Week 16 Recap: Use Secondhand Sources for Items New to You

If you attended our June Lunch and Learn program, you heard our Vice President Viverjita Umashankar talk about our current linear economy and how we need to convert to a circular economy. Putting so many resources into products that just end up in the landfill, often after only one use, is not sustainable. This week we talked about local secondhand sources that help us keep items circulating in the economy and out of the landfill.

Is it a Need or a Want and Does it Really Need to be New?

The only shopping that is more sustainable than secondhand is not to shop at all, so first consider whether you really need something you’re thinking about buying. If you do really need or want it, see if you can find it through a secondhand source before buying it new. Shopping at a local thrift store also keeps your dollars in the community and helps the charity running it to support their other programs.

The Case of Fast Fashion

We’re buying more than ever from a market that values quality less than ever, and a ravenous appetite for growth is slated to produce 100 million tons of clothing annually by 2030. The fashion industry is responsible for 8 to 10%of global carbon emissions, to say nothing of its water use and exploitative labor practices in countries across the globe. Faced with the sheer scale of this nightmare, why ever buy anything new?

Sam Corbin, The personal, political, and environmental case for buying all your clothes secondhand, Insider

Fast Fashion is a huge contributor to global carbon emissions and landfill waste. It is also extremely difficult to track the sustainability of an item all the way down the supply chain. In the article quoted above, Sam Corbin states that the closest thing found to a truly sustainably-constructed item of clothing is a Stella McCartney shirt which had a price tag of $550. Why so much?

“It’s labor and parts,” Kibbe said, “[because] you source fiber from small farms, who are paying a lot more not to use pesticides, and you’re paying fair wages.”

The personal, political, and environmental case for buying all your clothes secondhand, Insider

Buying secondhand clothing is great for the environment as well as easier on your budget. If you are interested in shopping for secondhand clothing online, try Poshmark, ThredUp, Tradesy, and TheRealReal. I have personally purchased items from Poshmark and have been pleased with what I got.

Photo by Becca McHaffie on Unsplash

Yard Sales

Yard sales are another great way to find secondhand treasures and some sales, like those coordinated by Christ Episcopal Church, raise money to help those in need in our community. In addition to this upcoming Christmas in July sale, which will feature all sorts of Christmas items as well as items from other holidays, Christ Church will hold a book sale on August 21 and a sale of household items on September 18. All sales are 8:00 am to noon. You can find a list of organizations helped by the Christ Church Yard Sale on their website.

Often, neighborhoods will host a neighborhood-wide yard sale where you can find many secondhand items without having to drive all over town. Facebook also offers many other ways to shop secondhand, including the local yard sale group NRV Yard Sale and Facebook Marketplace.

Vintage and Flea Markets

Image: Blacksburg Vintage Market

The Blacksburg Vintage Market, usually held on the second Sunday of the month from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, is happening this Sunday, July 18. Enjoy shopping for unique items in the fresh air and community atmosphere of Market Square Park. Sometimes there is even live music.

Image: Starlite Drive-In Theater

Another outdoor shopping experience for secondhand items is a flea market happening every Saturday for the rest of the summer at the Starlite Drive-In Theater in Christiansburg from 7:00 am to 1:30 pm. It’s like having multiple yard sales all in one place.

Thrift Stores

Did you know that there is a clothing thrift store downtown in the Old Town Hall building? The MCEAP Blacksburg Clothing Shop is not as well known as some, but is open on Thursday mornings to provide the community with great deals on clothing. Proceeds benefit the Montgomery County Emergency Assistance Program. Sustainable clothing while helping those in need in the community – a win-win!

You can find a list of secondhand stores on our Waste Reduction page

The Buy Nothing Project

If you have not yet joined one of Blacksburg’s Buy Nothing Projects, you definitely need to check them out! Key principles of the Buy Nothing Project are to give from our abundance to others in our community without expecting anything in return. But what we receive is so much better than what we give: getting to know others in our community, knowing that something we no longer need or want is going directly to someone who does need or want it, not having to contribute to environmental problems by buying something new, keeping things circulating and out of the landfill. The Buy Nothing community provides a unique addition to the ways that we can use to extend the life of items as long as possible. It’s like passing on (or receiving) something to (or from) a neighbor, but with your neighborhood extended to encompass half of Blacksburg and people you haven’t met yet. The original Buy Nothing Blacksburg group became so popular that it split into two groups. If you live on the right side of Main St (heading north), you can join the Buy Nothing Blacksburg (East), VA group and if you’re on the left side of Main St, you can join the Buy Nothing Blacksburg (West), Va group. The group even helped start a Buy Nothing Christiansburg, VA group.


Another great way to source secondhand items without spending money is to participate in, or even host, a swap. At a swap, people bring things they no longer want and get to bring home items that are new to them that were brought by other people. Blacksburg Library, Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library, Va has hosted clothing and craft supply swaps and two local residents, Su Clauson and Brenda Graff, started a very popular seed and plant swap that is also held at the library. It is held twice a year, in early May and in October on a non-football weekend. The rules are that participants bring seed packets and/or plants (houseplants, ornamentals, herbs, fruits, etc), but NOT loose cuttings. In the first round of the swap, people may select a number of offerings equal to the number they brought. In the second round, they give away all the leftovers to whomever is interested in participating. There are lots of ideas online for organizing a swap, like in this article. We will be sure to publicize any community swaps we learn about.

Coming Up…

Week 17 starts tomorrow! Join us as we talk about the impact that donating and giving away items we no longer need can have on sustainability. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook to see daily updates.

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