In the latest edition of my Inspiration Interviews, I’m delighted to be speaking to Tara Button, Founder of Buy Me Once and Author of A Life Less Throwaway. You’ve probably spotted her book popping up in my stories as I read through it, and I also own a few delightfully thick, linen throws from her store.
I was excited to speak to Tara, as she encapsulates the idea that we need to change our buying habits to be more sustainable, as opposed to simply demanding our shops make the changes for us. She’s composed an enlightening book that reveals the dirty marketing tactics we often fall for, and how in just a few steps, we can tailor our shopping choices to those which suit us and survive longer than an impulsive whim.
And, alongside that, Tara has curated a store that only sells the best, long-lasting items that you can really trust. From wool backpacks to stove-top kettles, these are items designed to last, and styled to become treasured heirlooms too.
1. What initially inspired you to change your buying habits?
I was a chronic shopaholic, whenever I had spare money (and even when I didn’t) I’d feel the need to spend it on the first thing that caught my eye. I got myself into thousands of pounds worth of credit card debt, which took me over a year to pay off.
Then I was given a beautiful Le Creuset pot, and it was a revelation to me: here was an object that I could hand down to my grandchildren. An object worthy of taking care of. Everything I’d bought up to then felt very temporary, “this-will-do” type stuff. Suddenly I wanted everything in my life to give me the same feeling as that pot did. I went looking for a shop that sold the longest lasting products on the planet, and when I didn’t find one, I decided I would be the one to start it.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that if people changed their shopping habits to focus on long term durability, it would have a HUGE impact on the environment and that really drives me forward.
2. Was it hard to start a business based on single purchases?
It was very difficult. I had no experience in business or retail or websites, really, so the learning curve was intense (there were many MANY calls to the Squarespace helpline!)
The best advice I was given is to not to worry about how to make money out of the idea at first. Just build it and see if people like it. Build it and they will come!
Finding our products is challenging. We compare and contrast hundreds of brands to try to find the “Best in Show” in each product category. We do this by looking at the materials, method of manufacture, the reviews, warranties and ethics of each business. In the end, one or two brands usually come bubbling to the top.
3. You’ve recently brought out your book, A Life Less Throwaway. What’s one tip to reducing waste that everyone can do?
My book teaches a process called Mindful Curation which frees you from the manipulation all around us to buy impulsively or unwisely. It guides you into finding true purpose and taste so that everything you bring into your life is meaningful, reliable, and useful.
My best tip would be to buy for the long term. In order to do this, take a step back and find time to discover the colours, textures and shapes that really speak to you when it comes to your wardrobe and homeware. Then when new trends come along you can stand firm and say “no thank you“. This way all our belongings will naturally last longer.
The easiest thing we can do for the environment is to make something last a bit longer.
4. Who or what inspires you to keep promoting an ethical lifestyle?
When I had the idea for BuyMeOnce it literally stalked me. Whenever I saw anything on the news about the environment I’d get a feeling like someone had punched me in the stomach. I’d feel winded and hot and shaky. I knew it was a powerful idea that could make a real impact so the thought of not doing anything about it felt like the height of selfishness.
I grew up in Asia and I’ve witnessed the poverty gap and working conditions of the people making cheap stuff for us. Many of the clothes we buy in the UK today are cheap because someone else had to starve on the other side of the world. This is real and it’s happening every day.
It’s very hard to keep in mind when you’re browsing through pretty racks of clothes, so I encourage people to find the brands they are comfortable supporting first, then pick within those brands.
5. Do you have anything exciting planned for the near future (other than your new book?!)
There’s so much going on but here are my top four plans…
1. We’re launching some challenges where designers make BuyMeOnce versions of everyday objects like a little black dress or a bicycle
2. I’ll be making some masterclass videos for everyone to bring my book to life and help people through the process of mindful curation
3. We’re looking into launching a home decluttering and curating service. We’d love to know if this is something people might find helpful!
4. We’re looking to get a global petition going to reduce electrical waste by getting appliances to last longer – sign it here.