Living Life on the Cheap … A Green Case for Shopping Thrift

By Barb Tobias
NABBW’s Thrifting Expert

Years ago, after I got over myself, and realized that where I shopped didn’t define me, I actually allowed myself to love the art of thrifting. I’ve always been a blissful shopper and I took great thrill in discovering the vast array of treasures hidden beneath the rubble of someone else’s discards. The hunt became my game.

Another motivation was the simple fact that during that frugal discovery period … I was broke. Therefore, the realization that I could buy fabulous things for pennies on a dollar was balm to my ruffled psyche.

It didn\’t take long for me to get hooked on weekly decorating and wardrobe excursions. I would sort through the plunder found in thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets. I became a veteran power shopper, quickly falling in like with each secondhand venue I tested. Initially, I avoided consignment shops. They were just too rich for my ever-diminishing budget. And auctions? They scared the bejeebees out of me! Over time, and as my resources grew, I did add the loftier venues to my repertoire.

It wasn\’t until much later that I realized … I was actually recycling! I had inadvertently turned into a Green Queen. Rather than adding to the burgeoning problem of waste in America, my home and wardrobe came from sources that recycled goods. And, I learned how to renew or restore many of my own things … some of which had become rather tarnished and tattered. However, I loved these timeworn pieces and it was well worth the work to get them usable again.

It began to occur to me that how we dispose of our used goods was critical to the overall health of our planet. And although we are all encouraged to recycle our wastes, the truth of the matter is, this country is still the world leader in producing mountains of trash!

I was astounded to learn that Americans generate over 200 million tons of garbage every year. But, that number was so big, it just didn\’t resonate with me. I finally found an article where the EPA broke the recycling figures down. Did you know that each person produces about 4.5 pounds of solid waste per day.

Yikes!

What really blew my mind was how much of our resources we each consume every year. The average person, over a lifetime, will use up

  • 411 trees
  • 900 wire hangers
  • 43,000 cans of soda
  • 3,895 paper cups
  • 2,025 rolls of paper towels
  • 15,334 plastic water bottles
  • 18,306 shopping bags
  • And, 12 shopping carts full of wrappers from candy bars!

Okay, so I thought we, meaning “we” Americans, were pulling our weight in the recycling movement. Wrong. A full 67% of our junk is still tossed into landfills, while only 17% is recycled and 16% is burned as an energy source.

Recycling is certainly the answer for those that are intent on the greening of America, but only 17% of our nation has yet to establish an effective way to dispose of their used goods. According to the Wise Geek, 35% of the total material filling up landfills is packaging:

  • fast-food containers
  • office paper
  • disposable diapers
  • Styrofoam inserts
  • plastic bags

A partial answer to the country\’s recycling gloom might be alleviated if more people proactively chose to purchase used goods. Shopping for merchandise at secondhand outlets could drastically reduce the 67.9 pounds of used clothing each person tosses out yearly. That practice alone would take a big chunk out to the 20 billion pounds of textiles that routinely make their way into our landfills.

In the end it is up to us. Companies still have little incentive to use recycled materials because it is expensive … a cost that is typically passed on to the consumer. In summation, buy less, buy used, reduce the amount of garbage we each produce, chose items with less packaging, reuse what you have and donate items that are no longer needed so they can be put into the recycling cycle.

Resources

Turning Garbage into Gold

Reassessing the History of U.S. Hazardous Waste Disposal Policy

Environmental Protection Agency

Start you own High Profit Thrift Store

Wise Geek

Barb Tobias is a professional speaker and inspiring coach who renovates lives, homes and wardrobes by sticking her curious little nose into other people’s “thrifty business.” After a lifetime of transforming trash into treasure, this savvy mistress of thrift shares her secrets to finding deals, repurposing before tossing, reconstructing the tattered and renewing things others view as passé in her recent release…Tossed & Found; Where Frugal is Chic. Her “tell all” book is not simply a journey of personal transformation, but teaches a newly frugal nation how to purchase, purge and profit from thrift.