So what does it mean to shop sustainably? Buying something pre-loved? New, but good quality? I think it depends on the type of product you are looking for, your financial situation and whether the pre-loved items available meet your requirements. Sometimes what you are looking for just isn’t available second-hand so buying it new is the only option. But if you are buying new, there are things to look out for so that your purchase ideally never ends up in landfill.
Something you’ve probably never thought to ask – Is there such a thing as a ‘sustainable kettle’? Well as of today I was forced to find out.
To begin the story my husband and I were thirsty for our morning cup of tea, and as I went to switch the kettle on it short-circuited our electricity… so the kettle of 7.5 years had finally met it’s end. It had been leaking recently so it was half-expected. I might also add that this kettle was plastic and the plastic looked dry and flaky, so repairing it was not on the cards (plastic kettles are therefore not a sustainable option).
So because I really need my cup of tea in the morning we used the ‘old-school’ method of boiling a pot of water on the stove… novel right? Well maybe only for making a cup of tea, but it surprisingly didn’t take that long and I didn’t have to wash the pot, so not such a big dilemma.
For a minute I actually considered whether this method could be our ongoing source of tea making. However upon reading up about this, the electricity used for heating up the stove is much higher than what an electric kettle uses. My husband was relieved when it was decided that an electric kettle was definitely the way forward!
What factors make a kettle sustainable?
I had never searched for a kettle in a sustainable way before. In the past it had always been about what the quickest and most cost-effective option was.
Based on things I have learnt over the past year, a sustainable kettle had to be long-lasting so I felt I needed to take into account the following factors:
- What it was made from – a stainless steel or glass option, as plastics leech chemicals under extreme heat, become brittle with age (as I discovered) and can’t be recycled
- What it’s electricity usage was
- The quality of the kettle and brand based on reviews
- Whether it was repairable and/or recyclable
I had limited my search to a particular store because I had a couple of vouchers for it and wanted to buy something we actually needed, so that did make the options a bit narrower.
Stainless steel or glass?
I did a lot of reading today and it basically came down to stainless steel being the most durable choice. It doesn’t discolour, it isn’t treated with chemicals to stop it shattering under extreme heat and it’s easier to transport therefore requiring less packaging.
Is electricity usage a factor?
This apparently doesn’t make much of a difference. Most kettles use about the same amount of electricity to run, however some do it faster and others are insulated to keep the water hot for longer so you don’t have to reheat if you have tea or coffee often.
My husband and I like one or two cups of tea or coffee a day but nothing more than that, so the kettle that boils quickly and can heat with only a little amount of water in it was a workable solution for us.
Quality & brand
These generally go hand in hand. Certain brands are well-respected for a reason and the price-tag ‘generally’ also reflects that. In this case I wanted a long-lasting kettle, so a short-term larger investment will likely end up costing me far less in the long-term – and won’t end up costing the ‘earth’! Sorry couldn’t help myself. 🙂
I actually wasn’t sure whether this was an option with kettles these days, but looking at the specs for one particular kettle brand highlighted that the element was repairable. This was a definite plus for me as that would certainly aid in extending the life of my kettle.
Plus it was stainless steel so if it came to my kettle eventually being unrepairable, It is far more likely that the parts of a stainless steel kettle can be more readily recycled that those in a treated glass kettle.
I am not here to promote brands or recommend them – that’s personal choice. But in summary I did end up going with a kettle that had what I considered important sustainability factors. It was:
- Stainless steel (and recyclable)
- Quick to boil and auto switched off when heated
- Held small water amounts to reduce electricity usage
- Was a well-respected brand
- Had a repairable element, which is obviously necessary to heat water!
When I opened the box at home I couldn’t help but take a picture of what the instructions were at the back of the booklet. This actually gives away the brand, but it’s worth seeing if other brands do this as well.
Don’t shop for the sake of it
If you don’t have a sustainable kettle or product now, don’t think you have to replace it! The best option is to use it until it breaks or is no longer safe to use, and if it can’t be repaired then to start shopping.
So next time you require a household appliance, or any product, why not think long-term use and sustainability? Not only will you be helping your own pocket in the long run by investing wisely, but you’ll be helping to reduce waste and landfill as well.
Be ‘eco inspired’ to make a sustainable product choice – and feel good about buying it! Now I’m off to go and enjoy a cup of tea…