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When I think of secondhand shopping, the first thing that comes to mind is clothing. Piles and piles of thin-kneed corduroys next to racks and racks of broken –in sweaters, abandoned hats and cheap suits—it all sounds like a lot of fun. I never expected to say this, but I love snooping around a secondhand store, finding that funky whatever I’m after, and spending five dollars or less on it. It’s just about the only way I could ever like to shop.

But, secondhand shopping is much more than just clothing. You can, probably should, buy just about everything secondhand nowadays, from cars and computers to furniture and kitchen appliances. Toys, camping equipment, iPhones, TVs, instruments, books, and whatever else—they all come readily available (eBay, Craigslist, or a quick search), slightly used, and massively discounted. And, I won’t lie: saving money is a great benefit, but it’s not why I do it.

For me, buying things secondhand represents one of the greenest things a person can do. It’s right up there with—actually far beyond— carpooling, energy-efficient fill-in-the-blanks, and even recycling cans. Even compared to buying sustainable vegan clothing. How, pray tell, is this case? Well, it’s simple really.

It Saves Resources

We’ve all caught ourselves in the midst of a channel-flipping fury, settling on one of these shows about how such-and-such is made. Of course, the point of these shows is that we think: Holy Snowballs! A lot goes in to making that. It seems like such a simple thing. Well, truth be told, yes, even simple things—pencils, say— require loads of not just materials but also energy (think of all the machines used) and other resources (water, fossil fuels, etc.) to produce it. But, think of something more complex, like a computer.

Unfortunately, lots of things, especially electronics, are thrown out quickly for upgrades. Every time that happens, it means resources go into making the new one, and all of the resources for the old one either require more resources to be recycled or just go to waste. But most of us don’t need a brand new laptop, TV or iPhone, and we could help reduce the amount of materials and energy needed to make us a new gadget, sofa or even t-shirt by buying one that’s already been made but nobody’s using.

It Reduces Waste/Pollution

For all that effort to bike to work (actually, it can be quite pleasant) and turn off the water while brushing your teeth, imagine how much waste and pollution occurs in the manufacturing process of a new bicycle, all that steel, rubber and plastic that needs to be produced. Even the mass production of raw materials, like cotton, is a major source of both waste and pollution, to the tune of 5000 gallons of water to grow enough for a new t-shirt, not to mention the enormous amounts of pesticides and fertilizers required.

However, this is only in the production of these products. What about when they are tossed out, or even recycled? The landfill situation around the world, and especially in industrialized countries like the US, is a serious issue. Simply put, we are polluting the planet, and we keep adding things that don’t breakdown quickly: plastics and metals. But, what if someone’s old washing machine found a new home rather than the landfill? Not to deter the use of reusable grocery sacks, but how many plastic bags would someone have to not use to equate to a washing machine amount of waste?

It Says Something Politically

Buying secondhand says something. It means I won’t buy into this unsustainable system of waste, not when someone’s “garbage” means my needs don’t create more strain on the earth. I won’t be pulled into marketing schemes, and you won’t convince me to waste both my money (energy and time) and the world’s resources to have the next virtually disposable latest and greatest until next month’s hits stores. It says that I really do care.

Without a doubt, secondhand shoppers sometimes get a bit of guff. People might say you are cheap. Affluent family members may role their eyes. Your children may be upset you’re not keeping up with the Joneses, and if the Joneses are actually as competitive as folks make out, which they rarely are, they may giggle at your new-to-me, three-year old television set. And, you know what: that’s just one more opportunity to say something, to explain just why to buy secondhand.

It might not mean what others (doubtfully) are thinking, but it does actually mean something.

Image Source: Espsos.de/Flickr

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12 comments on “This One Simple Action Can Save So Much Waste, and Make the World a Better Place”

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Sharon Lessner Hacek
2 Years Ago

It's actually fun going to thrift stores and resale shops.


Reply
Jayme Sin
2 Years Ago

Mike Hall


Reply
Dorothy Hindmrsh
2 Years Ago

A must read for my family


Reply
Desiree Sherwood
2 Years Ago

Shopping second hand also excludes you from participating in child labor or the cruelty to animals and keeps your money in your local community. I advise to stay away from goodwill and salvation army because all of their donations are given to them for free yet they only contribute 10cents on the dollar from prophets to help the needy!


Reply
Barb Overton
20 Dec 2014

The information about Goodwill and the Salvation Army is based on misleading and inaccurate information. The true facts are as follows, for spending on charitable expenses: Goodwill Industries: 88.5% spending on charitable expenses The Salvation Army: 82.1% spending on charitable expenses There was an article making the rounds on the Internet that unfairly maligned them. It has been debunked by Snopes and a number of other sources. I worked in a homeless shelter and I know for a fact that these two organizations do a lot to help the homeless and other needy people. Often, they are the only source of hope. There are watchdog groups that analyze charities and both Goodwill and the Salvation Army are ranked highly. Check out a few listings at Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and Forbes. More information here, including a copy of the misleading article: ~ http://www.jefflewis.net/blog/2012/12/debunking_an_e-mail_on_chariti.html If you want to check out the Snopes article, go to "Charitable Compensation"

Jeffrey Turner
20 Dec 2014

Even a staff writer for Forbes magazine thinks it's wrong for Goodwill to take advantage of the subminimum wage. http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2013/07/30/does-goodwill-industries-exploit-disabled-workers/

Barb Overton
20 Dec 2014

This is a side issue, and it does not detract from the fact that Goodwill and the Salvation Army put almost all their profits back into their work. In the case of Goodwill: they provide jobs and training for people that no one else will hire. Often, after gaining job experience, people move on to jobs in other companies. That is less exploitive than the "internships" offered to many students, where they are paid nothing at all.

Kirsten Lassen-Smith
2 Years Ago

Leave No Trace


Reply
Alejandra Murillo
2 Years Ago

my u


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Caio Guimarães Souza
2 Years Ago

The article of The Anticancer Project is a synthesis of the scientific literature on the relationship between food habits, lifestyle, and cancer, with 14 practical recommendations to prevent cancer and help its treatment. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, most of these recommendations are also precious for improving health in general and for preventing cardiovascular diseases. This is the only text putting together these 14 recommendations, listing anticancer foods, and explaining in a simple, short and comprehensive way how cancer develops, its links with food habits and lifestyle, as well as the current state of the scientific research on this subject. www.facebook.com/TheAnticancerProject


Reply
Vasu Murti
2 Years Ago

If the issue were LGBT rights, the other side would not be saying "so much..." nor any other anti-semitic words, phrases, and gestures at every opportunity.


Reply
Janice Harris
2 Years Ago

I love buying second hand,mostly at my local Goodwill store.I don\'t often think about how enviromentally sound it is but you are right.Thanks for the reminder!


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