Keeping it Sustainable
One aspect of sustainability is the management of personal “stuff”. It’s easy to amass a multitude of items that aren’t always needed, and those that want to live a more sustainable lifestyle find it’s important to reconsider whether a purchase is necessary before buying. When something new is needed, or even just wanted, one sustainably minded way of getting it is to buy pre-owned. Technology makes doing this a much simpler process than it used to be. Websites and social media allow people that have unwanted items to connect with those that are searching for what they’re getting rid of.
The Freecycle Network
When someone has items that they want to give away instead of selling, they can turn to a local Freecycle website to inform others. Members of the site receive email notices when items are listed, and if interested they can arrange a pick up. Many givers work on a first-come basis, meaning the first person to contact them about an item that has the ability to pick it up usually gets the item. These Freecycle communities are very active, and people have furnished entire rooms and homes with things others are giving away for free. (Freecycle.org)
The regional Craigslist websites provide more than just job or apartment listings. They also list items people are looking to sell, categorized and searchable on the site. Someone looking for a twin bed can find the “For Sale” section on Craigslist and click on the “Furniture” tab. Then, the search function is used to look specifically for the words “twin bed.”
People sell a variety of items on Craigslist, and many people find it’s worth checking the site first when they’re in the market for something. They also find going to the “Free” section on Craigslist useful. Just like with Freecycle, there are those who are looking to give away useful items to others who can pick them up. (Craigslist.com)
The online auction site eBay was one of the first websites that helped connect people that had items to get rid of with those that wanted them. Someone in New Jersey that wanted a copy of a specific book could easily find someone in Nebraska looking to sell a used copy.
Sellers on eBay can also sell new merchandise, so buyers that want to purchase only pre-owned items need to make sure they’re searching for “used” items. It allows searchers to check a box on the left side of the screen under “Condition” that ensures only used items be shown. (eBay.com) Social Networks
One source of used items that some people don’t think of is their social networks— the people they’re connected to on sites like Twitter or Facebook. It just takes a minute to post in a status update a request for an item that’s needed which may be in someone else’s attic, basement or spare room. They’ll be happy to give it a new home where it’ll be useful, sometimes offering to give it away for free.
Thrift stores have been around much longer but the Internet now makes them much easier to find. A search engine can find all the thrift stores in a region. A smartphone or travel-mapping system can help buyers get from one store to the next efficiently. Thrift stores are great for finding used clothing, housewares and furniture for very reasonable prices.
Consignment shops are usually more particular about the merchandise they carry than thrifts. Those that want to find more fashionable clothing can have great luck finding gently used pieces, and Internet searching for locations beforehand can save time.
Yard Sales/Garage Sales
Yard sales are hit or miss, but often worth a shot. Those that are seeking specific used items can use websites like Garage Sale Finder and Craigslist to find sales’ events that occur in the same area on the same day, usually on Saturday mornings. Often those that list their sales on these websites will also provide some information on the types of items that’ll be sold.
Seeking out larger, community yard sales that are becoming popular can also increase the chances of finding a specific item. Many communities sponsor a Saturday in the spring or fall and encourage residents that are planning to have a yard sale to hold them simultaneously. There are several communities in South Jersey that host such “town-wides”.
There’s a flip side to buying used, and that’s selling used. These websites, stores and yard sales are useful for those that are looking to buy used and spend less money than if they bought new. They’re also useful for those that have things they want to get rid of responsibly and while simultaneously earning a few dollars. Participating online and in local communities that buy and sell preowned items ensure that useful items get a second life instead of getting trashed
Some caution: technology has made it easy for people that don’t know each other to connect to buy and sell used items, but it’s always a smart idea for strangers to take safety precautions when meeting. It’s recommended to conduct the meeting during daylight hours in a public setting and be accompanied by someone else.
Robin Shreeves is a professional writer and journalist from South Jersey. She’s a contributor to Edible Jersey magazine, the voice behind the South Jersey Locavore blog, and a food writer for the largest environmental news site online, Mother Nature Network.