Breaking In: A Change of the Guard in the Bootmaking World

Shoe giant Timberland long stood as a bastion of quality within the throwaway world of fashion. As its standards have slipped, industry rivals refuse to pick up the slack. The mainstream of the shoe industry is banking on customers accepting a new normal. But durable, affordable and accessible boots are out there  if you know where to look.

Words: James Bates-Prince
Breaking In: A Change of the Guard in the Bootmaking World & 8 Sustainable Men's Boots Brands | buymeonce.com

It ain't like the good old days. Wasn't like this when I was a kid. They don't make 'em like they used to. This tired cry, exclaimed by generation after generation while demanding a return to an imagined past, is especially prosaic as 2016 draws to an end. Make America great again. Take back control. Squeeze the toothpaste back into the tube.

But sometimes the stereotype rings true. The forward march of technology has certainly made consumer goods cheaper, added bells and whistles and provided an attractive glossy sheen where there was once an ugly unkempt surface. And durability has been repeatedly, consciously squandered. We all know about this phenomenon with electronics – the light bulb conspiracy, irreparable washing machines. But it's happening in more traditional manufacturing too; it's happening right under our feet.

Photo: Unsplash

Photo: Unsplash

Ad run by Timberland in 1979.

Endurance has never been a niche concern in the shoe industry. While the fast-fashion major label shoe game perches capriciously atop a glitter ball, a myriad of honest and high quality boot makers have lain cosily away from the show, content only to peer at the eccentricities within. Spending hundreds of dollars on new shoes every year is a luxury most cannot afford, and boot makers used to be keenly aware of this fact. Companies that now stand as industry behemoths often started up solely on the back of one person's fiery will to improve on their own failing shoes.

For decades, the traditional American work boot was the reserve of the traditional American worker. Well built, affordable for the duration, effortlessly classic in look. Manufacturers that could only make their name locally in the 50s and 60s started to encounter interest from further afield as whispers began to seep out about these high quality, ingeniously designed and affordable leather boots. They found they had the opportunity to expand. Rapidly. Timberland is a classic example, the alpha male of the boot world that brusquely manoeuvred itself to the front of the litter. Now the name leaps off the tongue – that classic yellow boot immediately recognisable and associated with durability and style. An American icon.

The image isn’t really a lie, but it’s not the truth either. The story of Timberland is a mirror for the wider footwear industry. It was 1952 when the ambitious shoemaker Nathan Swartz bought a share in a Boston manufacturer, the Abington Shoe Company. The company grew – but the point of no return would come 20 years later.  "It all began in the early 70s when Sidney Swartz noticed that the American "working man" had a genuine need for durable leather boots that kept them dry while outdoors," says Chris Pawlus, Timberland's creative director. "So he made one with wheat-coloured waterproof leather… and it caught on pretty fast."

Don't take even the most expensive Timberlands on a hill walk. Photo: Jan, BuyMeOnce reader.

Don't take even the most expensive Timberlands on a hill walk. Photo: Jan, BuyMeOnce reader.

Chris’ words were spoken in 2013, but the aims he articulated aren’t a fanciful vision of the past. Timberlands were built to be a durable and waterproof boot for workers. Any shelf life beyond that may have been hoped for late at night, but it was unanticipated. The road to success was paved not with outrageous marketing campaigns or vacuous publicity stunts, but with the quality and elegance of design. The yellow boot bloomed and flourished, sales ballooning throughout the 80s in Europe before rising into the stratosphere in the early 90s. Customer service took a hit and production had to be moved, yet customers remained happy with the quality. But something was beginning to change.

The limited lifetime guarantee that once adorned the boots became a one-year guarantee. The majority of their manufacturing moved from the USA to factories in China and the Dominican Republic. Timberland began to reposition itself as a fashion brand that could lean on its reputation for durability and gamble on the company name, happy to be better than the worst rather than the best of the best. The materials could be switched out for more affordable, less refined alternatives. The stitching didn't need to be so careful, did it? By the time Timberland sold itself to international apparel conglomerate VFC in 2011, some of the quality was gone. Soon, high quality ceased to be a target at all. The new aim was laid out clearly by VFC: double Timberland’s revenue towards a projected £3.1 billion in 2019.


Handmaking a new member of the Redwing Heritage collection.

Handmaking a new member of the Redwing Heritage collection.

The news that Timberland is no longer a name in durability won’t be news to the canniest of you. Even without ever having bought a pair of their shoes, you tend to assume a drop in quality as a company grows. The road to success seems to be paved with broken morals and compromise in every walk of life. Boots are no exception.

Even the honourable brands have found their standards slipping. BuyMeOnce has received dozens of recommendations for Redwing, Minnesotan boot makers with a heritage that stretches into the 19th century. This time ten years ago, they were 100% manufactured in the USA using leather from the tannery that they privately own and carried a limited lifetime guarantee. Today? With the exception of their heritage collection, manufacturing has moved to China to cut costs and quality and hike up profits. The USA-made collection is still genuinely great for reliable casual wear, but you're paying fashion prices. You're getting a little less bang for your buck. The lifetime guarantee has been reduced to 12 months, and for every recommendation we receive, a warning isn't far behind.

R.M. Williams, an Australian icon in boot-making, has one of the richest and most genuine backstories anywhere in the manufacturing world. Reginald Murray was born in 1908 and left home for a life in the outback at age thirteen. He learned leather working with a saddle maker, and he learned boot making through trial and error. When you’re let down in the outback, it matters a good deal more than in suburban Adelaide. The soul was there and the company was built around it, piece by piece, becoming globally renowned and gained near legendary status for those who didn't live down under. A lifetime guarantee, free fixing, reliably outstanding quality. Amazing stuff – and Louis Vuitton thought so too when he purchased R.M. Williams in 2013. Now you’ll get a 6-month guarantee. They'll still fix your boots, but a full resole will set you back $150. Take a look at their website; it doesn’t take long to realise that you’re looking at a fashion brand.

Dr Martens For Life boots. Grab them while you can.

Dr Martens For Life boots. Grab them while you can.

Dr Martens remain a BuyMeOnce brand, and their “For Life” range is a proud beacon of lifetime assured quality in the shoe world. But even that isn’t safe. Where there once were eight shoes available in the range, only two options remain. Dr Martens have strongly denied to us that they’re gently phasing the brand out, but one wonders how long it will be before the last built for life boot disappears from the shelf. If you have a spare moment, give Dr Martens a ring or an email. Perhaps they'll tell you something different.


THE BUYMEONCE WORKBOOTS

The BuyMeOnce boot is out there - just don’t try to look for a long guarantee. In the last 10 years, company after company have shed their policy or reduced it to a year or less. It’s sad to say, but being a bit of a hipster often pays off – you need to find brands before they’re cool, companies that are still small enough to keep their manufacturing at home, their supply chain under their noses and the quality under
control. In general, look for a Goodyear welt construction for toughness and easy repairs, while following the shoe care guide offered by the company. If your boot ever does break, your first port of call should be a local cobbler - it will probably be cheaper and cut unnecessary air miles.

Of course, there is the odd exceptional large company without a tainted reputation too. We may as well lead off with everyone's favourite:

These boots have sold out every winter since 2011 because LL Bean refuses to outsource production. Probably best to grab yours early!

These boots have sold out every winter since 2011 because LL Bean refuses to outsource production. Probably best to grab yours early!

LL BeaN

LL Bean stands apart as an international company, with a reputed name, that hasn't felt the need to sell out or compromise. Founded in 1912, their history is as long and storied as any shoemaker out there; one key difference is that they're still privately owned, in touch with L.L.'s heritage.

The demand for Bean Boots has cycled up and down during the hundred years we’ve [been] making it. We don’t go out of our way to find those trends.

Their boot has become famous in it's own way. It's esoterically strange and functional look gradually forced itself into the public consciousness, and the ugly duck boot came of age at the beginning of this decade. It's still no swan mind you, but the comfort these things provide goes way beyond an insole. With an unmatchable, unconditional lifetime guarantee, LL Bean stand by their boots like no other manufacturer.


Thorogood - worn in, not worn out.

Thorogood - worn in, not worn out.

THOROGOOD

Arguably the best value out there for mid-range, built-to-last American boots. USA made and Goodyear welted, Thorogood's heritage work boots won't let you down. Our personal favourite is the 6-inch Moc Toe work boot, but it's in close competition with their excellent 8-inch style. They're available fitted for men and women, so check them out now.


Chippewa

With a heritage going back to 1901, Chippewa’s have begun to escalate in popularity over the last ten or so years. Priced just above the Thorogoods, their range represents another great value option for some hardcore durability with a slightly different styling. Do check out Chippewa’s site proper for their full range – but we’re showcasing the LL Bean Katahdin below.

These beauties are actually built by Chippewa and outsourced. It’s the perfect combination; the quality and look of a heritage American bootmaker with the legendary customer service of LL Bean.


White's

If you're prepared to stump up a bit more cash for something to last you as long as any shoe reasonably can, White's USA-made boots are as solid as they come. You can find ready-to-order versions if you're not fussed on the fit, but we recommend taking advantage of their custom builds. It's an investment without a doubt. It's up to you to judge if you're going to get the use out of them, but for heavy wearers these beauts are unmatched.


You get what you pay for with Viberg. Photo: Pinterest

You get what you pay for with Viberg. Photo: Pinterest

Viberg

Tracing back their lineage to the Normandy landings of the Second World War, these Victorian made boots are an unmissable entry from Canada onto this list. The look has been updated, and they now find themselves at the apex of both style and durability. This updated brown leather pair is detailed with neat cap-toes and has Goodyear-welted rubber soles, which are famed for their superb traction, even on wet surfaces. Not for everybody – but if you’re looking to spend $600 on a stylish and hard-wearing boot, this is the one to go for.


The Vegan options

It’s unfortunate that leather is the ultimate shoe material when it comes to durability. In the new year we’ll be publishing an in depth piece discussing the environmental impact of leather, and the clash of ethics that occasionally emerges when buying for life.

These options don’t hit the built-for-life heights of the aforementioned leather models (although we’d definitely still place them above Timberland). But they smash it out of the park on environmental credentials and business ethics.

Dr Martens vegan 1460 Boot. Photo: Pinterest

Dr Martens vegan 1460 Boot. Photo: Pinterest

Dr Martens 1460 For Life

No lifetime guarantee here but these are as heavy duty as Vegan boots come. A BuyMeOnce brand with a great ethical offering.

Wills Vegan Work Boot

Wills Vegan Work Boot

Wills Vegan Shoes Work Boot

British boot maker Wills Vegan Shoes have come up with this stunning faux-leather, water resistant boot. Unbeatable on looks, all reports we’ve heard suggest they’ll go the distance. At just $110 it's  an attractive price too - just be sure to look after them carefully to maximise that value.

Bourgeois Boheme Shaun Black

Bourgeois Boheme Shaun Black

Bourgeois Boheme

Coming in a little more on the expensive side, Bourgeois Boheme offers a great alternative for a brogue, performing best in the city rather than every and anywhere. With split toe seam detailing, their Black Shaun is comfortable and waterproof. This vegetarian shoe is made of 100% animal-free materials and ethically produced in Portugal.


Purge the Plastic: The Detriment of Food Packaging & How to Shop More Sustainably

Words: Amanda Saxby
Purge the Plastic: The Detriment of Food Packaging & How to Shop More Sustainably

THE PESTILENCE OF PLASTIC

Between California and Japan, beginning only miles off of the coast of North America, floats a five metre-deep concentrated soup of microplastic and debris. Albatrosses circle the trash, dipping down to snatch up small red micropellets indistinguishable from food; turtles trundle through the murky stew swallowing whole plastic bags they mistake for jellyfish; and a ghost net ensnares a small pod of seals. This is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is a 1.4 million mile square site at the centre of the North Pacific Gyre, and it’s slowly killing our marine life and ocean food chain.

What’s more, there are an additional four ocean garbage patches in other gyres around the world. And we’ve known about them since 1997. So what have we been doing? How did this happen?

Every time we tie up our empty Keurig pods, disposable solo cups, and takeaway wrappers in a plastic bag and send it off to landfill, we’re making the patch bigger. Out of the 311 million metric tons of plastic the world produces every year, 10 percent makes its way to the oceans. And the worst bit is that once it’s there, we can’t do anything about it. Plastic is non-biodegradable; it photodegrades. This means that despite the length of time it sits in landfill or in the ocean, plastic will continue to break down into smaller and smaller pieces, but it will never fully decompose. These microscopic plastic particles sit in the ocean and soak up toxic chemicals, get sucked up by filter feeders and threaten our entire food chain.

But plastic isn’t only endangering our oceans. Plastic production causes a myriad of other environmental issues including carbon emissions and excessive oil usage and energy consumption. Around 4 percent of the world’s oil is used in plastic manufacturing and approximately 1 to 5 ounces of carbon dioxide is released per 1 ounce of plastic during production. Given that the world produces 311 million tons of plastic every year, that means we’re releasing 311 million to 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year as well. While that number may seem like peanuts next to the 35.7 gigatons of CO2 leached into the atmosphere in 2015, plastic production remains a critical contributor to greenhouse gases.

THE ZERO WASTE MOVEMENT

If you’re stunned by this imagery and these figures, you are not alone. The birth of the zero waste lifestyle in the early 2000s was triggered by these environmental issues. At its core, living zero waste is the practice of creating as little trash as possible in your daily life. This involves buying unpackaged foods, upcycling and thrift shopping, creating DIY beauty and cleaning products and rejecting unnecessary items.

The zero waste lifestyle depends on the pyramid of six R’s:

Refuse to buy products you don’t need, are harmful to humans or the planet, that you can make yourself or come in plastic packaging.

Reduce the amount of things you use and purchase, including takeaway meals in plastic and styrofoam containers.

Reuse products and containers repeatedly instead of buying disposable items.

Repurpose items you already have by upcycling them into something new.

Recycle only when you have no other option and before you throw it in the bin.

Rot/compost or incinerate food and other waste where you can instead of sending it to landfill.

Supermarket packaging is one of the top contributors of plastic waste. Plastic shopping bags, cellophane-wrapped produce, biscuits packed in plastic trays and covered in plastic casing – the amount of plastic we consume on a daily basis rises annually and we do little to curb it. We need to reassess how we buy food to initiate a positive change for the environment, for ourselves and for our children.

THE RISE OF ZERO WASTE GROCERY SHOPPING

The amount of plastic food packaging and the damage it’s effected on our environment has ignited a secondary movement: unpackaged grocery shopping. It began in the UK. In November of 2007, Catherine Conway founded Unpackaged, a small shop in Islington, London that sold food and other products package-free. Unpackaged was the first of its kind, and it sparked a slow-paced trend across Europe with more zero waste shops popping up in Italy, Spain, Austria and Germany over the next seven years. In 2012, in.gredients launched in Austin, Texas, becoming America’s first zero waste store, and Canada’s Zero Waste Market opened in Vancouver, BC just last year.

The story of Unpackaged opens with an objection. In 2006, Conway was irritated with how much packaging she was disposing of after shopping, so she decided to build a better solution. “There was no ‘zero waste’ movement [in 2006],” she begins. “No one was talking about the Waste Hierarchy or Circular Economy. Now it’s much more common, but back then there was very little for me to base the shop on other than the idea in my head.” But the idea was persistent. With the launch of the 400 square foot Islington shop in 2007, Conway was able to turn her unpackaged shopping dreams into reality. They sold over 700 different bulk foods and refillable products which customers could purchase in reusable tared containers.

Customer response to Unpackaged in the first five years was incredible. “[Early adopters] were very receptive to the idea,” Conway recalls. “The other part of our customer base, people who didn’t necessarily know they wanted to refill, were still willing to understand the concept and listen to us communicate the benefits to them.” The public were beginning to jump on board the Unpackaged train – a customer survey revealed that over 60 percent believed shopping with Unpackaged made them think about how their food is packaged and refuse overly packaged products in other shops. In 2012, Conway moved Unpackaged to a larger facility and opened a restaurant bar to supplement rent costs.

Fortunately, zero waste grocery shopping seems to be catching globally. 2011 welcomed America’s first package-free grocery store, in.gredients. Joshua Blaine, who has been involved with the store since 2012 and stepped into management in 2013, claims that in.gredients and similar stores are crucial as a model for how things should be done.

“[The grocery industry] is inherently wasteful on so many levels,” he says during interview. “Our store creates a sustainable scenario and a player that represents a way to move the zero waste conversation forward.” in.gredients seeks to amplify the message of food waste and get people thinking about their waste by providing people with alternative options.

“Nothing like us exists in Canada,” says Brianne Miller, founder of Zero Waste Market, who recently pioneered zero waste grocery shopping in Vancouver last year. “We performed a lot of market research before opening – our customers want a solution to the complications and inconvenience of shopping zero waste.”

All three experts agree that inconvenience is a prevailing factor when consumers choose to forgo zero waste shopping. “People don’t have time to drive to several different places to shop,” Miller expresses. Instead, they want a one-stop shop. A place they can go and get everything they need for the following week. This is the service stores like Zero Waste Market, Unpackaged and in.gredients are trying to provide. But being completely package-free does present its challenges.

“For the first year and a half [in.gredients] was entirely package-free,” Blaine says, “but we had to step back and reevaluate our ethos due to consumer demand.” The in.gredients manager claims that while their customers appreciated their original zero waste plan, they were more likely to purchase conveniently packaged goods. In 2014, in.gredients re-marketed and greatly reduced their bulk foods to accommodate packaged products, such as 6-packs of canned craft beer from local breweries.

“We originally had craft beer and wine on tap so our customers could refill their growlers,” Blaine explains. But this presented three challenges: customers had to remember to bring their growlers, the refill was a higher price point than a pack and the store could only provide a limited selection on tap. in.gredients’ platform now focuses on sustainable business practices, providing Austin’s community with locally made food and products and getting their community involved with the store through formal and informal gatherings.

Conway’s story ends similarly; Unpackaged closed its doors in January 2014. “It was heartbreaking, but it enabled me to rethink the future direction of Unpackaged,” she says. Conway knew that supermarket chains accounted for 75 percent of grocery sales in the UK, so to make any real environmental change she would have to restructure. Conway continues, “The advantage to not having our own shop was that I could really look at how to work within a mainstream, and it was this that led to our collaboration with Planet Organic.” Unpackaged now operates as a self-service bulk division within the Planet Organic chain in London. Conway hopes to transfer this concept into the larger supermarket chains across the UK in the near future.

However, despite her predecessors' restructured business models and her own entrepreneurial challenges, Miller remains optimistic about Zero Waste Market’s future. Through the success of her pop-up markets, country-wide zero waste Facebook groups, support from the Vancouver community and various grants and media coverage, Miller believes that “people are ready” for an exclusively zero waste shop.

THE SUSTAINABLE SHOPPING SHIFT

So how can we make the switch to more sustainable grocery shopping? We can start by buying more food in bulk. Bulk foods average 89 percent cheaper than packaged goods since consumers are only paying for the product; there aren’t any extra costs associated with fancy packaging, production or distribution, which keeps money in our wallets. It also helps reduce packaging waste and prevents more plastic from going to landfill and polluting our oceans. Furthermore, when we purchase the exact amount of food we need in bulk instead of buying a large packet, we decrease our food waste as well.

North America has plenty of bulk shopping options. There are stores that specialise in bulk foods, such as Bulk Barn, Bulk Nation and Whole Foods. Even larger supermarket chains such as Sobey’s, Overwaitea, Wegmans and Safeway have sections of their stores dedicated to bulk foods. Sadly, bulk only yields about 3 percent of the average North American grocery store’s daily profit.

Miller shared a few objections she’s heard consumers give to avoid buying from the bulk section. “Cross contamination is a big one,” she explains. “With open containers, you can’t be sure allergens haven’t been in contact with the product.” Reservations about products’ cleanliness and freshness and the convenience of grab-and-go packets also made the cut.

“Remembering to bring things [containers, reusable bags, etc.] is an issue,” says Blaine. Conway has been working on an innovative solution to this problem – Unpackaged is developing a text messaging service that will remind patrons to bring in their reusable containers and bags.

While bulk food shops may not be so readily available in the UK, there are plenty of other options to help you shop plastic packaging free:

  • Farmer’s markets are a fantastic alternative to supermarkets. Not only can you purchase all of your groceries package-free, but you’re also supporting local farmers, artisans and makers in your community. Most cities have markets open year round – we’ve done some of the heavy leg work for you below.
  • Getting your milk delivered in recyclable glass bottles significantly decreases the amount of plastic cartons sent to landfill. It’s also convenient to have this staple delivered directly to your door.
  • Buy your meat, poultry and fish from your local butcher or fishmonger instead of in styrofoam and clingfilm wrapped packets at the supermarket. Most shopkeepers are generally accommodating about wrapping up your purchase in beeswax wrap or a Stasher bag if you request it.
  • Rain barrels are a sustainable alternative to plastic water bottles. If you live in a particularly rainy area and have some outdoor space, you should look into installing one. There are various DIY tutorials available online.
  • Cooking whole foods at home produces much less packaging and food waste than takeaway, dining out or reheating a freezer meal. Take a moment right now and reflect on why you don’t cook at home. Are you too busy? Here’s a long list of 15 minute meals. Do you not know how to cook? There are so many different ways to learn. Universities, colleges and cookery shops offer cheap cooking classes; you can ask a relative or friend to teach you; try watching Food Network, search YouTube or read a cookbook; and if all else fails, just get stuck in and try. You may be surprised at how well you do.
  • Finally, do a little research. Zero waste Facebook groups are a clever way to snag new ideas and places to shop from like-minded folks. Check if there’s one available in your city and consider joining the conversation.

INDUSTRY EXPERTS

Catherine Conway
Unpackaged, Founder

Catherine is an activist and social entrepreneur who set up Unpackaged in 2006, having worked in the private, public and NGO sector. With nearly a decade promoting Unpackaged and refilling in retail, Catherine is at the forefront of the zero waste movement. 

Joshua Blaine
in.gredients, Store Manager

Josh has been a core member of the in.gredients team since April 2012 and the store manager since 2014. in.gredients champions a different kind of food system: one that focuses on locally produced goods, less food-related packaging and waste and more community/customer involvement.

Brianne Miller
Zero Waste Market, Founder

Brianne is a marine biologist who is passionate about ocean conservation. She’s on a mission to find practical solutions to some of the many problems that the oceans face, including plastic pollution, overfishing and habitat degradation. With Zero Waste Market, Brianne hopes to empower customers to think about the impacts of their food choices and how to reduce food waste by buying only what they need.


HELPFUL LINKS

The Sustainable Wardrobe Part 1: Building a Capsule

The Sustainable Wardrobe: Building a Capsule | buymeonce.com
Words: Aimee-lee Abraham | Images: Geneva Vanderzeil

Dressing in a way that does minimal damage to the planet can be difficult. Sometimes a sustainable alternative to our favourite product doesn’t exist yet, sometimes we’re tired and time-stretched and sometimes our budget simply cannot accommodate ideal-world ethics. We can’t be perfect all the time, and that’s okay. When it comes to making ethical clothing choices, the best thing we can do is educate ourselves -- to learn about the human hands behind every hem and sleeve. The stories behind the supply chain are stitched into our seams, and being mindful of this is the first step that could just lead to industry-wide leaps.

In the first installment of our Sustainable Wardrobe series, we'll be looking at capsule dressing -- a concept which promises to break the chains of fast fashion, freeing up much-needed landfill space while also freeing our minds of the daily pressure to get dressed. Come, dear reader. We'll show you.

Image: Geneva Vanderzeil, A Pair & A Spare, www.apairandasparediy.com

Image: Geneva Vanderzeil, A Pair & A Spare, www.apairandasparediy.com

What are we dealing with?

The fashion industry is the second most water-polluting industry in the world, after agriculture. Fast fashion is built on an unsustainable process, where the bottom line and speed of the trend cycle are prioritised over all else. 

Garments have life-cycles. Raw materials are grown, cloth is manufactured, cloth is cut. Clothes are produced, packed and delivered into retailers. Customers take them home. Items grow tired and are disposed after use. When we walk into the chaotic hustle and bustle of the high street, it is so very easy to look at a shiny, finished product and forget about this cycle entirely. We are detached because the industry encourages us to be so.

By making thoughtful decisions about where we put our money, we can slowly rewrite the rule book. When we know exactly where our clothing comes from, because we cherry-picked it from a thrift shop or took the time to research what we buy, the clothing becomes multidimensional. It has a story and that story is something we can be proud of. Minimalism lends itself very naturally to environmentalism, and if you're interested in becoming a more conscious consumer, the capsule wardrobe is a most excellent place to begin. If we buy less and buy smart, we can initiate change. 

Capsule Dressing & Sustainability

Originally coined in the 1970s by style-guru Susie Faux, capsules favour timelessness, champion personal style and reject fast fashion. The wardrobe itself consists of a small, well-curated selection of essential, high-quality items. These are often interchangeable and colour co-ordinated, providing a wide range of looks from a modest selection. Though associated with hardcore minimalism and immaculate Kinfolk spreads, this isn’t about restriction and piety. It’s not about spending a small fortune on a plain white t-shirt or sterilising your space until it resembles a dentist’s waiting room.

Instead, it’s about curating a wardrobe solely around the things you love, prioritising longevity and filtering out the noise and distraction caused by fleeting trends. It’s about planning your purchases instead of impulsively haemorrhaging pennies on items destined to sit unloved and unworn in a crumpled pile on the floor. It’s knowing what you like and seeking out the best version of what you like in accordance with your budget and lifestyle needs. That way, you can truly covet and cherish the place each item has in your life. 

In many ways, it's a form of protest. Whenever we adopt a respectful and slow attitude to clothes, we are saying “No” to the planned obsolescence of the modern fashion industry and “Yes” to higher standards. The initial steps of mindfully defining (and refining) your style do involve a certain level of patience and introspection, but you'll be amazed at how rewarding the end-product is, both in a personal sense (you will feel more confident and have more free time) and in an altruistic sense (you will know you are contributing to a more sustainable and fair world). 

 Sound daunting? I promise it needn’t be so. Let's start at the beginning.

Image: Geneva Vanderzeil, A Pair & A Spare, www.apairandasparediy.com

Image: Geneva Vanderzeil, A Pair & A Spare, www.apairandasparediy.com

Step One: Go cold turkey on clothes shopping

Before you can even think about building a capsule, you need to assess your spending habits. Designate a time slot that feels achievable for you -- whether that’s a fortnight, a month or several months. Vow not to buy any new items of clothing during this period, and keep a note of patterns or feelings that arise. Do you feel lighter? Heavier? How is your sleeping pattern doing? How about your wallet? To help you on your merry way:

Avoid aimless browsing. Shopping is so often presented as a mindless pastime or hobby. Have you self-soothed by drowning your sorrows in sparkly things? Me too. We know that filling the spaces with things does not make us happy, yet we continue to do it in record numbers. Try your damnedest to resist. If you feel an insatiable spending urge coming on, see if you can think of another activity that could nourish and distract. Go to the park, curl up with a book, call someone you love or grab the nearest dog you can find and cuddle it. Hard. 

Keep a Wishlist. More often than not, we panic-purchase “just in case” an item disappears into the ether, and this worry isn’t entirely unjustified. Once upon a time, there were two fashion seasons: Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter. Now there are fifty-two “micro seasons”; with new items hitting high-street shelves on a weekly basis. If you find yourself lusting over something, write it down. I have a wishlist saved in my iPhone notes and a Pinterest board stuffed with sartorial love letters. This provides calming reassurance that the item is still fully within reach, which allows you to reassess and come back whenever you want to. Spoiler: You probably won’t want to. 

Don’t be too hard on yourself, and work with what you already have. When you’re in the market for a life-improving quick-fix, throwing away clothing you love just because it doesn’t fit the minimalist paradigm is like buying dieting pills when you just need to eat healthily and exercise. The collection you already own has probably taken years to collate, albeit in a haphazard way. Throwing everything out is not only wasteful, but potentially self-defeating as the urge to fill the spaces left behind soon rears its head. Instead, use the clothes you already own as a window into the colours and styles you love. It’ll probably be a plethora of different things, which flies in the face of owning just 20 basics.

Track the money you save. You may find it motivating to track your spending for a month before you go cold-turkey so that you can make a direct comparison and see measurable results. I use the Spending Tracker app, which is available to download for free on iTunes.

Find like-minded supporters. We’re here for you at Buy Me Once. Drop us a comment or email to let us know how you’re getting on, and we'll provide pep-talks and digital hugs. Living well with less is the exact opposite of what our consumerist culture promotes, but you're not alone in feeling hungry for change. There is a wealth of supportive material available online. YouTube is an excellent resource rife with minimalist bloggers sharing their experiences of the simple life. Some of our favourite accounts include Lavendaire, Carrie Simple and Break The Twitch (below). Hosted by Anthony Ongaro, Break The Twitch is a channel dedicated to living intentionally and building a life in alignment with your values. As well as decluttering and shopping less, Anthony provides help with minimising distractions and building constructive daily routines that will allow you to spend less time fracturing away energy on minutiae and more time to do things you love with the people that matter. 

Step Two: Define

Find your style tribe. We're told to single out a style icon and follow their lead, but most people will find that they're drawn to a variety of eclectic looks. To ensure that you leave some room for creativity, aim to identify several style icons instead of just one. If you're unsure of who your key influencers are, start off by searching for 'Style Icons' on Pinterest and save the images you're most drawn to. It's likely the same people will crop up again and again, and you'll grow to rely on them for inspiration on dreary days.

Identify key themes. Once you've established who inspires you, cherry-pick the specific things you like about their style. Are they modern or classic? Bohemian? Feminine? Loud? Subtle? Clothes are a tool for communication, and our founder Tara Button recommends dressing not only to project who you are, but also to project who you want to be as a person in the world. 

Watch out for recurring items and themes in your current closet. We are creatures of habit. As it turns out, I like to pretend I am Audrey Hepburn on routine trips to the supermarket, which perhaps explains how I ended up owning countless turtlenecks and too many trenchcoats. Rather than beating yourself up for wasting cash on near-identical items, use this as a guiding light. By taking stock of repeat offenders you're already onto something. It's most likely that the items you reach for again and again are the ones that make your soul sing. 

Work what nature gave you. Is there a feature that people tend to compliment you on? Dressing in a way that maximises your natural strengths will never go out of fashion. 

Know yourself. You probably already have a strong sense of what suits you and makes you feel like the best possible version of yourself. Don't fight your natural instincts for the sake of a fleeting trend.

A leopard needn't change it's spots if it's comfortable and content. Embrace your wardrobe's repeat offenders as a valuable insight into your true taste. Image: Geneva Vanderzeil

A leopard needn't change it's spots if it's comfortable and content. Embrace your wardrobe's repeat offenders as a valuable insight into your true taste. Image: Geneva Vanderzeil

STEP THREE: REFINE

Reserve a full afternoon at the very least to go through your existing wardrobe. Things will need to get worse before they get better, so you need to ruthlessly take everything off hangers and chuck it all into one big pile on the floor. Then, piece by piece, pick everything back up and decide whether to a) Put it back in the cupboard, or b) Donate/recycle it. Only the items that you absolutely love should gain a privileged space. 

A thorough detox is a hugely important step on the road to a better curated wardrobe. By starting with a blank canvas, you will soon discover which areas of your closet are already well-stocked and know where there are gaps to be filled. The aim is to gain a clear overview of how your current closet compares to your new-found personal style, so you can set priorities when it’s time to shop for new pieces.

Step FOUR: Go shopping, with purpose and intent

The final step is the only one that involves (potentially) spending money. Once you have emptied everything and put back only what you need, you can assess whether there are any gaps that need filling. When I did this, I was elated to find I'd already acquired my dream wardrobe without spending a penny. It had been right under my nose all along (buried beneath all of the junk with the tags still on). If and when you decide to go shopping, do so with intent. Switch off your phone. Make the experience a real treat, and savour it. 

When your heart sings for a shiny new garment, ask yourself:

  • Do I feel good in this? Do I feel my best in this? 
  • Could I wear this in several different situations? 
  • Can I mix and match this with other items in my current wardrobe? 
  • Can I see myself wearing this in a years’ time? How about two? How about five?
Novelty is great, in moderation. Save it for the silver backpack. Image: Geneva Vanderzeil, A Pair and A Spare, www.apairandasparediy.com

Novelty is great, in moderation. Save it for the silver backpack. Image: Geneva Vanderzeil, A Pair and A Spare, www.apairandasparediy.com

We'll be exploring sustainable wardrobes and personal style in more-depth over the next few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for new fresh content. In the meantime, do let us know: How much of an impact does the source of a garment have on your decision-making process? How do you evaluate the environmental awareness of a brand? How big is the gap between your values and actual purchasing habits? We'd love to hear from you. x

NB: All images featured in this post were shot by style blogger Geneva Vanderzeil. You can check out her flickr account here, which features a wide range of upcycling projects you can try -- injecting a new lease of life into old items. We wholeheartedly approve. 

The BuyMeOnce Kitchen: Build a Kitchen to Last a Lifetime

Kitchen Products that Last a Lifetime

We spend a healthy chunk of our lives in the kitchen. Whether we’re pouring a glass of wine after a trying day, catching up with friends and family over a dish of Grandma’s lasagna or cleaning up sticky messes from a weekend bake with the kids, the kitchen is a universal area of joy and disappointment. Despite how you’re feeling from one day to the next, your kitchenware should never be a source of disappointment; your cast iron pan should only bring you happiness when you look at it or hold it in your hand. A kitchen should be filled with long-lasting, durable products that withstand rigorous daily use and are robust enough to pass on to the next generation. Whether you are an amateur cook or professional baker, we at BuyMeOnce feel these products will serve you (and your children) for many years to come. Buy these items once and you’ll never buy them again.

Words: Amanda Saxby

For our best cooking essentials, continue reading. If baking is more your thing, click here to skip to our favourite baking essentials.



Image: Solidteknics.com

Image: Solidteknics.com

A Classic Cast Iron Skillet

Cast iron is one of the toughest and best materials available: it’s durable, retains heat, boosts your iron intake and provides you with a safe non-stick surface for your cooking. Cast iron pans are also exceptionally versatile, meeting all of your sauteing, frying, baking, broiling and roasting needs. Solidteknics have engineered one of the best cast iron pans on the market. The pan is completely composed of metal -- no rivets, no synthetic non-stick, only ergonomically designed brilliance, which means there is less of a chance it will break. If I haven’t convinced you yet, you should also know that they’re a snap to clean. Solidteknics also backs all of their cast iron products with a multi-century warranty, meaning you’ll be set for your lifetime, your kid’s lifetime, and your grandkid’s lifetime!


A Set of Hardy Cooking Pots

There’s a reason your grandmother swears by this pot. Le Creuset have long been a household name for long-lasting cookware; in fact, they were an inspiration behind the entire BuyMeOnce movement. While that seems like a lot of pressure to put on one casserole dish, we assure you Le Creuset can handle it! Not only will your pot come with Le Creuset’s lifetime guarantee and the same cast iron benefits as a Solidteknics pan, it also presents beautifully on a table. Whether you’re serving up a Christmas bird or a simple Sunday stew, your trusty Le Creuset pot will see it through to the very end.

Image: lecreuset.pl

Image: lecreuset.pl

Image: williams-sonoma.com

Image: williams-sonoma.com

While the Creuset roasts your bird to succulent, fall-apart tenderness, you’re going to need a set of pots to cook the accompaniments to your holiday feast. All-Clad makes an excellent line of high quality stainless steel saucepots and pans that would look right at home next their cast iron pals. Designed to keep up with professional chefs, the pots in All-Clad’s Master Chef line are built to last, USA-made and feature three-ply bonded construction. Their stainless steel cookware also comes with a lifetime guarantee, so you can rest easy knowing every festivity is covered. Just be sure to set a timer!


A Sturdy Cutting Board

An elegant chopping board can spruce up the most dismal kitchen countertop. J.K. Adams is a family-owned business producing high quality kitchenware in Dorset, Vermont; they’ve been designing and carving their signature cutting boards for over 70 years. J.K. Adams ensures that their solid wood cutting boards are thick, built to last a lifetime and protected by a lifetime guarantee. Each wooden cutting board is unique and can be custom engraved or designed, making it the perfect wedding or housewarming gift.

Image: jkadams.com

Image: jkadams.com

BuyMeOnce Tip: A wooden cutting board should last a lifetime if proper care is taken with its maintenance. Never submerge a wooden cutting board in a sink of water or place it in the dishwasher; instead, wipe down a cutting board with a soapy cloth, rinse and pat dry with a clean towel. You can further preserve the longevity of a wooden board by moisturising it with a beeswax-based cutting board cream after washing. You can also make your own cream to further reduce waste!


Image: costco.ca

Image: costco.ca

A Dynamic Blender

Blenders are extremely useful, multifunctional kitchen tools. With a powerful blender in your arsenal, you can make anything from a simple morning berry smoothie to a summery gazpacho to a chocolate hazelnut pie (yes, I did say pie). To make sure all of those leafy greens get liquidised, BuyMeOnce recommends Blendtec. Their Total Blender popularised the YouTube “Will it Blend” campaign, which demonstrates the Total’s capacity to crush just about anything. Not only do Blendtec offer one of the toughest blenders on the market, but they’re also the only company to provide an 8-year warranty on their products. With a BPA-free unbreakable jug, an industrial strength base and a 1560 Watt motor, the Total Blender should keep humming for years to come.


Heroic Cooking Utensils

“A hero is only as good as his weapon,” says Disney. I would like to amend this to “A cook is only as good as his utensils.” While a perfectly balanced knife is a chef’s most essential tool, there are many other components that make up a kitchen toolkit. Every day I use either a slotted turner, soup ladle, solid serving spoon or slotted spoon to make a meal, and I bet you’re the same. Just like their cooking pots, All-Clad's 6-piece Kitchen Tool Set has passed the test of professional chefs. This solid and durable set is made of heavy 18/10 stainless steel polished to a mirror finish, is dishwasher safe and carries a lifetime warranty. Trust me, get a solid set of utensils and you’ll be a hero (in the kitchen) for life.

Image: williams-sonoma.com

Image: williams-sonoma.com


A Tough Set of Strainers

While a strainer may not seem like a kitchen essential, I assure you owning a quality set of mesh colanders will make your life much easier. How many times have you rinsed quinoa or rice and ended up losing half of it down the drain because the holes of your colander were too large? Have you burned yourself draining pasta because your strainer’s handle was too flimsy or bent? How often have you had to extract cement-like mashed potato from the open underwire of your colander? LiveFresh has set out to make these common strainer struggles a thing of the past. This set of three different-sized mesh colanders offers super fine wire mesh, heat-resistant handles, rubberized grips and sealed stainless steel rims. These colanders are so dependable and well-crafted that LiveFresh backs them with a lifetime warranty. Never flush another grain or pry another potato!


A Technologically Advanced Grater

My family has owned the same box grater for over 60 years. The 5-sided tool was presented to my grandparents on their wedding day; they then passed it down to my mother and father as part of a housewarming gift. It still possesses the same sharp edge it had in 1948. While the manufacturers of my family’s box grater have long gone out of business (boo!), I have found a suitable 21st century alternative in Cuisipro's 6-sided Box Grater. The brand’s exclusive Surface Glide Technology makes this grater one of the best on the market -- the blades are composed of evenly spaced, repeated grooves which reduce resistance and provide a longer cutting surface. Cuisipro’s technology makes the grater safer, easier to use and yields maximum gratings per stroke. Along with seven different blades for various grating needs, the unit also comes with a non-slip handle, a removable base for easy cleaning and a dry measure gauge. A generous 25-year warranty comes with the grater to make sure it lasts well past your silver anniversary.


Stylish Salt & Pepper Mills

Salt and pepper is a staple of any well-stocked kitchen and freshly ground is best. A set of sturdy, reliable salt and pepper mills will last you a lifetime of seasoning, which is why we at BuyMeOnce recommend Peugeot's Bistro Light Wood Salt and Pepper Mills. The pepper mill has a case-hardened steel mechanism -- a process by which the surface layer of metal is made considerably harder than the metal underneath. Case-hardening makes the interior grinding head and ring as tough as a ball bearing and keeps the mechanism sharp over a longer period of time. Similarly, the salt mill mechanism is made from commercial grade stainless steel to keep the salt from corroding the gear, giving it a longer life. These classic wooden grinders look timeless and are backed by a lifetime guarantee.

BuyMeOnce Tip: To keep your salt and pepper mills in tip top shape, we recommend the following:

  • Never submerge your mills in water. The mechanisms may rust and the wood will crack and neither of these issues are covered under warranty.

  • Don’t over-tighten the top nut. Doing so may cause the internal mechanism to wear out.

  • Old peppercorns go soft and moldy, and old salt can harden into a block. Always remove peppercorns or rock salt from the mills if you don’t intend to use them for a long period of time.

  • Watch the size of your rock salt and peppercorns. 6mm in diameter is the maximum size of spice a mill can handle. If you aren’t getting any pepper out of your mill, it’s likely your peppercorns are too large.

A Darling Set of Crockery

You’ve spent an hour preparing a flavourful, healthy meal for your family and now you’re ready to plate it. You take a plate from the cupboard, arrange your meal and, with an overzealous flourish, pass it to your child. He promptly drops it to the floor, shattering your plate into porcelain shards. It’s happened to all of us. From removing a bowl from the dishwasher and knocking it against the counter to chipping your favourite mug, it’s inevitable that crockery is going to break. Corelle crockery may not come with a lifetime guarantee, but they are built to last. Made from resilient and lightweight Vitrelle glass (the same material once used for television screens), these dishes are scratch- and stain-resistant and considerably more durable than their porcelain competitors. Corelle’s products are USA-made and dishwasher, refrigerator and pre-heated oven safe. This particular 18-piece set includes six each of dinner plates, bread plates and soup bowls and comes in a classic frost white.

Image: walmart.com

Image: walmart.com


Image: backintheusastore.com

Image: backintheusastore.com

Crusading Cutlery

Whether you’re sleepily spooning cereal into your mouth on a Monday morning, slathering a slice of whole wheat bread with mayonnaise or diving fork-first into your mom’s triple chocolate cake, you’re going to need a sturdy set of cutlery with which to do it. It’s no wonder we chose Liberty Tabletop as our top pick for table settings. Liberty flatware is formed from the highest grade 18/10 stainless steel and designed with weight and balance in mind. Furthermore, the company champions the environment; Liberty has a responsible environmental policy encompassing non-toxic chemical and oils, renewable hydroelectric power, recyclable packaging and locally-based manufacturing. American made, built to last and secured with a 25-year warranty, you can expect a Liberty Tabletop cutlery set to last well past your great-granddaughter’s 30th wedding anniversary.


Resilient Glassware

In a perfect world, dropped drinking glasses would bounce off of the ceramic tiled kitchen floor and into your hand in pristine condition. Unfortunately, reality tends to shatter these illusions. We can’t tally the number of glasses we’ve broken between us here at BuyMeOnce, but we can count how many brands we would choose to replace them. Italian glassware manufacturer Luigi Bormioli is one of the highest regarded international glassmakers. They are committed to providing glassware of the finest quality and durability; their signature SON.hyx glass ensures each of their lines are highly resistant to breakage, dishwasher safe, eco-friendly and will retain their transparency despite vigorous washing. Luigi Bormioli’s designs are simple, elegant and timeless, making them perfect for everyday use as well as for celebrations.

Image: wayfair.com

Image: wayfair.com



A Snazzy Set of Scales

A fantastic set of kitchen scales is essential for any professional or amateur baker. Baking is as much a science as it is a creative act; if you don’t measure your ingredients properly, that sponge cake you’re baking may resemble a pancake. Taylor Precision is our go-to brand for digital and mechanical kitchen scales. Established in 1851, Taylor Instruments grew into a formidable empire by supplying North America with professional precision measurement tools. As a multi-century manufacturer and supplier of kitchen scales, you can be sure Taylor Precision knows their stuff. BuyMeOnce recommends Taylor’s Stainless Steel Kitchen Scale. We chose a mechanical scale over digital because they are proven to last longer and don’t require wasteful, single-use batteries. The stainless steel scale comes with an 11-pound capacity bowl, a 5-inch diameter dial for easy reading and a 5-year guarantee.
Image: shoptaylorusa.com

Image: shoptaylorusa.com


An Award-Winning Stand Mixer

If you’re going to buy one pricey piece of kitchen equipment that will last the rest of your life, let it be a stand mixer. Stand mixers are brilliant tools. Not only are they perfect for whisking up any dessert you fancy, many mixer companies now sell a range of attachments to turn your humble friend into a ten- or twelve-function super machine. Now you can own a pasta maker, a meat grinder, a spiralizer, and a food processor without shelling out hundreds of extra pounds. But with so many different stand mixers available, it can be difficult to decide which one to get. Thankfully, BuyMeOnce has done the homework for you. The Ankarsrum Assistent Original is the only food mixer you will ever need. In terms of longevity, power, ease of use, multifunctionality and classic design, this Swedish mixer beat out the likes of KitchenAid, Kenwood and Bosch! That is some serious competition.

The Assistent first appeared on the market in 1940 amidst the chaos of the Second World War when families were reviewing expenses and preserving more homemade goods than ever before. This machine provided a durable, reliable solution to this problem, allowing families to produce and store more food during a time of crisis. Over the years, the Assistent has been voted “best in test” on various occasions, and Ankarsrum is the only food mixer company to offer a 5-year warranty on their appliance. (The other companies provide a 1-year limited guarantee.) The mixer is made from chrome and steel and boasts an 800-watt motor, which is located underneath the bowl. This unique design is what gives the Assistent the edge in power and longevity over its competitors. By using the motor to turn the bowl instead of the paddle, it allows an even distribution of power and results in a longer-lasting product. Like a KitchenAid mixer, the Assistent is available in a myriad of colours. It comes with a dough roller and hook, scraper, proofing lid, double beater, cookie and balloon whisks, a 3.5 litre plastic bowl and a 7 litre stainless steel mixing bowl. Various extra attachments are available for purchase separately.

Video: You can view the Ankarsrum Assistent’s powerful motor and superior mixing ability here.


A Brawny Set of Bowls

Mixing bowls are so versatile. You can toss a salad in them, spoon cookie dough from them, melt chocolate in them, store last night’s soup in them and bring them on a picnic. Whatever you choose to do with them, you better make sure you have a robust, durable set in your arsenal. I recommend glass bowls. Stainless steel bowls are fantastic and unbreakable, but you can’t microwave them, use them over a bain-marie nor see how high your dough has proofed at a glance. Pyrex uses tempered soda-lime glass for all of their kitchenware. This type of glass is most often used in windows and containers because it is hard and reasonably workable. It can be melted down and reformed several times, which makes it ideal for recycling. Pyrex’s Smart Essentials 8-piece Mixing Bowl Set is USA-made, durable, oven, microwave, fridge, freezer and dishwasher safe and protected by a 2-year guarantee. Mix to combine with confidence.


Image: cuisipro.com

Image: cuisipro.com

A Whippy Whisk

Even if you have a stand mixer, it’s always great to have a good old-fashioned wire whisk on hand. You know, for those days when you don’t want to drag out the mixer for a batch of pancakes or to whisk up some scrambled eggs for dinner. Cuisipro's Stainless Steel Balloon Whisk is our recommendation. Its flexible wires are attached at the handle with a watertight seal, making this whisk perfect for small-batch mixing, beating, whipping and whisking. Like all of their products, this sturdy 18/10 stainless steel whisk is backed by Cuisipro’s 25-year warranty and is dishwasher safe.


A Solid Wooden Spoon and Spatula

Before they had electric mixers, hand whisks and food processors, they had the wooden spoon. This simple tool has been used by professional and home bakers for centuries, and it doesn’t appear to be going out of fashion any time soon. Whether you’re checking the consistency of jam on the back of it or stirring chocolate chips into cookie dough, a wooden spoon will serve you well for years to come. Bambu makes a durable, lightweight organic bamboo spoon that is naturally stain-resistant and anti-microbial. Perfect for curries or raspberry jam!

A lightweight, flexible spatula is a welcome addition to any baker’s kit. Spatulas come in handy for a multitude of tasks. From folding fluffy egg whites into batter to scraping every last drop of caramel sauce out of the pan, this gadget makes sure you stick to your zero waste pledge! GIR's Ultimate Spatula is the best in show. Its ergonomic handle and strong blade make it easy to manipulate food and batters. This spatula is heat resistant, dishwasher safe, BPA/BPS free, comes in a wide array of colours and is backed by a lifetime guarantee. Sturdy, sustainable, no-waste tools; you can’t do any better.


The Ultimate Baking Pans

You’ve weighed your ingredients and you’ve mixed your batter. The oven is warm and you’re drooling in anticipation of eating your moist cinnamon coffee cake. But first, it needs to bake. Any serious baker knows you need a quality set of baking tins if you intend on producing well formed, perfectly baked treats. USA Pan has been creating quality cookware and bakeware for over 50 years. Their products set the standard for commercial quality bakeware and are trusted by professional bakers across the country. USA Pan constructs their pans from 65% recycled aluminized steel, which makes the pans highly durable and offers superior heat transfer and rust-resistance. The pans are also corrugated for strength and impact protection, and they’re coated with the company’s trademark Americoat Plus, a safe and eco-friendly silicone release coating. USA Pan provides a limited lifetime warranty on all of their bakeware as well -- just in case you happen to maul it eating your cake hot out of the pan.


Concerning Knives

We chose to leave knives out of this article not because we think they're inessential, but because we are aware of exactly how essential they are to a well-stocked, long-lasting kitchen. There are so many durable knives on the market -- Henckles, Global, Wusthof and Robert Welch, to name a few -- we felt the BuyMeOnce Kitchen Knife deserved its own article. We will be performing a comprehensive in-house test of some of the leading knife brands to guide you in the process of choosing the best and most sustainable kitchen knife. Keep an eye on this space!


This is the first article in a series written to help you live more consciously and produce less waste in the kitchen. We hope this detailed guide to building your own BuyMeOnce kitchen helped smooth out any questions or concerns you may have had about sustainable kitchenware. Let us know the kitchen products you’re proud of and wish to share! Share your suggestions with us on Facebook or Twitter -- we’re always looking for new BuyMeOnce products!

Throwing Away Our Throwaway Culture: 10 Simple Swaps You Can Make

10 Easy Throwaway Swaps You Can Make | buymeonce.com

“By changing nothing, nothing changes.”
Tony Robbins

Throwing away our throwaway culture can seem too big a task to even think about, but there are some simple swaps that if we all did would make a huge dent in the amount of waste we produce. To celebrate zero waste week, we’ve identified some of the ten most common disposable items and found durable, reusable, BuyMeOnce alternatives!


(1)

Instead of plastic wrap, use bees wax cloths

This was a revelation. I didn’t expect to find something that could replace Cling film so when I came across beeswax cloths I was thrilled and bought some at once. They were inspired by traditional food preserving techniques and they make my fridge look delightfully quaint. They mold nicely round anything you wish to cover. I took mine for a road test when I went out on my first “Zero Waste Shopping Trip” for some mince. My local butcher looked at me as if I was mad, but happily scooped the pound of mince into the wrap and was very impressed.

They should last a year if you look after them. You wash them in cold water with gentle soap (Hot water makes the beeswax melt).

Bees wax sheets:

Abeego make the first-class original beeswax wrap.

bees wax sandwich bags

Made by Bees Wrap, these extra-functional bags come with twine and a button to keep your sarnie snug. 


Or make your own:

If you want to use some pretty organic cloth or old (thoroughly clean) bedding, this is a great project. Here's how to do it. 

  • Cut your cloth into a several different sizes. (Imagine what size plastic wrap you use regularly and make a few options for yourself.)
  • Finish off the edges with a sewing machine if you want them to be super durable, although the wax should stop them from fraying.
  • Lay out your cloth on a baking tray and grate some beeswax over it. ½ an ounce is about right.
  • Put in the oven at 185F, it will take around 5-10 minutes to melt. 
  • Once it’s just about melted, take it out and spread the wax with the back of a large spoon. (You can use a paintbrush but the wax may ruin it).
  • Pop it back in the oven if it doesn’t melt straight away and add more wax if there are gaps.
  • Hang it up to dry.

NB: Beeswax does smell of honey and if you don’t want it touching food particularly likely to take on a scent like cheese, use a plain piece of cloth between the item and the beeswax cloth.


(2)

Instead of sandwich bags use silicone washable bags

Ziploc style bags are super useful. I won’t deny that I have used a fair few in my time. Alternatives have been few on the ground until the last year or two but finally there seem to be a couple of brands who have taken on the challenge. I also think these might be a useful thing to take shopping with you for pieces of cheese or meat. (Mason jars are rather heavy to lug round with you if you’re trying to do Zero Waste shopping). I’d like them to come in bigger sizes.

stasher bags:

These are made with food-grade silicone and can be popped into the dishwasher and reused for years. These are for small amounts of food at the moment, although I'm hoping they soon come out with a bigger size!


(3)

Replace throwaway straws with silicone/steel

Straws might be the kind of thing that most households can live without, but some people prefer them if they’re drinking from a can and they can be useful if you or someone you care for has trouble lifting a glass. We like that these straws come with a cleaning brush so they can be kept for years and years with proper care. 

reusable smoothie straws:

These straws are particularly attractive, come in eco-friendly packaging and a moneyback guarantee if you’re not satisfied.


(4)

Instead of a takeaway Coffee cup use a thermos or keepcup

Coffee cups are death to the environment because the vast majority can’t even be recycled. Their production (25 billion in the USA every year) is hugely wasteful too when we could each just carry one reusable cup.

Pick the cup that’s right for you. If it’s important for you that it stays hot and you need to put it away in your bag, a thermos is perfect. Both Stanley and CamelBak come with a lifetime guarantee and great reviews.

Stanley mug:

A Stanley classic mug will keep you sipping for decades to come. It's a nice size, dishwasher safe and comes with a lifetime guarantee. 

Camelbak thermos:

CamelBak make this sleeker thermos which comes in several different colours (NB. Avoid the white one as it shows dirt). It keeps drinks hot for 4 hours, can be opened with one hand and comes with the "Got your Bak" lifetime guarantee.

zero-waste-week-7.jpg

Keep cup:

If you just want something that will give you that takeaway coffee feel without the eco-guilt, go for a keep cup which is designed especially to get the best taste out of your coffee. It’s designed to last for years, if looked after, and the whole cup is also recyclable at the end of its lifecycle. NB. You can’t chuck this kind of cup into your bag, as it’s not leak-proof.


(5)

Instead of tissues, use washable hankies

The sellers of disposable tissues have managed to get us extremely squeamish about handkerchiefs and so piles and piles of disposable tissues and the packaging are now thrown out every minute.

In fact using a handkerchief needn’t be unhygienic. An everyday handkerchief used for hay fever sneezes or wiping up messes isn’t a dangerous thing and can be added to the normal wash at the end of the day. 

Bamboo is wonderfully sustainable, strong and soft and naturally antibacterial which is why it is our hankie of choice!

Q.T. Bamboo handkerchIEfs: 

I got these myself and have been using them over the last few months. What's nice is that they get softer as you wash them. Smart and simple and very absorbent. I'm a convert.


A Quick note On hygiene - COnsider a Hanky Washbag

If you have a bad cold/flu and you’re out and about, bring a few hankies with you and pop them into a washbag/wetbag once used and they can be put straight into a hot wash when home. They are your own germs so you can’t infect yourself. To prevent infecting others, when you have a bad cold, you should wash your hands regularly anyway. Hot water and soap is still the best way to get rid of germs.

Northern TRavel Gear's Plain Black Washbag

Northern travel gear have created this simple but effective dual-compartment washbag. With a waterproof inner, the Nylon construction means you won't be having any thrills and spills. And yes - it is backed up by a no-quibble lifetime guarantee.

Bella and Bear's Cosmetics Bag

Bella and Bear offer a more fun flowery alternative to the washbag world, but their offering doesn't skimp on the quality either. Using leather backed with a layer of polyurethane, it's water resistant and super easy to clean. Definitely worth a look, this one is also guaranteed to last a lifetime and is super functional - way beyond just a hankie carrier.

(5 and a half)
Instead of disposable face wipes, use washable bamboo rounds


I got a pack of these last week and thing they're great. The flannel side is lightly exfoliating and the fleece side is really nice for removing eye-makup. These are beautifully soft and nicely made.

If you're looking for a zero waste cleanser to use them with, I found that if I took a tin into my local Lush shop they would fill it with their heavenly “Angels on bare skin” cleanser.

Handy Hint: Use reusable breastfeeding pads. These may not have been designed for the face, but they're the right size and softness for removing makeup.


(6)

Instead of a disposable Water bottle - use a BuyMeOnce bottle

It almost doesn’t need saying that water bottles are one of the biggest sources of plastic waste. Swap them for one of these bottles – they're designed to last a lifetime and just think of all the waste you’ve just prevented!

stainless-steel-water-bottles-bpa-free-camelbak-chute.jpg

camelbak chute

Camelbak design this bottle to withstand a lifetime of extremes, but with a design so classic we think this steel piece is equally suited to an everyday working life. Whatever the excursion may be, the Chute keeps your liquids cold and true to taste, while keeping itself in perfect unbreakable shape.

Of course should something go wrong, Camelbak back all their gear up with a lifetime guarantee

kleen canteen

I love Kleen Canteen bottles because they're plastic free; they're composed of bamboo, stainless steel and food-grade silicone. They're also ruggedly made and come with a wonderful warranty, so they are a BuyMeOnce favourite. 


(7)

 Instead of a Plastic bag - use tough one built to last

Putting a 5-penny charge on plastic bags in the UK reduced their use by a whopping 85%. New York City just recently followed suit, implementing a 5 cent charge on all plastic bags beginning October 2016. This is such great news, especially for the oceans, which is where many of these bags end up. We’ve found some of the most eco-friendly, durable and practical alternatives here.

ECO STRING BAG

String bags are super useful as they can be crunched up and put in a bag or a pocket but then expand into a handy carry all. 

BAGPODZ

BagPodz are a great idea. The "pod" clips onto your shopping trolley and five sturdy reusable bags fit inside.

Canvas tote everyday Shopping Bag

A robust canvas tote. Great for customizing with some fabric paint, stencil your own slogan, or leave it to be plain and classic. 


(8)

Instead of Paper towels, use microfiber cloths

Paper towel is cruelly convenient, but it’s easy to get through rolls and rolls of it without even trying. I have a few of microfiber cloths, which I roll up and keep in a mason jar. It looks quite attractive and it means they are on hand for spills.

Barefoot Bamboo Re-usable towels

Someone has rather ingeniously come up with a washable version of kitchen roll. You tear off one or two sheet and rewash them up to 100 times until you tear off the next piece. Brilliant!

Birdseye Organic Washable Baby Wipes

These soft 2-ply cloths are made of organic cotton and are perfect for cleaning up messes that require a little more grip. The fabric is a cross between terry and flannel, giving it a little more oomph than a traditional paper towel or microfiber cloth.


(9)

Instead of Plastic knives and forks, a travel set

Avoiding eating with horrible flimsy plastic cutlery is perhaps enough of reason to carry either a sturdy little set or a titanium spork with you. However, the waste produced by takeaway one-use cutlery is a serious matter and so the sooner we can all get into the habit of bringing our own the better.

Light My Fire Titanium spork

I ordered one of these myself this week and was impressed that something so light felt as strong as it did (the magic of titanium). Now I keep it in my handbag in case the need arises. It comes in a sturdy drawstring pouch so it need not rattle around with your lipstick or poke you if you put it in your pocket.

Snow peak titanium set

This is one of the best reviewed travel cutlery sets. It's made of titanium which shows a wonderful commitment to durability. This also means that the set is lovely and light, so no excuses not to pack it.


(10)
(for the girls)

Instead of tampons and throwaway pads - use cups and cloth pads

Now bear with me before you go running for the hills. I suppose tampons must have been considered a strange and niche thing once, so I was a little squeamish about the whole idea of reusable sanitary products. If you feel the same, I would urge you to watch this video made by the extraordinary Bree Farmer, a 16 year old who has been talking about these products for the last three years with more maturity than I fear I will ever have.

She’s also a brilliant go to for advice on washing and using all these products. They have many health benefits as well as being eco-friendly, so I would ask you to look into them, even if you ultimately decide against them.

Reusable bamboo pads

These reusable, washable bamboo pads are sustainable, durable and have sweet patterns on them. What more could you ask for? 

Lena Cup

This cup was designed with the help of Bree. As you can imagine, it is one of the most highly rated and well designed cups out there. The reviews certainly agree!


So that's the BuyMeOnce Zero Waste list. I hope you found it helpful. If each of could do just one or two off of this list, it would make a huge difference. Showing our support for sustainable, reusable products also means more investment and innovation will happen in this sector. Money talks, so make sure yours is saying good things. :)

If you can think of any great products missing from this list, please add them in the comments and let me know how you got on with any of these swaps!

Good luck!

Big love x Tara

BuyMeOnce heads Back to School

As September approaches, it's almost time to swap summer schemes for school schedules. It can be pretty easy to let your eco-friendly habits be quashed in favour of accessibility and ease. To make the transition a little easier, BuyMeOnce has put together a list of no-fuss durable alternatives for various disposable school supplies. All of these products are guaranteed to last you throughout the entire school year and -- with luck and care -- many semesters to come.

Words: Amanda Saxby & Julie Barriere

Photo credit: Unsplash.com

Photo credit: Unsplash.com


JanSport make instant classics. Photo credit: Gurl.com

JanSport make instant classics. Photo credit: Gurl.com

Brilliant BACKPACKs

When it comes to school supplies, a trustworthy, durable backpack brings everything together-- literally. Kids might need a new wardrobe as they begin to stretch into misshapen teenagers, but a tough, classic or stylish backpack can have them sorted all through their journey to later life.
JanSport backpacks are flexible, durable and, thanks to guarantee, protected for as long as you’ll be around. With a fully padded back panel and comfortable, ergonomic S-curve shoulder straps, schoolwork won’t only weigh less on the mind but less on the shoulders. The JanSport Big Student model features an easy-access front utility pocket with an organiser to keep your child’s pens and pencils in place while you run to catch the bus. With 5 zippered compartments and a side water bottle pocket, you won't need advanced algebra to fit every single essential into one trustworthy bag. When finding the right bag is so easy, deciding on one of over 30 colours and designs becomes the biggest challenge.

One of North Face's brighter options. Photo credit: Gurl.com

One of North Face's brighter options. Photo credit: Gurl.com

For maximum durability at a decent budget, you can’t do much better than a North Face backpack. North Face offers pint-sized (17-19 litre) versions of their traditional adult backpacks, making them the perfect size and weight for school children. Similar to the JanSport backpack, North Face packs offer a foam padded back panel, adjustable shoulder straps and a range of pockets and zippers to fit all of your child’s books and gear. The limited choice of simple designs is arguably where the brand falls below JanSport - but these are classic colours, letting the pack remain relevant for years ahead rather than a single season. One pack will take you to school and back again, up a mountain and down again, on a plane and safely back to earth. North Face also offers a lifetime warranty.


Fit a starter, main and dessert in ECOlunchbox's Three-In-One. Photo credit: Ecolunchboxes.com

Fit a starter, main and dessert in ECOlunchbox's Three-In-One. Photo credit: Ecolunchboxes.com

2. Lovely LUNCH BOXes

Lunchtime is easily and obviously the most wasteful period of the normal school day. Plastic wrappers and disposable bags, polyethylene cartons and pulverised straws. Ever-overflowing cafeteria bins topped up, landfill the ultimate destination. The earth can’t just suck it up. Luckily, there are few eco-friendly gems to can help cut down on lunchtime litter.

Investing in a reusable lunchbox like the ECOlunchbox Three-In-One eliminates the need for brown paper packs and plastic bags alike. As you may have guessed, the ECOlunchbox Three-In-One features three different compartments, making storing and separating food a breeze. The bento box is composed of 100% food-grade stainless steel and employs adjustable clips to make opening the box easier for little hands. Ecolunchbox also offers replacement silicone lids and clips for sale on their website, keeping your child’s box in tip-top shape for years to come.

A Klean Kanteen in mouth-watering action. Photo credit: Penaddict.com

A Klean Kanteen in mouth-watering action. Photo credit: Penaddict.com

If you’re carrying something slippery and spillable, like last night’s pasta or a homemade chicken noodle soup, it’s best to store it in a totally leak-proof container. An 8oz or a 16oz vacuum seal container from Klean Kanteen will keep all of your child’s meals secure for life. The Kanteens are also shatterproof, leaving your child free to drop, knock and squash them as much as they please. The only thing you’ll have to worry about is remembering to pack a napkin!


Fisher's Space Pen is a thing of beauty, both within and without. A great gift for the near-graduate. Photo credit: Penaddict.com

Fisher's Space Pen is a thing of beauty, both within and without. A great gift for the near-graduate. Photo credit: Penaddict.com

3. Perfect PENs

Our top choice, and ultimate BuyMeOnce pen, is an investment piece that could serve as the perfect senior graduation gift or as a lesson in responsibility and respecting one’s possessions for an older child. It has a premium price, but the Fisher Space Pen. is the only pen they'll ever need, as it holds enough ink for the average lifetime, and is guaranteed never to break down. Plus it looks pretty gorgeous. When your child is in the middle of jotting down notes for tomorrow’s big test, the last thing you want is for their pen to run out of ink. Many kids  take in, five, maybe ten, pens to class each day. It’s best to be safe sure, but it does mean plastic pens get absentmindedly scattered throughout busy hallways. 

For a slightly less pricey alternative, consider a refillable fountain pen. Cross’ Classic Black Fountain Pen features a simple and stunning satin black and gold-plated design, an easy-to-use twist barrel and a lifetime mechanical guarantee. The only thing you have to replace is the ink cartridge. The joy of a fountain pen is that it molds to the user's writing style making it as individual as they are and (with luck) a lifelong companion. 

You’re probably going to be a little nervous handing over an expensive Space Pen or fountain pen to your twelve-year-old. So sometimes the classics are the best. Paper Mate carries an inexpensive line of biodegradable pens and pencils that promise to be as durable as their plastic counterparts. The ink can be refilled, so you shouldn’t ever get left high and dry. What’s more, even if one should break, 75% of the pen is compostable and can be buried in your garden! (The pens come with disassembly instructions.)

TIP: For kids (and big kids) prone to losing pens, if you do decide on an investment pen, it's worth attaching the lid to a ribbon/cord or extendible keychain clip. This can be attached to a pencil case or loop on the child's bag. Tara Button (BuyMeOnce CEO) attaches her pen lid to her notebook ribbon to remind her not to leave the pen behind. 


Get creative with your Moleskine notebook. Photo credit: Moleskine.com

Get creative with your Moleskine notebook. Photo credit: Moleskine.com

NOTEBOOKS OF NOTE

Finding the right notebook can be a challenge. Every student has different needs when it comes to the object on which they rely during exam season -- size, shape, weight, ruled or unruled, paper texture and thickness, coiled or leather-bound all become contributing factors. The quality of Moleskine’s products is hard to match. Their notebooks are made from environmentally friendly acid-free paper and are FSC-certified. Additionally, each Moleskine product is thread bound and contains a bookmark, band closure, and an interior pocket to store all of your child’s important papers. These notebooks come in assorted jacket colours, sizes, choice of ruled or unruled paper and hard or soft covers. Bonus -- they’re also lightweight, durable and extremely portable, making lugging heavy binders a thing of the past!

Clairefontaine's sustainably produced notebooks are a sure winner. Photo credit: Wonderpens.ca

Clairefontaine's sustainably produced notebooks are a sure winner. Photo credit: Wonderpens.ca

Clairefontaine is another company we’re passionate about. You can rest easy knowing that this manufacturer is 100% committed to waste reduction and sustainable living, because they control their own paper production! Clairefontaine’s personal pulp mill creates unbleached, acid-free paper printed with water- and vegetable-based ink. They offer several jacket styles in varying colours, prints and textures, so you can choose a different one for every class.


Posing with Po Zu. Photo credit: keep-up-with-the-jones-family.com

Posing with Po Zu. Photo credit: keep-up-with-the-jones-family.com

SUPER SCHOOL SHOES

As a parent, you know that one of the most stressful elements of back-to-school is clothes shopping, specifically finding that elusive pair of perfect shoes. Ideally, this would be a pair of shoes that are stylish, comfortable, and durable. Po Zu shoes tick all of these boxes. Their soles are made from a unique blend of coconut husk and natural latex (“coir foot mattress”) to create a breathable, shock-absorbant base. Additionally, all of the materials Po Zu uses are ethically sourced and made to last; the company offers a 12 month warranty against defective materials and workmanship on all of their regular styles. For the girls, the Ello V Natural Pinatex makes a cute Toms’ knock-off, and the men’s Brisk Black White is the perfect casual sneaker.

 

Well that's our BuyMeOnce summer homework all done. We hope that this article has been of help to you; if it has, please feel free to share it with other parents who may find it useful. All that's left to say is good luck to all the students starting again this year, you'll be brilliant! 

5 BuyMeOnce Wedding Gifts for Every Budget

Give the happy couple something so solid it can be handed down through the generations. A gift as durable as their commitment to each other.
WORDS: SUPNA CHAVDA
5 BuyMeOnce Wedding Gifts for Every Budget | buymeonce.com


1. SCHOTT ZWIESEL IVENTO WINE GLASSES SET OF 6 $56.34/£30.38

For a lifetime of merriness the newlyweds will require wine glasses that can truly hack every marriage milestone, starting immediately with those ‘honeymoon phase’ drinking sessions. These Ivento red wine glasses are made with patented Tritan Crystal and are ridiculously break resistant. Because they are so durable, you’ll find this brand used in top hotels so they’ll survive the dishwasher as well as zealous cheersing.

Write on gift tag:

Drunk in Love” (Feat. you two)


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2.PERSONALISED ‘NEVER BUY ANOTHER’ HARRIS PAINTBRUSH TWIN PACK $26/£18

These British made brushes are the perfect gift for a couple who are about to do up their first home. Use the free personalisation service to laser etch up to four lines of cheeky best wishes into a stunning FSC beechwood handle. They’ll be cherished for much longer than a wedding card and will be part of a lifetime of home renovations together. If cared for properly, your message on the paint splattered handle will be handed down from generation to generation.  

Write on the gift tag:

Your future together is a blank canvas. Paint the town red!


3. SUMO ICE CREAM SCOOP $13.99/£12.99

Just when the newlyweds think life couldn’t be sweeter, cue the unwrapping of your incredibly thoughtful lifetime guaranteed ice cream scoop. Crafted from a single piece of solid stainless steel this scoop is virtually indestructible and is the most durable and budget-friendly wedding present we can think of - you don’t need to be a sugar daddy to buy gifts that can be handed down through the generations. Add a cherry on top by engraving the scoop with the names of the happy couple.

Write on the Gift Tag:

May your only rocky roads be made out of chocolate.


4. DAVEK DUET UMBRELLA FOR TWO $149/£125

The large canopy of this Davek umbrella is perfect for shielding two people. The happy couple can let the rain pour because the Duet brolly will see them through every dark cloud that life will burst upon them. It comes with an unconditional lifetime guarantee so if someone breaks it during a lovers’ tiff, Davek will repair or replace it for free. If it’s lost or stolen the recipients can redeem a replacement at up to 50% off the regular retail price, reducing the amount of ‘I can’t believe you…’ arguments by about 50% also.

Write on the Gift Tag:

When it’s raining more than ever, know that you’ll still have each other.


5. LE CREUSET SIGNATURE CASSEROLE POT (5 to 6 Servings) $320/£175.98

Gift the happy couple a Le Creuset casserole pot and you’re buying them a family heirloom that will probably appear as an item on their joint will. This top quality cast iron wear has years of craftsmanship forged in and will rustle up thousands of dinners that will leave them feeling top of the pots. Each piece comes with a famous cast-iron guarantee so your gift will be repaired or replaced if anything ever goes wrong.

Write on the gift tag:

Together you are a one-pot wonder!


Share your BuyMeOnce wedding gift ideas with us using #BMOwedding