Five tips for what to do when your interests aren’t green

Everyone has a weakness. In fact, many people have more than one and these become most apparent when trying to make changes in their lives. As a seasoned green shopper, I am usually able to say ‘no’ when it comes to unhealthy packaged foods, straws, or bags at the supermarkets, but what really makes my resolve waiver? Board games. No contest.

I’ll start off and say that I absolutely adore playing tabletop games with family and friends. In this age with all of the screen time that everyone undoubtedly gets, sitting down with a group to dive into a different world is so refreshing. When I lived in Japan, friends would come over to have dinner and then we would spend the evening playing games together and in my new host country of South Korea, this is my one constant. In fact, tabletop gaming is even more popular here than anywhere else I’ve lived!

So when I get on my favorite websites and see all of the new games and the expansions for beloved older games, I almost can’t stop myself from whipping out my credit card and buying them all on the spot. This is bad for a number of reasons (being an expat, I always have to consider what I will do with stuff when I move country and also living in Korea, space is an issue as well).

Of course, I have become more conscious of my game buying and have worked very hard on limiting the number I buy, but the urge to add new games to my collection still calls to me! How do I satisfy this craving?? Here are a few ways that I feed my tabletop appetite while still being as green as possible. These tips are not just for board games; they can be adapted for whatever your weakness is!

  1. Buy used whenever possible. A favorable part of being an expat is that (though sad when they leave) my friends often leave whatever country we’re in and when they do, they typically have to downsize. I make the most of this and buy up as many games as possible used. This eases my conscious in a couple of ways: first, if I were to purchase these games online, they would have to be imported from overseas, which is extremely bad in terms of CO2 emissions. Additionally, buying new means adding new plastics to the environment, possibly poor working conditions in a factory for someone in another country. Buying used means that the planet is saved from these things. As an expat, it is pretty easy to find lots of household items or clothes used.  The picture shows some of the games I got second hand from other expats!
  2. Borrow or rent instead. Tabletop gaming has become so popular world wide that there is a fairly good chance that there are gamers near you. Be brave (taking my own advice here as well) and go! There are board gaming cafes in loads of countries; if there isn’t a group or a location in your city, make one! Before purchasing your “Must Have” item, ask yourself “Is there any way that I could borrow or rent this? Will I still use this in a year? Five years? Ten?” These questions help me to narrow down which games to buy and which I am okay with just borrowing (like the Gallerist–pictured below–I had been wanting to play it for ages but didn’t want to import. My friend from the board game group had it!) and can help you decide if you NEED to buy whatever it is that is your weakness.
  3. Buy locally. A lot of countries have the license to produce the same games or products you could purchase from your home country already. Purchasing the local version of the product reduces emissions from importing the item. If you are worried about not being able to understand the rules/directions if it is in another language, just watch YouTube videos that explain how to use it or find PDF versions in English online. In Japan, you can typically buy games at Yodobashi Camera (the selection has improved greatly from how it was when I first moved there) and in South Korea (outside of Seoul), there are games at Home Plus, S. Dot, and a few other places. If you live IN Seoul, you are in luck, because there are several places devoted to selling board games. Of course, you can also purchase food, clothing and other items locally (not from international chain stores) to help reduce the emissions of your purchases as well.

    Two popular games that I bought locally from the countries I was living in at the time: Splendor and Settlers of Catan. Practice your language skills or find the rules online.
  4. Make your own version. When I was a child, my family was pretty hard up for cash. We often played board games as a family, but didn’t get new ones very often. However, my parents were very handy around the house, and after playing card games with some people, they came home and cut up several old decks of cards (the ones with one or two missing cards) to make our own Sequence game board. From my parents’ example, I started making games for my classes with things from around the house.
  5. Share shipping with other expats on items you MUST have.  Sometimes, there are things that we just can’t live without.  Things like specific brands or shades of makeup, clothing for sizes that just aren’t available in the host country, and medications are a few things that might HAVE to be imported.  When this is the case, get together with your expat friends and combine your multiple shipments into one larger shipment.  This saves you money and also reduces the emissions for delivery of all the items.

So there you have it.  With a little thought, it is possible to have the things that you want while still mindful of the environment.  How do you find balance between being green and your hobbies?  What are your green weaknesses?  Share them below!

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