It isn't always possible or feasible to buy vintage furniture or decor or to repair what you've already got. So, if you find yourself shopping for a new item of homewares - how do you ensure that you make an informed purchase?
Here are three clusters of questions that you can use to jumpstart your research or use as a script when talking to customer service.
1. How will this product impact the environment?
Greenwashing: Are their environmental policies and promises to improve substantiated or are they vague and hollow?
Materials: Are they clearly listed? Are they new, repurposed or recycled? If they are seemingly new materials, ask: are they biodegradable, easily repurposed or recyclable? If they are raw materials, it is important to ask: are they traceable? For example, if wood is listed as a material, where did the wood geographically come from? Is it from virgin forests, a sustainable farm, recycled pulp? etc. If there are materials derived from animals, did they have to be bred and farmed for this material? Is this material worth their exploitation and suffering to you?
Overproduction and wastefulness: Usually indicated by a proclivity for sales and discounts, an exorbitant product range, a lack of repair service. What packaging materials are used? Single use plastics?
Manufacturing: Where is the item produced? Is it far away from where you are buying it? If so, think about the potential air miles involved.
2. How will this product impact people?
Manufacturing: Where is the item produced? Does their website provide a detailed explanation of the working conditions and wages provided for their non-office workers? Or does their website just highlight their office/floor staff in smart uniforms and with crisp smiles? Who actually makes the item... where are the pictures of them??
Corporate culture: Who are in positions of power in the company? Are the upper echelons culturally and gender diverse? What are the political leanings of the company and those in power? What do they invest their money into? And if you don't agree with their politics, do you still want to make them rich?
Craftsmanship and culture: is this item associated with a particular culture or group of peoples? Is it a copy or a rip off of a design by another company or an individual artist? Are these people given credit for the idea, did they make it for the company and are they receiving money from its sale? Could promoting this company's version of this item contribute to destroying the economic independence, success and culture of certain people?
3. How will this product impact you?
Quality: Does it look/feel like it will last a lifetime... or a few years? What investment of time, effort and money will it cost you to replace it, possibly multiple times?
Style: Is this item likely to become generic? How many different versions of the same item are you seeing similar companies make? If everybody owns this same item, will it still bring you joy? If you sleep on it, and resist buying it for a month, would you still want to buy it?
🔥 HOT TIP🔥
If some or all of this info isn't immediately obvious, it's a good idea to reverse image search a picture of the object you are interested in. This usually only takes a few seconds. You might be surprised to find that the object is a rip-off of an artist, or that this company is drop shipping items from Shein or Aliexpress and adding a huge markup. I have found that Google's "Google Lens" functionality works very well for this. Learn how to reverse image search with iPhone and Android.