Week 16: Use Secondhand Sources for Items New to You

Every thing we use and throw away has an impact on the planet. Unfortunately, once we are done with something it doesn’t disappear – it has to go somewhere. Too often, that somewhere is our trash can. This take-make-waste (or Linear) way of living is not sustainable and doing irreparable damage to our environment. This week, we’re going to talk about Using Secondhand Sources for Items New to You as a way to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

The Take-Make-Waste Model

The idea of take-make-waste (taking resources from the earth, making something with them, then throwing the items away) is relatively new. In the beginning to middle of the 1900’s (especially around WWI and WWII) recycling and reusing were championed. It wasn’t until fairly recently that those ideals faded and we turned into a throw-away culture.

Today, rather than continue to evolve towards conservation and resource efficiency, we seem to devolve into a world of waste and pollution. Approximately 50% of all food produced in the U.S. is thrown out, and food waste is the biggest occupant in American landfills, costing taxpayers billions in landfill disposal fees. Americans throw out 80 pounds of clothing each year. And about 90% of plastic waste ultimately ends up in a landfill or incinerated. The statistics go on, but the loss of these resources has a double sting: there’s a hefty price tag attached to all this waste and dire implications for our health.

Closed Loop Partners

This model is wreaking havoc on our planet and in our lives:

  • The amount of waste making its way to our landfills is rapidly increasing which is damaging the earth as well as causing taxpayers money.
  • Producing a new item uses a lot of the earth’s [finite] resources and creates a lot of pollution.
  • Buying new items increases our water footprint and our energy use. We have to remember that our water footprint and energy use includes water and energy we don’t see or pay for directly (such as the water and energy used to produce a new item).
  • It costs the consumer more money to buy new versus used which can take a huge chunk out of our budget.

Using Secondhand Sources Instead

We are told to reduce, reuse, recycle. After reducing our consumption it’s time to focus on how we use the items we do consume. This is where buying secondhand (or borrowing, or trading, or upcycling) comes in. Instead of buying a new item, using it once, and then throwing it away, look for ways to reuse.

If you need a new cooking pot, small appliance, set of dishes – head to the thrift store. There are many different sizes and styles to choose from. I bought a bread maker from a thrift store about 20 years ago (seriously) and it still works! It cost me about $3. All I had to do was download the instructions from the manufacturer’s website and I was making bread.

Same with books and clothing. Buying new books and clothing is expensive and hard on the planet. Instead, buy used books and clothing. You are reducing your water footprint, the amount of natural materials consumed, and saving a ton of money.

Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

For the items you know you do not need to keep long-term, look for ways to borrow. The library is an obvious place to start for books, movies, music, magazines, and so much more. Friends and family often have items we can borrow (I borrow my parents’ pressure washer every year to clean my deck and my neighbors borrow my canner).

Trading is also a great option as a secondhand source. Years ago, I had a group of friends who got together once or twice a year to have a swap. We all brought items we didn’t want or need anymore, then took turns picking an item from what someone else brought. I got some amazing things at these events and had fun with my friends in the process!

Learn More!

This is just the tip of the iceberg on ways to use secondhand sources for items new to you. Follow us on Facebook to keep up with the discussion as we talk about using secondhand sources throughout the week! You can also visit our Waste Reduction page to learn more.

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