Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shopping Golightly is also Shopping Go Green

Most people think thrifting is merely a way for the poor to afford clothes or a short-term solution of tightening our budgets to get through hard times. Among many other good things, thrifting is a way to reduce our personal carbon footprint.

When we think of carbon footprints, energy usage comes to mind. We think of renewable options like wind, solar, natural gas. While we certainly need to exercise these (and other) options, we need look towards a sustainable economy that produces low carbon products. So then, we think cars. Plug-in hybrid, hydrogen fuel cell, natural gas, and now – even compressed air.

But to really take hold, we must go beyond the power plants and transportation systems of our world. Finally, issues like food security are being addressed in the media. This is good (ever think of how much fossil fuel it takes to bring a 2 calorie grape to the US from Chile?). But, how do we start addressing everyday items? I’m not talking about recycling newspapers or bringing a bag to the grocery store; I’m talking about the clothes, dishes, and furniture we buy or maintain.

Call it re-purposing or re-use, but buying products in thrift stores is one way I know for certain consumers can shop green with confidence. Products from thrift stores:

  1. Have already made their manufacturing stamp. No additional energy is required to make this product. Done! Fin!
  2. Have already burned the fuel of transport in the bellies of jets, ships and trucks, often from the other side of our planet. The only fuel attached to item is the car ride over, which more likely than not (in an urban or suburban environment) is probably less than five miles.
  3. Do not carry the weight of excessive packaging of new products. Ever liberated Barbie from that plastic and cardboard hell? Ever thought about the energy that packaging took to make and then assemble, and the associated material and human footprint? Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes to my mind when given that box to open. People in a factory halfway across the globe put every appendage in place with a twisty-tie! They sew the hair in place to a piece of plastic so it fans out! (I do not buy Barbies. But my daughters have received them. Don’t buy my daughters Barbies - they really do not have a long interest life.)
  4. Divert reusable items from landfills.
  5. Support charities, many of which directly turn around and support our communities.

I believe people want to do right by our planet. But, psychologically, we often equate this “doing the right thing” with an extra cost we, personally, cannot afford. Here is the irony; a dining room set or carpet bought at the thrift store is a gift to the pocket book and puts more carbon credits in the world bank. So we need not equate our participation in a green economy on the same level as those who have the means to buy a Prius.

Being green is not something left to power companies or those who can afford a next generation car, being green is available to the masses in ways we have yet to truly grab hold. Saving energy is not solely in the domain of the entities that produce it. And saving energy goes beyond turning off the lights or switching out bulbs. This is an energy savings that can be achieved in our shopping habits. This savings has yet to come to the forefront of our national discussion. It is a part of our personal training program we need to make routine for that steep climb that President Elect Obama spoke of. See the November 6th post on The Thrifty Chicks.

During the peak of the American shopping season, spend your energy wisely! Become an official first generation Eco-thrifter and make reducing your carbon foot print a part of your shopping agenda.

8 comments:

jeanne said...

#4 is a particularly compelling point, one that's driven home to me with every trip to the Goodwill Bins, where they're moving blue bins of merchandise in and out all day long. Where do they go when they leave the Bins? I've heard through the grapevine that the clothing gets sent to the Third World, which I believe when I see photos of African children wearing Georgetown jerseys. Every time I load up my cart at the Bins ($1.59 a pound, dropping to $1.39 for 10# and over, etc.) I think I must be diverting a little something from the waste stream, at least for a while. I'm contributing to it too, but I like to think of my shopping as waste (instead of carbon) offsetting.

Stephen Lacey said...

AMEN! This is such an important point -- one that I think gets missed in the overall picture. Too often, people are focused on buying "green" products without thinking about the entire life-cycle of the product. Taking the thrifty route is the ultimate way to reduce your environmental impact. Nice post!

Shopping Golightly said...

Right on Stephen! Everyone is thinking new. People don't think about all piles of stuff we already have. That's the American mentality, "If it's not NEW it's EWW!"

Joan of ARC said...

Shopping Golightly-thanks for the link! I need to shop with you -you have quite the eye for the finds. Great idea to involve the kids and teach them-we even had a birthday party where we gave each girl 5 dollars to spend as they wanted-then had a fashion show. They had a blast!
Joan of ARC aka LB

Michelle Smith said...

Thanks for the great post--you did a really nice job of spelling out all the positive impacts of thrift store shopping.

Shopping Golightly said...

Thank you Michelle. Let's have a genuine hope it comes to make a difference. Converting many people to thrift is no easy task. I believe it’s one of those simple, common sense concepts that we tend to complicate thanks to modern retailers.

Cool Threads said...

Amen. If nothing else, the good vibes of thrifting complements the good feeling of saving some cash, especially when you score a great item (usually clothing for me).

Since I can drive a couple of routes on my way home, I get to stop by a couple of my local ARCs without a hassle, so it's no big deal.

I loathe going to a mall anyway. Inevitably, my internal timer to run out of there goes off consistently after about 45 minutes. I don't tend to care how much time I spend in a thrift store - it depends on what I find, not how much I want to bolt out of there.

Anyone else's timer pop?

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