SHOP FOR LIFE
Internet entrepreneur Tara Button is on a mission to make us shop more mindfully. We find out why…
Throwaway consumerism is now regarded as a Very Bad Thing and more and more of us aspire to buy only things that will last, but still, the flow of shiny new products vying for our attention is relentless. How do we decide what’s really worth our cash?
Step forward Tara Button, ad executive turned crusader for mindful shopping. Five or so years ago, Button found herself living in a cluttered house, with a shopping habit and credit-card debt. She made her living writing TV ads – ‘pushing people to buy things they didn’t necessarily want or need’ – and she was caught in the web herself.
Button had an epiphany when her sister gave her a Le Creuset casserole for her 30th birthday. ‘I had a visceral reaction to it,’ she remembers. ‘It was the kind of object you pass down to your children. I thought about how little waste there would be if everything I owned were like that.’ She began building an online database, researching the best products, from T-shirts to kettles (among the vital criteria were functionality, materials, and sustainability). She also had a thorough clearout of her possessions and resolved never again to buy on impulse.
In 2016, her website, Buymeonce, made the transition from private passion project to phenomenon – despite the modest edit of products ( in the crockery section, only Denby’s virtually unbreakable stoneware makes the grade). ‘In the first fortnight, 600,000 people visited the site,’ she says.
Button has now written a book, A Life Less Throwaway: The Art of Buying for Life (£12.99, Harper Thorsons), which details her vision at length. Some manifestos on minimalist living can seem severe, but not this one; engaging and down to earth, it doesn’t even tell us to stop shopping. Rather, it guides us towards spending in a more rewarding way. ‘The average house has 300,000 objects in it, but only a few of those add genuine value to our lives,’ Button reasons.
As an ex-advertising insider, Button is well placed to show us how manufacturers hoodwink us. Her book explores how planned obsolescence induces us to buy more (read the section on lightbulbs) and shares tips on how we can all learn to resist seductive adverts. Most importantly perhaps, she is an advocate of ‘mindful curation’: taking time to establish your taste and putting coveted things on a wishlist before spending.
Ultimately, though, Button believes that the issue of throwawayism is bigger than our own needs. It’s the environmental impact of our shopping habits that motivates her. ‘Buying things that last is the best and easiest thing you can do for the planet,’ she argues.
Her next focus is her #Makeitlast petition, which aims to force manufacturers to label their products with a durability mark. ‘ We know that companies are aware roughly how long their products last with normal usage,’ she says. ‘This mark would give consumers a “cost per year” and help them to see which product is the best value.’ She would also like to give worthy designs a Buymeonce label. ‘I want it to become a symbol of longevity, just like the Kitemark for safety,’ she enthuses. As her book states, it’s time to throw away our throwaway culture for good.
‘The average house has 300,000 objects in it, but only a few of those add genuine value to our lives’