Tara Button surveys her kitchen and points at her Le Creuset casserole dish on the drainer. ‘That’s what gave me the idea’, she says. ‘I thought to myself one day last year when I was washing up, I will have this for life – wouldn’t it be great if everything else in my kitchen was like that? You buy it once and you never have to buy it again.’
Tara’s website, Buy Me Once, is launching in early 2016 and aims to be the go to place for finding the most durable products available. She’s curating what she calls the ‘best in show’ when it comes to longevity for every kind of item imaginable, from cutlery and clothing to luggage and children’s toys.
Inspired by her casserole dish, she began thinking that there must be more products out there with a lifetime guarantee, or a promise from the manufacturer that they are designed to stand the test of time.
‘I wanted all these quality products to be in one place, so that people interested in creating less waste – and saving money in the long run – could find products that would really last.’
She discovered that nowhere like this existed. But as an advertising creative and children’s book author, she didn’t have much spare time to do anything about it.
‘Every time I read something about the environment, I would get this guilty feeling that I wasn’t doing anything. I kept thinking, if people did buy things that were built to last it would have such a positive impact – both economically and environmentally.’
In the last 50 years or so, we’ve gone from investing in good quality products to the overconsumption of mass-produced goods. However, Tara is certainly not alone in longing for products that are either robust, or don’t have ‘planned obsolescence’, meaning they’re designed to become out-of-date within a known time period.
A new government decree in France that came into force in March 2015 is aimed at fighting this business practice in the appliances industry and is part of a larger movement against planned obsolescence across the European Union.
‘I’d want a site like Buy Me Once to exist, even if I didn’t make a penny from so I bought the domain name and started work’, Tara explains adding that she was immediately encouraged to find that it wasn’t just Le Creuset that is interested in product durability.
“People seem to get frustrated trying to find robust products. I get frustrated too when I’m trying to source items for the site and manufacturers don’t want you to have information about how long something will last”
The fashion industry is getting on board. Nudie now offer free repairs on their jeans, while Jigsaw’s ‘For life not landfill’ campaign last autumn saw the brand styling customers’ ‘old favourites’ with their new collection, in what they described as ‘the perfect antidote to the endless trends and throwaway fast fashion culture, proving that Jigsaw clothes really do stand the test of time’.
As for consumers, a nationally representative survey by Wrap, who campaign for a sustainable resource-efficient economy, showed that half of all consumers would be willing to pay extra for products that are advertised to last longer.
It’s all part of a move towards the circular economy that former yachtswoman Ellen Macarthur is also campaigning for: instead of the linear model of ‘make, use, dispose’, her foundation is working towards an economy in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.
When Tara tells friends about her site, she is encouraged by the response. ‘People seem to get frustrated trying to find robust products. I get frustrated too when I’m trying to source items for the site and manufacturers don’t want you to have information about how long something will last. You can get an idea from forums, but the people who write reviews are either big fans or have experienced a problem – it’s quite polarised.’
However, what she has noticed is that an interest in repair is also making a resurgence alongside this desire for items that last. When Jane ni Dhulchaointigh created Sugru, the world’s first mouldable glue, the response was incredible.
‘People don’t just buy it and use it, they love to share pictures and stories of their projects with their friends too. It’s not just ‘make do and mend’: our customers often tell us that they don’t do it to save money, they do it because they object to the ‘disposable’ mindset.’
“One of my hopes is for ‘Buy Me Once’ to become a ‘kite mark’ of longevity. So manufacturers would be able to say ‘This is a Buy Me Once kettle’ or ‘This is our Buy Me Once furniture range’”
Jane explains that it’s this movement towards a more empowered culture and DIY mindset where, with the help of the internet, we now feel like we can learn how to do pretty much anything and enjoy it. ‘I believe that everyone is creative, and we all have the ability to solve everyday problems – we’ve just lost confidence or got out of the habit. When I created Sugru I felt that if there was an easy and fun way to fix things, then millions of people would do it. And in doing so, we would not only help the environment but live a more creative life.’
So it seems that Tara’s website is launching at the right time. But what are her hopes for Buy Me Once?
‘Once I have an audience enjoying and using the site, then I will be able to expect it to support me in the way I am supporting my manufacturers. But it will be rewarding whether or not it makes money. At the moment I’m after manufacturers to get in touch and tell me about their products. And one of my hopes is for ‘Buy Me Once’ to become a ‘kite mark’ of longevity. So manufacturers would be able to say ‘This is a Buy Me Once kettle’ or ‘This is our Buy Me Once furniture range’. That would be amazing’.