy, and Sephora inundate my inbox with deals. It can seem like a great deal to buy something that is on sale, unless you are only buying it because it is on sale. If you wouldn’t pay full price for something, chances are you don’t really need it in your collection. Instead, I want to think of what my wardrobe, makeup collection, book shelf etc. is missing and thoughtfully look for pieces that fit a need.
2: Embrace a capsule collection
I am a creature of comfort and don’t like to try new things when it comes to makeup or fashion trends. I pretty much use the same eyeshadow every day and have found the one lipstick I would happily wear for the rest of my life. I am starting to pay more attention to the products I use every day in my makeup collection and the ones I never reach for. I could easily whittle down my collection to one foundation, one bronzer, two eyeshadow palettes, two or three blushes, a tube of mascara, and one eyebrow pencil and be set. I am going to change my makeup buying mentality from buying things to grow what I have to buying things to replace what I’ve used up. This way I can avoid the temptation to buy things because I’m a: sad or b: they look new and fun. Not only can I reduce the amount of waste I generate, but I’ll save a ton of money on products that just sit unused on my desk. I don’t practice a capsule collection with my wardrobe, but I do think critically about what is actually needed in my wardrobe. I don’t care for the current trends of big ruffles and cold-shoulders, so it is easy enough to avoid those pieces. But I have certainly been guilty of buying things from places like Forever 21 that I didn’t particularly love, but felt a need to buy because they were cool at the time. Next time you’re picking up an article of clothing, consider whether you are buying it because it’s cool on Instagram or because it is genuinely indicative of your style.
As you whittle down your collection of stuff, be mindful of what you do with it. Donate what you can (but please don’t donate used makeup, see TedTalk below) and give what you can’t donate to friends (or give it away on a Free and For-Sale page online). But please, be thoughtful of what you donate. I think everyone should watch this TedTalk from the CEO of the local YWCA before they make a product donation to a nonprofit (Disclaimer: I know Miriam personally and she is great). Throwing things out should be a last resort.
3: Invest in memories, not things
This is probably the most cliche advice, but it is still worth repeating. I am not big on travel, so I don’t find myself saving up for big trips. But Washington has a great music scene, and recently I have been spending more of my time and money on going to see live concerts. I’ve now been able to see some of my favorite musicians live and have wonderful memories I will be able to share with friends for years to come. Investing in memories doesn’t have to be expensive, like going to concerts or traveling. Little things like making a meal with someone, listening to a record and bonding over a bottle of wine, or going on a hike or to the beach (if you are able to access the outdoors), are all great ways to spend your time and money on things that will last with you. I’ve spent more than I care to admit on makeup since 2015, a lot of that money could have easily been used to do far more meaningful things.
Where do you find yourself tempted to spend money and generate unnecessary waste? Do any of these tips resonate with you and what are some tricks you use?