The Case for Borrowing

Retail therapy is a favorite cure for everything from anxiety to weekend boredom. And why not? If you can afford to treat yourself, you should go for it every once in a while. The thing is, though, the simple act of buying something brand new comes with a pretty hefty carbon footprint.

We’ve talked before about ways you can lower your environmental impact by being more aware of your purchases. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for less or deny yourself things that you or your family may want or need. In fact, there are plenty of ways to get things without ever having to own them brand new.

That’s right, folks. It’s time we re-embraced borrowing.


The first thing to ask yourself when you’re about to buy something is this: How often am I going to use it?

There are plenty of things we buy thinking they’ll get used all the time but then end up lying around the house or stuffed in a closet somewhere. Power tools are repeat offenders in the occasional use category. How often do you need a circular saw? You may need one for a project you’re working on right now, but unless you’re a regular woodworker, that saw is more than likely to end up sitting in your tool shed gathering dust and rust before you need it again.

Instead, why not see if your neighbor has the thing you need and if they’ll let you borrow it? Borrowing a circular saw from your next-door neighbor is a time-honored tradition, not to mention a great excuse to make a new friend.

However, if your neighbor doesn’t keep a store of power tools handy, there are companies in most towns that will rent you power tools. There are even nonprofit organizations, like the Houston Community ToolBank, that will rent out power tools and provide expertise in building projects.


If you’re of a certain age, the first thing you think of when you hear the word “rent” might be movies. But that’s not even close to the only thing that’s rentable.

Have a high-powered job interview coming up? Hosting a Zoom dinner party? Just looking for a little confidence boost when you’re stepping out to go to the grocery store? There’s no need for a new outfit. Rent the runway instead!

Clothing rental services are popping up all over the internet. For a subscription, they’ll send you clothes that you can wear to that special event, then send back. It’s a great way to keep your closet clutter-free and ensure that you’re wearing items that will see good use. Many clothing rental companies also use sustainable practices for shipping, cleaning and maintaining their clothing inventory.


There’s a fun new trend that’s been popping up in neighborhoods all over the United States in the past few years: the toy library. Just like the name suggests, parents who can’t or don’t want to buy new toys for their children to play with can simply check out a few toys for a limited period of time.

Toy libraries give children a greater variety of toys in their lives without breaking the bank or harming the environment, and they’re also a great way to teach them about the value of sharing with others. But on top of all that, it turns out that toy libraries also have developmental benefits for children. A 2011 study from Virginia Tech suggests that a toy lending library can help children develop more positive relationships with toys. They’re also inspired to be more creative in their play.

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There are some things that will see a lot of use in your home and would be more economical for you to own. But again, there’s no rule that says the thing has to be brand new off the assembly line. Many everyday items – from clothes to books to toys to power tools – are just as dependable when you buy them second-hand.

It’s true, we talk every day about Reducing your carbon footprint and Recycling as much as possible. But it’s good to remember that there’s a third R in the trio of sustainability: Reuse. When you borrow things from friends and make an effort to purchase as many second-hand items as possible, you’re having that much more of a positive impact on the planet.

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