How To Be A Sustainable Shopper – The Buyerarchy Of Needs

Ben Hayes
February 2, 2022

We all have basic needs that need to be fulfilled. While some aspects of shopping are a form of indulgence and can be extravagant and unsustainable. We all need to shop in order to sustain ourselves from the food we eat to the clothes we wear. 

We are all different and have different needs, desires and motivations that determine what we consume as shoppers.

If we want to do our best to shop sustainably in order to help combat Climate Change and to do our bit, it’s useful to start by understanding ourselves a little better and what motivates us to shop.

maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory of motivation which states that five categories of human needs dictate an individual’s behaviour. Those needs are physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs

Maslow’s hierarchy is the understanding of human motivation and what people need and how they differ from person to person. Read dull article on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Buyerarchy Of Needs

Canadian artist and visual journalist Sarah Lazarovic has revamped Maslow’s hierarchy of needs by creating the Buyerarchy of needs, which states that humans should start at the bottom which is using what they have to fulfil their needs. While being at the bottom of her hierarchy this is the top-level, buying is the lowest level or obtaining what you need is the final resort despite this being the top tier.

The buyerarchy of needs is meant to give some guidance on how to sustainably fulfil our needs and avoid overconsumption rather than being a set of strict rules. My thinking of the buyerarchy of needs below.

Use What You Have

Try to make do with what you have whether that is what you’re having for dinner or what outfit you are wearing on a night out. When I am doing dinner I try to use what is in my cupboards and fridge. This allows me to use up what I have without buying more and letting food go to waste. This can be also said for my outfits wherever I am going, how can I use what is in my wardrobe which tends to lead to a lot of mixing and matching. However we may not always be able to fulfil this which leads us onto the next step.

Shopping Partners to help you “Use what you have” : Planet Warrior, The Cheeky Panda and The Good Club


To obtain objects currently not in our possession we may have to borrow at low or no cost to fulfil our needs. Good example of what to borrow is something we may only use once or twice, not often. Books, Ladder or special occasion outfit for a one off. The items should not be borrowed but acquired permanently through the next step.

Shopping Partners to help you “Borrow” : Music Magpie and The Devout


To obtain something you need without borrowing is trading. This also allows you to get rid of items you may no longer need and someone else may do. We have all done it before from DVDs, clothing items or games with friends and family. If you are a gardener it is also a good way to get rid of excess produce with a neighbour with produce you haven’t grown yet.

Shopping Partners to help you “Swap” : are Cash In Your Gadgets, Partage. & Reboxed.


Tried all the other steps but haven’t acquired what you need and feel like a purchase is necessary? Second-hand buying is a good alternative. Buying pre-owned is a sustainable way of buying something you need as no new materials are used and waste isn’t formed. Mint condition can be obtained this way for a fraction of the price through this method.

Shopping Partners to help you “Swap” : are Affordable Mac, eBay and Love Health Hate Waste.


DIY can be a rewarding way of obtaining items as sometimes it is worth just doing things yourself. Repairs or using items we have in house to create homemade decorations or sentimental gifts for a loved one. If you have great sewing skills to reuse old clothes into new outfits. There are scenarios where DIY can make low cost and less waste. Creating something yourself gives that satisfaction.

Shopping Partners to help you “Make” : are Art Finder Rainbow Life.


This is the final step where every other step hasn’t solved your problems. Buying is the last resort as there are some things we can’t avoid buying new like food shopping, clothes and personal hygiene products. Responsibly buy if you have to where possible. When you can buy locally made, reusable, made with sustainable sourced ingredients and eco-friendly packaging. The point is to try and make do with what you’ve got until you can’t and buying is the last option. When you buy through Shop for Climate Change, 51% of our profits will support Climate Crisis solutions. This does not include the Cashback or contribution you earn through every purchase you make.

View over 1,700 Shopping partners here, Search for brands that match your values using our Green Ratings here.