Green Lifestyle

Published on July 30th, 2019 | by Sarah Dephillips


3 Reasons to Buy Used Stuff and 4 Places to Find It

In this part of our zero waste series, we focus on the 2nd of the famous “3 Rs”. This, of course, is REUSE. Reuse comes second on this easy-to-remember list of ways to help the planet because it’s better to use something over and over again than  to put the energy into making something new out of it (which is recycling). We’ve already made a list of common waste items that you can put to creative reuse. But we also wanted to point out the simple and beautiful reasons to buy used stuff.

In our culture today, we’re bombarded with advertisements that tell us we need new things. That’s because the companies that run those ads depend on our dollars to increase their value. But what many companies don’t care much about is where the resources for their products come from, or what happens to their products when they break or consumers tire of them. So while companies work out ways to improve the sustainability of their products and their profits simultaneously, we would assert that buying used is the new… new! 

What are the reasons to buy used stuff?

1. Help yourself – it’s cheaper.

It’s no surprise to anyone that new goods are a lot more expensive than used ones! If you’re on a budget, you can’t beat used prices. Another angle of this advantage is that you can buy higher quality used products for the same price as a low-quality new ones. Higher quality usually means higher price, but also means better durability and less waste. So rather than a cheap new item, go for an inexpensive, high quality used one.

2. Help the Earth – keep the product out of a landfill.

This is where the “green” part of buying used really kicks in. The longer we can extend a product’s useful life, the longer it stays out of a landfill. On the flip side, buying a used product is a choice to not buy a new product. New products require new resources. So choosing a used product over a new one saves energy and resources that would be used to produce a new product. Maybe one product doesn’t seem to matter much, but it all adds up! 

3. Help an individual or organization – know where your dollars go.

Each dollar you spend is like a vote supporting the person or entity you spent it on. Many charities, individuals, and small businesses make their money in the used goods market. Why support a multibillion dollar corporation when you can get something less expensive or higher quality and support a local charity or family? 

Where to buy used stuff

Each community has their own market for used stuff. Get online or go for a walk around your neighborhood and see what you can find! Here are some places you’re likely to get some good bargains no matter where you live:

1 Thrift stores

Thrift stores usually run on donations from people getting rid of their used stuff who don’t want to be bothered with selling it or who want the profits to go to a good cause. Generally their profits do go to benefit some organization or cause, and often your donation of used stuff is eligible for a tax deduction – just ask. You can find clothing, furniture, cookware, home decor, tools, books, games, and more at thrift stores. Some thrift stores, such as Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore chain, even specialize in building materials and large appliances.

2. Online marketplaces

Online platforms for buying and selling used goods abound. Ebay is one of the oldest and most well known. Major cities (and some minor ones) have pages like Craigslist where individuals can put up classified ads for free. Apps like OfferUp and Letgo allow you to shop and sell used stuff from your phone and give you a secure way to communicate with other buyers and sellers. Social media sites like Facebook have virtual marketplaces, and many communities have their own “virtual yard sale” pages where people can post things they’re selling or looking for. The internet is a great place to find used stuff, and most sites and apps have “free” sections where one person’s trash can become another’s treasure.

3. Yard sales and flea markets

Don’t forget the old-fashioned yard sale! Yard sale shopping is a little bit like treasure hunting, so grab a friend on a summer Saturday morning and go find treasure. Often yard sales are advertised in local papers, Facebook pages, or Craigslist so you can plan your route. You never know what you’ll find, you’re bound to meet some interesting people, and your money is directly supporting families in most cases. 

4. Businesses who get it

There are all sorts of reasons that for-profit businesses sell used things, from used cars to refurbished Kindles. It’s profitable with low inputs, it allows access to a different consumer market, or it gives them a unique niche in the market. Some businesses, like Patagonia, realize that their environmental responsibility for their products extends all the way to the end of the product’s life. That’s why their worn wear program allows you to buy used Patagonia clothing at a discounted price. Plato’s Closet stores will also buy your used clothing and accessories to resell for profit and to keep them out of landfills. 

Of course there will always be a few items that you’ll want to get new. But if you try shopping used, you’ll see that you can find most things you need (and want) for less money and impact on the Earth. Give it a try and see how much fun it can be!

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