Shop Green + Save Money = Love the Planet
Before buying "brand new," consider giving something a 2nd chance
One of the simplest ways to become a greener consumer is to simply practice the act of REUSING. By giving an item a second life, you save money, help eliminate new material going into production, and reduce the amount of waste going to the landfills every year. Here are some of my top ways to shop green:
1. Thrift Shops
Goodwill, Salvation Army, Big Brother Big Sisters, Habitat Restore... these are just some of my personal favorite thrift shops. They're a great place to find deals on gently-used household items (and clothing). Many churches also have thrift shops associated with them. Not only is thrift-store-shopping a "green" decision, you're also likely supporting a non-profit that's dedicated to a great cause. Plus, these are the perfect places to donate your items once you've finished with them so you can give someone else the opportunity to enjoy them as much as you once did (and don't forget to grab a receipt for tax purposes!).
2. Craigslist, Tag Sales, Estate Sales
You may have noticed that I sort of have a thing about finding and refinishing old furniture... and the best place to find it? My favorite place is either Craigslist or Tag/Estate/Garage Sales, because that's where I find the most unique, reasonably-priced pieces. Tag Sales are hit-or-miss, and probably 90% of the time, I leave without finding anything I like, but when I do find something, it's well worth it (remember the Vintage Chifferobe I nabbed for $27?) When you shop on Craigslist you have a little more control, because you can see photos of items and ask the seller questions right from your computer, saving you the "driving and browsing" time associated with tag-sale-shopping. Both forums welcome negotiation, so don't be afraid to offer an amount below asking price--that's how I've gotten some of my best deals. Is Craigslist unknown territory to you? Check out these posts for more helpful info: Tips for Buying on Craigslist and Tips for Selling on Craigslist.
3. Consignment Stores and Flea Markets
Some of my favorite, most unique pieces of furniture I've collected have come from consignment stores or flea markets. Much like the items available on Craigslist, you'll come across furniture with a lot of character, but unlike Craiglist, you've got someone who's already "sorted through" everything for you. The shop or booth owner has already scouted out some great pieces, and often put them on display so you can appreciate their beauty and practicality more fully (that presentation depends on the shop, of course--some are totally disorganized and chaotic). You'll generally pay more for items from consignment shops and flea markets (because you're also paying for someone's time and whatever overhead is involved in their businesses). But again, it's worth it, because you can find some high-quality pieces for much less than you'll be paying at a furniture store. Of all my furniture, my Dining Console (purchased from a consignment store) is the piece of that always gets the most compliments.
4. Kids Consignment Sales
If you're a parent, and you haven't been to one of these yet, you're totally missing out! Basically these baby and child-focused sales welcome consignors (parents: that means you) to sell their gently-used kids gear. The specifics vary based on the organizers, but basically you set your own price for the items you're selling, and you net a percentage of that price if the item sells (the last sale I participated in, consignors netted 70%!). Keep in mind, you do the grunt work involved in getting the labels on the items and helping set them up for the sale, but it's definitely worth it. Plus, consignors and sale volunteers get to shop first, allowing you to then score the BEST DEALS on new stuff for your own kiddies (last time I got a Patagonia jacket in awesome condition for just $7!). These sales are also a great way to try out toys and gear that you're just not sure will work for you own kids (so why pay full price for it?). Will your baby like an Exersaucer? A Walker? A Balance Bike? Who knows? But when you're paying about 20% of full retail for it, it's much easier to take that risk. Also, some of the most popular items at these sales are the plastic Step 2 and Little Tykes structures. You can save a ton of money by buying that stuff used, plus, by buying/selling that stuff instead of tossing it, you help eliminate tons (Literally! TONS!) of landfill waste.
As a green, thrifty parent, what can you do if you don't have kids consignment stores or sales around you? Luckily, there are now more and more online options. One of my favorite of those is Kidizen. Kidizen is a community of like-minded parents (and you can be one of them!) who want to get the most out of their kids' clothing. The process of selling and buying on Kidizen is SO EASY--you can do it right from your phone! Just download the free iOS Kidizen app (which, like their website, has a really clean, friendly interface--that's SO important to me and one of the things I like best about Kidizen), and follow the easy directions on your screen.
- KIDIZEN SELLING: If you want to list an item for sale, you simply snap a photo of it (again, you can do it all from your phone) and fill in the details about size, brand, and condition, and price (you name your own). Then sit back and wait as the rest of the Kidizen community scrambles to get their hands on it ;)
- KIDIZEN SHOPPING: This part is even cooler. You can customize options for each of your children. For example, when I open the app, I just click the little photo that designates which child I'm shopping for (the app then remembers their sizes). From there, I can choose which category I want to shop in (e.g., shoes, clothes), and then further refine my search results by brand. When you find something you like, you simply add it to your cart and keep shopping! When you're finished, just check out by using Paypal or a credit card.
There are so many benefits to shopping secondhand, but most importantly, consider doing it because it's good for the environment. You'll end up saving money, and chances are, you'll end up with a collection of much more unique and personalized pieces than most of your neighbors :)
This post is part of the Spring Greening Month Series. Find out why I'm hosting this event here.
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