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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Don't keep up with the Joneses

New iPod next to an older model

New iPod compared to an older model: they both play music.

Credit: Aaron Logan / Lightmatter.net

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How have you been doing with your challenge this month? Have you discovered any interesting ways to extend the useful life of the things you own? Or have you run into problems figuring out how you can make something last? If so, leave a comment and we'll see if we can come up with a bright idea or two.

This week, I've bought handkerchiefs to use as replacements for tissues, and mended a tear in one of my summer skirts instead of putting it in the rag-bag we use for cleaning the house. I've also been making notepads out of the paper I can't avoid printing at work - I had enough to give some away to workmates!

But I've also been thinking about how I can make decisions now that will make it easier for me to refill, reuse and repair stuff in the future. In my opinion, this means thinking carefully when I buy new things, and planning ahead.

  • Buy quality over quantity. Saving up and paying a bit more for a really good quality pair of shoes, or choosing a refillable pen or a toothbrush with a replaceable head means that later on, it's worth your while to repair it or get it refilled instead of throwing it out.
  • Buy secondhand, or antique, as another way of reusing things. Our bed (but not our mattress) came from a secondhand store, and it's only got a tiny little scratch on it that you can only see if you get on the floor. Older style furniture is often better made than the cheap stuff you get these days. The same goes for jewellery and clothing and sometimes appliances. And other things like books or games are fine even if they've been used before.
  • Don't bother keeping up with the Joneses. Half the time they've got huge credit card debt, trying to keep up the appearance of having all the latest and greatest things.

This even goes for electronics and phones and all the nifty technological devices we use. If you check out the Last Year's Model website, you can see people using older model phones that work better for them than newer ones, or people who refuse to upgrade just because there's been a slight change in fashion for gadget buttons. If you've got an older model that you love, you can share your love for it with a bunch of people who understand that newer isn't always better.