I could tell you all the things I plan to buy in 2024 and tell you to spend your money on them. Or… I could tell you all the things I’m not buying in 2024 and encourage you to save your money and be more conscious about your consumption for your benefit and for the planet. I’ll do the latter!
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Eco-friendly living gets a bad rap sometimes for being expensive and prohibitive. Certain products are expensive, but sustainable living doesn’t have to be expensive at all, especially when we focus on doing the things we can with the resources available to use.
Things I’m Not Buying in 2024
In many cases, eco-friendly living habits are less expensive because we are more conscious about what we buy, spend less, and save more. As we head into a new year, here are some things I’m not buying in 2024 to benefit my bank account and the planet.
We mostly use cloth napkins, and I’ve been slowly accumulating a solid collection from thrift shops to use when we have guests. Additionally, we keep the paper napkins we receive from periodic takeout orders, so we have those as single-use backups when we need them.
With so many amazing options in various secondhand markets, I don’t plan to buy any new clothes for myself this year. I may buy some new-to-me items from thrift shops and consignment stores, but nothing fresh off the rack.
I already have most of what I need in this department, but when I do need something additional, I can always borrow it from a neighbor, ask for it in my Buy Nothing group, or find it secondhand. Many baking tools we only use a couple of times a year, so it seems silly to spend money on them and store them when we use them so infrequently.
New home decor
I don’t personally feel the need to update my home decor often. But even for those with more active home decor desires than me, there are so many amazing options at thrift shops and home goods consignment stores, especially if you’re willing to spend an hour or two giving something a little personalized love.
These beginner tips on flipping furniture are really helpful! We have a whole series of home decor tips, many of which focus on ways to repurpose and upcycle secondhand items and turn them into decorative, one-of-a-kind gems.
New water bottles
Rest assured, I will not be buying a Stanley tumbler in 2024. I’m pretty sure the trend is about dead anyway (not that I’m much of a trend follower). We already have so many reusable water bottles that I don’t need anything new.
As for single-use water bottles, they won’t be in my grocery cart. I suppose there may be an occasion from time to time when we’re on the road and a single-use water bottle is inevitable. But no new reusable water bottles or cases of plastic water bottles for us.
Grocery store flowers
Covered in plastic and chemicals, we don’t buy flowers from the grocery store. We have several flower farms around us where we can buy fresh flowers in season as well as dried flower bouquets in winter.
Until last year, it never occurred to me to buy a dried flower bouquet. But they’re pretty cool, they last forever, and I never have to water them. And it’s a great way to support local flower farms during their off-season without the gigantic, international carbon footprint of grocery store blooms.
Liquid laundry detergent
Why do people still buy this stuff? The containers are heavy and bulky. Who wants to carry this stuff home every month or two? We no longer buy liquid laundry detergent. We order laundry sheets or laundry powder from sustainable brands like Tru Earth, Meliora, and Blueland.
Laundry scent boosters
I’ve never purchased these because they felt like a waste of money. Also, if you check the ingredients, they’re a bunch of perfumes, fragrances, and chemicals. Many of these chemicals are drowning in a growing body of research indicating that they are not great for our bodies or health.
If clothing smells and needs a scent booster to cover a stench, it probably has larger underlying issues, and scent boosters simply mask the problem. If you’re looking to reduce shopping expenses, this is a great place to start.
When I have issues with smells lingering in certain fabrics (and it’s especially problematic with synthetic performance fabrics for workout gear), I wash them with a half cup of white vinegar instead of laundry detergent, and the smell is gone. It’s also a great way to clean out the washer.
We rarely use plastic utensils. I don’t particularly care for how they function. I much prefer real utensils and appreciate not spending money on these disposable extras when I already have options in my kitchen drawers.
Even if you’re having people over, use what you already have and toss it in the dishwasher when you’re done. We have a set of plastic reusable utensils that we bring out for events like birthday parties if we need extra forks and spoons.
Before you buy single-use plastic utensils, consider using what you already have or even requesting to borrow a set of utensils from a friend or neighbor if you’re having lots of people over. From time to time, we order takeout and they include plastic utensils in the bag. In this case, we keep them and have them on hand if we need them, which is rare.
I often see art supplies at thrift shops and posted in our Buy Nothing group. Last week, a friend offered me a bunch of cool markers for my boys that she no longer needed.
Though we don’t have one near us, I’ve also heard about really cool secondhand art supply shops that accept all sorts of art supplies, remnants, and tools that you can buy at deep discounts. We will make you use of what we already have access to for buying anything new.
There are so many fabric options at thrift stores. They may not look like traditional yards of fabric, but with all of the textiles flowing through thrift stores, you can find just about anything. From tablecloths and blankets to t-shirts, towels, and all sorts of linens, I will head to thrift shops before buying any new fabrics.
I already have a stash of thrifted tablecloths that I plan to turn into cloth napkins over the next few months. I’ll be sure to show them to you when I’m done. And I repurposed this plaid button-down shirt into a reusable fabric gift wrap last month.
Over the past few years, I’ve shared a bunch of ways I wrap gifts without buying new wrapping paper. Shipping materials, boxes, repurposed gift bags, and so many other items make great gift wrap options. I bought thrifted gift wrap last Christmas, and that was the first time in years I purchased any wrapping paper at all. I already have a bunch of gift boxes and bags saved from this past year, so there’s no wrapping paper on our shopping list for 2024.
Greeting cards make great gift tags when you cut them down to size. A few years ago, I created a little stash of DIY gift cards from greeting cards. I have plenty for now. Even if I need additional gift tags, I can buy thrifted greeting cards and make my own. They are so easy!
Return address labels or stamps
Somehow I ended up on seemingly every charity mailing list. Many of them send me personalized return address stickers. I keep them in a box in my closet and have plenty for the entire year, including our holiday cards. No need to buy stickers or an address stamp for us.
I make compost for our garden in some passively managed compost bins in our backyard. That’s plenty for our raised beds that I replenish each spring. Soil amendment can be expensive (and a burden to get home), so I love that it’s right in our garden already and requires very little work.
We also lost a lot of trees in a storm last summer, and I asked the tree company to leave some of the woodchips for us in the back corner of our yard. There will be more than enough to give the garden beds around our home a little upgrade in the spring.
Trees and shrubs
After losing so many trees in the aforementioned storm, I hope to replace many of them. We found a program called 10 Million Trees that provides free native trees and shrubs to people in Pennsylvania. We planted ten last fall and I plan to get more in the spring. They are tiny little saplings, but that gives them a good chance to develop strong roots and last for many years.
Yard and landscaping tools
We don’t have a lot of landscaping tools but I know lots of people who do. Because we use these so infrequently, I prefer to borrow them when we need them instead of buying them to store them mostly. When I return the tools with a bottle of alcohol or a container of cookies, I get no complaints. 🙂
If you’ve ever looked through the picture frame section at a thrift shop, you know it’s no joke! That section is always packed with frames in a variety of sizes, styles, and colors. With a little paint and nails, you can turn many frames into whatever style suits your home.
Last year, I made an entire gallery wall with frames I got secondhand from thrift shops and our Buy Nothing group. I am doing a few final touches, and then I can’t wait to show it to you.
Secondhand markets are so robust and growing by the day. With a little practice and patience, we can find almost anything second-hand and in great condition. Additionally, we just don’t need to buy that much stuff. A pause before purchasing to contemplate if we already have something to cover our needs goes a long way to reducing waste and saving serious money.
I’d love to know. Tell me what you’re not buying in 2024.
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Jen Panaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Honestly Modern, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and an advocate for sustainable living for modern families. In her spare time, she’s a serial library book borrower, a messy gardener, and a mom of two boys who spends a lot of time in hockey rinks and on baseball fields.
You can find more of her work at Raising Global Kidizens, an online space to help parents and caregivers raise the next generation of responsible global citizens.