One of the most important things we can do as consumers is vote with our dollar. Where we spend and invest our money impacts more than just our pockets – it affects local communities, fair wages, and the health of the environment.
Building a green economy requires adopting green practices and a shift in how we spend money. Although there are many new and innovative green and organic products on the market, I still believe that reusing, recycling, and up-cycling are some of the best ways to minimize my footprint.
When my husband and I moved into our campervan two years ago and embraced a life of minimalism, I knew my shopping habits had to change. Instead of buying new, we shop secondhand and donate, sell, or giveaway what no longer serves us.
I love shopping at yard sales, flea markets, and thrift shops in random cities on our travels – you really get to know a place by strolling the aisles of their secondhand shops. That’s where we get basically everything we use from clothing to cookware, camping gear, sheets, tools, sporting goods. When we need something, we check secondhand shops first, and we don’t buy new unless we’ve exhausted all other options.
Shopping secondhand is one of the best ways to deal with waste because we’re utilizing what’s already in the economy. (And secondhand items don’t have packaging! Woohoo!). Here are 5 more reasons you should shop secondhand:
It Saves You Money:
This is an obvious benefit to shopping secondhand. It’s a type of green business that makes it possible to score unbelievable deals on gently used items and save cash compared to buying new. Also, you can get almost anything secondhand – from furniture to clothes. Many items are great quality and some are almost new. It can literally help you kit out your entire house (or in our case – van) on a budget.
Our cast iron pots and pans were all purchased at thrift shops across the country for a fraction of the original price – granted we restored a couple, but if taken care of they can last forever. Discounts often go above 50% off and shops don’t stop there, if something isn’t sold in 30 days there are usually bonus discounts of an extra 20% off or more. Most of the aisles are lined with nearly-new wares and one of a kind items.
Dustin and I recently found a beautiful 6 piece set of linen dinner napkins for $2! We’re not musicians but we wanted to have instruments on the road. Investing in new instruments didn’t make sense for us, so we found a set of tambourines and an acoustic guitar at a flea market for under $20! I know it sounds geeky, but I can stroll the aisles at thrift stores and flea markets all day.
It Stimulates the local economy:
When we shop secondhand, all of our money is going directly into the local economy, which helps keep local businesses running. Have you ever visited a city’s town center and felt like you could be in any city in the world? Popular chain stores have taken over main streets in many cities across America and the world, forcing small businesses to close. On our recent trip to Ho Chi Minh City it felt like we could be in NYC. This affects local culture and takes the personality out of these cities and towns. Most thrift stores, however, are locally owned, and larger nationwide chains like Goodwill and Salvation Army support local communities and charity organizations.
It’s good for the community:
Many thrift stores provide job training and placement to individuals in need, as well as an affordable shopping option for people of many different income levels. Not everyone can afford to drop $200 on a new suit for a job interview. By donating your clothes to a thrift store you make it possible for someone of low-income to build a new identity out of used clothes – enabling them to develop greater mobility in the social world.
It’s good for Mama Earth:
It’s shocking to think about the resources that goes into the production of the clothes we wear – from manufacturing to packaging and transport. This comes at a great cost to the environment and an even greater cost to the people and communities producing our clothes – especially in the fast-fashion industry where human rights violations almost always occur. The average American throws away 81 pounds of clothes each year – that adds up to around 26 billion pounds of clothes and textiles going to landfills! Thrifting is the best recycling system. Purchasing gently used clothing and donating items you no longer need keeps waste out of landfills. It also reduces the need for new items to be produced and the need for someone to produce them.
It’s all about radical expression:
We have a love for costuming and shopping secondhand allows us to create our own unique style. The things we find in thrift stores are often one-of-a-kind, just like me! Thanks to thrifting, I’ve succeeded at my dream of being a fashion stylist. No kidding – Dustin and I have had our own fashion shows at thrift stores. And all the pieces I own tell a story.