What to ask yourself before purchasing something
Before buying any sort of products, you may want to ask yourself a few questions:
1) Do I need it?
2) Do I already have something similar, can I borrow it or buy it second hand?
3) Do I really like it? As Derek Sivers says, “if it isn’t a hell yes, it is a hell no”
4) Will I get a lot of uses out of this item? If a food purchase, am I going to consume it within the next week or before its use-by date?
5) Am I buying this item as impulse or is it a thoughtful decision?
After having gone through all these questions, if you still decide to proceed with your purchase, there is also another important question, you may want to check: Has this item being made in conditions that are in line with my values and is produced locally?
Checking the ethics of the brands you are buying to ensure you are not supporting big corporations taking part in destroying the environment etc. is also key in the purchase decision. The French application i-boycott helps you to better understand this aspect, suggesting you alternatives and therefore helping you to choose the products you buy knowingly.
Repairing or restyling objects
Giving your belongings a second life by repairing or restyling them instead of throwing them away, is a good way to save a lot of resources.
There are many DIY out there to help you do so. So use that rainy Sunday afternoon to mend a piece of clothing or transform furniture etc.
You can also go to a repair café or a fablab in your area to get some help from volunteers and borrow the tools needed to repair your belongings.
If you do not feel confident to do so yourself, you can find a specialist nearby on Annuaire réparation or Murfy. For bikes and such, you can check Cyclofix. For more complex items like high tech products, you can either bring them to a specialist, such as Docteur it, or if you feel more adventurous and want to repair it yourself, check SOSav for tutorials on how to repair high tech equipments and they also have 1:1 help (this website is in French though), or have a look into How to repair or I fix it for English guides.
Renting, borrowing or sharing objects
If you want to borrow a beautiful dress or accessory for an event, why not renting it instead of buying something new you will only use once. This is what 1 robe pour 1 soir allows you to do.
Baby clothes and accessories
If you have young kids or babies, you may want to check My baby loc to avoid buying new items and renting them from other families instead. If your baby is growing older and you don’t know what to do of the old clothes or childcare articles, you can also use this website and post an add to have someone else renting them from you.
Public libraries are well developed in France, so you can always borrow books from there instead of buying them.
The association Les boîtes à partage focused on Lyon area is referencing all the places where people are making available objects to be borrowed.
You can also register your books on Ton book too to share them with people in your area and also get access to the books of community if you subscribe.
Buying or selling second-hand
In general, when you have an item you do not have use for anymore, consider selling it instead of letting it sit in your cupboards or worst dumping it in waste reception centres.
High tech products
Electronic products are using a lot of resources to be made. As example, 1 smartphone takes around 183kg and 1 computer 836kg. So think about buying a repurposed or second-hand equipment instead of something new to avoid wasting resources. For that, we recommend you to check Backmarket, Rebuy for all kinds of high tech products, Ecodair, AFB or Commown specifically for computers and Envirofone for second-hand smartphones.
When changing for a new high tech equipment, look into selling your current one even if it is broken. Indeed, professionals might be able to repair it or at least spare parts could be reused for repairs. To do so, check Rebuy for all kinds of high tech products, Ecodair specifically for computers and Envirofone and Backmarket to sell your smartphone.
The fashion industry is one of the most harmful for the environment so buying vintage clothing and repurposing old clothes is the way to go! You can either find a thrift store, a second-hand market or an Emmaüs store in your area. Emmaüs who also happen to have now an eshop in case you didn’t want to go to one of their stores directly but they won’t have everything listed.
You can also check one of the following websites to find second-hand clothes and accessories: Vinted, which has a wide range of clothing and accessories, and Vide dressing for high-end and luxury brand items.
Your unloved clothes may make somebody else really happy. So, think about dropping the clothes that are sitting in your cupboards to your local thrift store, register to take part in a second-hand market or bring them to your local Emmaüs store.
If you find it easier, you can also sell them on Vinted or Vide dressing.
Books, CDs and DVDs
If you want to buy or sell old books, CDs and DVDs, you check for local second-hand booksellers in your area or Gibert, the French reference for second-hand books in France.
For clothing and any other random items, you can look for nearby second-hand markets as well as your local Emmaüs store or the Emmaüs eshop . You will be sure to find treasures for a ridiculously low price.
Decathlon has also created a specialist selling platform for second-hand sports, travel and outdoor products.
Finally, anything random you may look for or wish to sell, including all the above, you will probably be able to do so on ebay or Le bon coin. But be careful of scams on the later. Our recommendation however, is to sell on specialist platforms to avoid your ad ending up being lost in the mass.
If you can’t rent, sell or repair your items, think about donating them instead. Indeed, if you just dispose of them at waste collection centres, these will most likely end up staying in the landfill while they could have been reused or repurposed.
Books, CDs and DVDs
You can also drop some books in one of the Les boîtes à partage. These types of boxes are also available available in other areas in France but are not necessarily referenced. So just keep your eyes open for them.
Recycle livre also helps you to find the nearest collection points for your old books, CDs and DVDs.
Local libraries as well as Books without borders may also accept your old books under certain conditions.
Fashion and other textiles
Textiles and shoes that are clean, dry and non stained by paint (even if they are ripped or have other types of stains) can be dropped off at collection points to be recycled. You can find your closest collection bin on La fibre du tri or Le relais.
If you want to get rid of something you don’t like anymore, including all of the above, provided it is in a fairly good condition, you can donate it to Emmaus. There are many stores all over France you can drop it at (as the website is only in French, you can check this guide that helps you to understand how to navigate it).
Buying presents or souvenirs
When going abroad, you may feel like bringing back something from your trip as a souvenir for yourself or loved ones. Instead, consider sign-up for experiences while abroad like a local cooking or dance lesson for example. This will allow you to re-use those skills when back home. For your loved ones, what better gesture than a postcard as a way to show they your affection.
If you really want to bring back something, look into bringing back food (when authorised by customs) or supporting local artisans and businesses versus buying cheap Eiffel Towers or fridge magnets made in China.
Beware of some vendors on crafts markets that will pass items made outside of France as regional craft. Another example, quite popular on market in France are the so called “Savon de Marseille” made from palm oil…
Besides, if you wish to buy a present for a host or someone that helped you along the way, what about always keeping with you zero waste items that could be easily be shared as gifts such as a reusable straw or bamboo toothbrush etc.? It could be a great way to introduce them to the zero waste lifestyle and have an interesting discussion on this topic. I would also recommend you to offer to do the food shopping and cook a meal for your hosts if you are staying at someone’s place. Sharing a bit of your culture through its food is a great gift!