a writer’s no-buy challenge for 2022


It’s August 20, 2021, our wedding anniversary, and I’m placing a bet with my husband. It’s not a sexy couple thing, get your spirits out of the gutter. No, I bet I can go a year without buying myself any new clothes or shoes.

We were there doing the laundry and chatting, like romantic fools that we are, about the environment and fast fashion. There is a tsunami of microplastic waste on our planet, and the fashion industry is seriously contributing to it.

Do you know that cute top you just threw in the wash? That single piece of synthetic fabric can release up to 700,000 microfibers, and where do those tiny bits of plastic end up? They’re thrown down the sewers, landing on beaches and in our oceans, and they’ll be there long after you’re gone, or even your great-grandchildren.

Helen Lovejoy’s hysterical lament: “Wouldn’t someone like to think of the children?” Comes to mind.

A 2017 report from Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that textile production emits 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases per year and urges us to move towards a circular economy “where waste is eliminated, resources are put into circulation and nature is regenerated” .

Best birthday talk ever, I shouted, and 10 minutes later shake hands on a deal that could potentially save me hundreds of dollars and make the world a little better. The husband, who silently (hey, we’re still married for a reason) watched every click and collect and every free delivery over $ 50 worth of packages, doesn’t for a second believe that I will. However, I am allowed to buy jewelry and underwear – I am not a total animal.

So here we are in January, I’m almost halfway there and I’m doing surprisingly well. I’ve slipped three times, and Joanne Hynes is to blame.

She’s pulling out a mid-season collection in Dunnes and I order two dresses, a pair of gold metallic leggings and a coatigan. Buyers’ remorse is felt as soon as they arrive at my door and I ask myself the question I keep coming back to, my new mantra: do I really need it? As fabulous as these golden leggings are, where do I really think I’m wearing them?

We are in a global pandemic, I work from home, I walk the dog, I run errands at school. Letting the kids down at the GAA club and pool is about as glamorous as it gets. Getting to the smallest guy’s gym session once a week is still new, but I’m not likely to go somewhere that requires a metallic dress code. I come to RTÉ every now and then to take part in the Today Show, but Dáithí Ó Sé wears the same shirt a few times to kiss, so why can’t I?

Looking at your accessories and other bits is a good place to start.

So I breathe and send them all back. My conscience (and my bank balance) thank me.

The next time, a second-hand dress from an old JH collection returns to a second-hand clothing site. It’s my size, my colors, and less than € 30. I buy it and convince myself that it is only half a sin because it is nothing new and I will definitely get rid of it.

Then there’s a sale on her 2020 collection in November, and a sequined cardigan dress I’m coveting is slashed from € 120 to € 50. I put it in my basket, looking through my fingers, and put some jeans and a t-shirt in it for good measure.

I’m literally in a rush – oh yeah baby, there’s that sweet, sweet dopamine – but I flip the three items the day they arrive, drug addict remorse, nauseated with myself. I can only apologize to the fine folks at Dunnes delivery service, you are right to be allergic to me.

I slowly begin to assess the clothes I own. I put a few bags of summer clothes in the attic and found, to my chagrin, some bags and sacks of winter clothes that I had forgotten, along with two big black bags of shoes and boots in perfect condition. Of them! That night Imelda Marcos visits me in my dreams and tells me to make do a bit. I feel like I need psychological intervention at this point.

I ruthlessly send most of them to charity.

I have a little revelation. Historically, when I browse new clothes, I imagine myself wearing them and I project a feeling of happiness and good times on that new top. Now I ask myself: where will this room live? I imagine the storage space it will take. I try to imagine that summer dress languishing for most of the year in the back of a closet, rather than a slow motion of myself jumping on a sunny beach, with massive hair and waist. tiny.

It’s a dress, not a magic cloak. I already have a full Sliderobe in my bedroom, a full wardrobe in son number two’s bedroom (the animal is too young to realize this is a weird act on my part) and most of the storage in the attic . Yet I wear the same five or six pieces 90% of the time.

I do another purge just before Christmas and send five big bags to charity. With a lot of clothes coming out of the house and none coming in, I feel like I’m making progress. Yes, there are earring shipments every now and then, but they don’t take up much space and I’ll never be too fat for them, so stop judging me. I refuse to be humiliated.

Christmas was a little more difficult. I usually liked shopping for a few new outfits for the holiday season, but I just didn’t go to stores – physical or virtual. I bought a pair of boots in December and put them in the hands of Paddy Power – I mean my husband. “Your Christmas present for me,” I explain.

Then I find a pair of Timberlands in the garage that I had left behind, and when I open the news on Christmas morning, I feel deflated and realize I don’t need them, so I send them back.

I think August 20, 2022, I’ll have three things: a clean wardrobe; an inflated bank balance; and, more importantly, the blissful satisfaction of dominating my husband that I won the bet.

Let’s keep this pre-loved purchase between us; some mystery is good for a marriage.

Help and advice for sustainable living

I asked Tara Shine, environmental scholar and author of How to Save Your Planet One Object at a Time, to share some ideas for anyone looking to live more sustainably in 2022.

“It will make a difference if a person cuts down on clothing purchases – everything we do counts, especially if we share what we learn along the way and our peers, friends and family follow in our footsteps. So if you are striving to buy less or like having more money in your pocket, then share it with your friends. They’re more influenced by you than anyone else.

“Be curious, do your research and ask questions to determine which brands are truly sustainable. Sites like Of course, you classify brands if you want more information.

Actively seek out sustainable brands that show you how sustainable they are and show you results – look for actions, not words. Here are Tara’s three tips to help you reduce your clothing purchases.

  • Share – try on a clothes swap, share clothes with friends, use sites like DEPOP to sell clothes to someone else, support charity shops.
  • Repair – repair the button, hem, small tear and give new life to your clothes. By repairing your existing clothes, they can last longer.
  • Rent – the next time you’re hosting an event like a wedding or an interview – rent, don’t buy!

Esther’s websites and apps to help you be more sustainable in 2022

Search social media for clothing groups you like, find out about Ebay, Marketplace, Gumtree and Donedeal.

There is a private group called Preloved Funky Clothes for Grownups on Facebook which is fabulous.


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