We had an amazing chat with Tara Button, the innovative entrepreneur behind the Buy Me Once website. We grilled her from fashion to recycling and are so impressed with what she has to say.
For those who don’t know, what is Buy Me Once?
A website where you can find products that are built to last; the best in each product category for longevity and sustainability. We believe that products should last longer than they do, so we go out of our way to find manufacturers that believe the same.
Your idea is amazing and promotes a wasteless society, when did you first take an interest in such environmental issues?
I’ve always been environmentally aware, and passionate about the planet since I was tiny. My best friend and I came up with an amazing plan when we were seven; we thought that if we projected onto the moon the words ‘save the world’ that everyone would suddenly do better, start recycling etc. Unfortunately we only had my dad’s torch, which wasn’t quite strong enough.
The idea for the site came when I was working in advertising and one of my clients was Le Creuset – which are the french cast iron pots that come with a lifetime guarantee. They’re very beautiful, and I was thinking wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were more products like this, if everything in my kitchen could be something that you could just buy once and have it for a lifetime.
I tried for a long time not to do anything about it because I knew it would be a lot of work and I had a lot going on but I got to the point where I just had to do it, otherwise I would feel guilty forever.
Do you spend a lot of time working on the site?
I quit my job last week, so I’m officially an entrepreneur, which is exciting and terrifying. It’s something I believe can work as a business and so many people from all around the world have given me encouragement and told me to keep going. I want to give them more products, and spend more time searching for them and reviewing them, so I thought that I’d take the plunge.
Have you found that many people are interacting with the website?
Yeah huge amounts of comments, hundreds of emails, it’s been wonderful – from all around the world, – the US, Canada, Australia and the UK as well. Loads of people have said to me what products they think could work on the site which is great, people saying they want to help, and loads of people saying thank you so much for making this site. Then there have been interviews, like this one and the Telegraph, and I did a podcast for something in the US. A couple of people from television have approached me as well, but that’s just talks right now, it’s been a crazy time – it’s very exciting.
What about organisations, have people wanted to start advertising through you?
Now that people have heard about me a bit more, they are coming to me with their product, I really welcome that. If you’re a manufacturer or a brand that feels you work harder than other brands to make your product last, then I really want to hear from you. Obviously nothing goes on the site unless I’m certain of it. So you might make something very beautiful or lovely but if it doesn’t meet my criteria – is this the most durable and sustainable product in this category? – then they wouldn’t go on site.
Are there more or less products than you thought there would be?
Occasionally I come across a particular product e.g. electric kettles – I spent days looking for an electric kettle that I trusted enough to put on the site and I just couldn’t find one. Even ones that claimed to be reliable, I would still find loads of reviews saying that it broke after six months, or it broke after a year, or two years, and that’s just not good enough. There’s nothing complicated about a kettle; there were kettles that were built in the 1950s that still work, but it seems now you can’t buy one that will last more than six years, which I just think is unacceptable. I come across the occasional product like that and it really upsets me so I will talk to the manufacturer and tell them to do better. My recommendation at the moment is to use a stainless steel, hob kettle which will last you forever and ever, and a day. Occasionally you find really great products straight away which is cool. It might be that the way it is made is really durable or that the manufacturer guarantees to fix that item for its lifetime – both of those things are valid in my mind. The manufacturer is making an effort for things to last longer which is reassuring.
What’s the biggest issue you’ve come across, what do you think would put people off getting involved?
One reason they might not get involved is because more durable items, more sustainable items, might have a higher price tag. That’s because you’re often paying for sustainability or Fairtrade working; it’s about their products standing the test of time, or built to certain specifications, so quite often the price bracket will be higher. Not always, but they often are. Under those circumstances I try to say to people they have to think about it over a lifetime – this won’t be something you’ll have to replace as often as a cheaper, less hardy version. If the money doesn’t swade you, then the environmental factor will.
Fashion is a tricky thing as well -people want to change a lot because of the fashion industry. It’s there to make us feel we want new stuff constantly. They do that in two ways: they tempt us with pretty new things, they tell us that we’ll look a certain way, be a certain way, if we acquire these things, we’ll have the status that comes with having the latest things. Secondly, they make us feel incredibly bad about having stuff from the past. ‘Oh I can’t wear that, it’s so eighties or nineties’, even though they might be absolutely fine. They make you feel you have to change and update, to the point where its accelerated, it’s not just each year but four seasons in a year. Then it’s the shaming of people, I find it really distasteful and damaging. What I would say to people is you need to find your look, you need to look at your body, your essence, and your personality and what you care about, choose clothes and accessories that make you feel happy in yourself – then stick to it, commit, say, ‘This is who I am.’ Churchill did that, he dressed very strangely for his time but everyone accepted him and loved him for it. some of our biggest personalities often wear clothes that might be vintage or slightly offbeat to what everyone else is doing – I think that’s the key to be happy in a world where fashion won’t let you – is to pick what you love, and go out there and say I love this and I don’t care if it’s off trend.
How would you advise students in particular, or those who don’t have the budget?
I would look into reviews, if you’ve got a product like this Le Creuset – it’s cast iron so it’s really durable, so find out what’s the most durable thing you can afford. Look at reviews and go to thrift shops, look for items on ebay. Don’t buy plastic furniture – If a plastic wooden chair gets knocked and a bit flicks off then you’ve ruined the chair, where as if it’s solid wood you can sand it down, and it’s still a perfectly good chair. Buy antique furniture. They used to make them fantastically and you can get some beautiful pieces because they’re ‘out of fashion’.
What are your hopes for the future of the website, short-term and long-term?
In the short term I’m hoping to expand semi-globally – to the US, Australia, and Canada because that seems to be where my audience are. I want to have many more products on my site, I want to become a real resource so that when people are going to buy something, they come to Buy Me Once first to check whether there’s something on there that they can use. I want to be the first place where people go for things that last.
In the long term I want to create real change, in how people buy, and how manufacturers think, if the public start buying things that last, then manufacturers will start to think about their range, e.g. they’ll have a Buy Me Once kettle which will have 10/15 year guarantee because it will last. I want to create real change, and I think that’s possible.
What other ways do you cut down waste in your life?
I don’t tend to buy too much stuff, or at least I try not to. I get a lot of things digitally now – for example I’ll listen to a lot of audiobooks instead of buying paper books. Recycling is always a big one. I find that if you get rid of your clutter you’re a happier person anyway. Things that I have that might be okay for a thrift shop or charity I give it away. I find myself naturally thinking as I walk around the shops, ‘Oh actually I don’t need that’. I’ll go home and research items first, find something that’s worth buying.
What’s your favourite Buy Me Once item so far?
It’s going to have to be the Buy Me Once socks. If I can find socks with a lifetime guarantee then I can find anything. I just love this manufacturer, they’re just so confident and they put so much effort into making these socks as durable as possible, they are called Darn Tough Socks – and if you’re ever unhappy with your socks you can send them back, and I just really love that.