Eco-Saturday: Buy better quality

As I was sealing my Birkenstocks a couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me that I’ve been doing something positive for the environment for years without even thinking about it: When I shop for items I plan to use every day, I buy the best quality I can afford.

My everyday shoes are Birkenstocks. The clogs I wear every day are at least 16 years old; I’ve also found Doc Martens and Justin boots to be durable and comfortable for rough-and-tumble situations where clogs won’t work.

My trenchcoat is a London Fog. I bought it on sale in 1998. Every time I think it’s too stained or too dingy to go another season, the dry cleaners work another miracle on it, and I get another year out of it.

My work jacket is a Walls farm coat I bought for $40 at a hardware store in Vega, Texas, when I went out there to work on a historic preservation project in 2006 and discovered the jacket I’d brought along was too thin to stand up to chilly November winds in the Panhandle. It’s showing its age now — the corduroy collar is worn down, and the canvas is starting to fray a bit at the cuffs — but for a jacket that’s had a decade of hard use, it’s in remarkably good shape and still keeps me warm when I’m working outdoors.

In the kitchen, I have stainless-steel pans that date to 1981 and cast-iron skillets I’ve owned since 1997. Cast iron lasts forever, and you can buy skillets for next to nothing at antique stores and estate sales. Don’t be afraid of a little surface rust; if you scrub them down and season them properly, your grandkids will still be using them 50 years from now.

The advantage of buying good quality products is similar to the advantage of buying used: You’re avoiding the environmental impact of making something new. Opt for classic styles, perform routine maintenance as appropriate, and you’ll minimize your environmental footprint and save money at the same time.

What products have you found durable over the years? Feel free to share your recommendations in the comments. As always, my recommendations are based on personal experience; I wasn’t compensated for this post; your mileage may vary, etc.

Emily

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