Globally, around 80% of people buy secondhand goods, including 1 in 5 Americans. Resale is a multi-billion dollar industry, and with good reason: shopping secondhand has major environmental and ethical implications for reducing the 10.5 billion tons of waste sent annually to landfills. If you’re looking to conserve resources, repurposing clutter you can’t part with is one option, but shopping secondhand for anything from clothes to cars to refurbished laptops is another key aspect to protecting the environment.
Get Thrifty for Clothes
Textiles are emerging as the next major way to reduce global waste at a local level. Roughly 85% of clothes end up in landfills, but recent efforts to promote thrifting and secondhand shopping aim to reduce that. In particular, many cities are creating charity projects aimed at recycling textiles to low-income communities abroad. Existing research stresses that the key impact of secondhand at a macro level is that it reduces production, making it therefore even more environmentally impactful than recycling in the textile industry. Shopping for secondhand clothes also saves money that you would spend at a department store while helping promote the presence of eco-friendly shopping in your area. Vintage consignment stores are a great option to score designer pieces for less than their retail value.
Cars and Transportation
Often, it’s actually more environmentally friendly to drive used cars, especially if that used car gets good gas mileage. The logic here is simple: driving a used car or truck reduces the number of automobiles that sit in compound lots each year. Again, as in the textile industry, the number of used cars on the road lowers the amount of new car production, therefore curbing excess future waste. If your used car has reached the end of its lifespan, another eco-friendly option would be to sell it for parts (thus ensuring the parts are repurposed and not left to rot) or donating it to a charity that will do the same.
According to the EPA, recycling one million laptops is equivalent in energy to the electricity used to power more than 3,500 US homes in a year. Donating used electronics converves rare and precious metals used to make this equipment, including silver, copper, and palladium. Before donating electronics, always wipe all personal data from your phone and back up information you need. By the same token, shopping for certified refurbished electronics promotes an industry interested in conserving resources while saving you money. It’s also a good idea to learn the process for donating used batteries in your state, which are often a write-off for taxes. It pays, ultimately, to recycle!
Rethinking our everyday shopping choices with an eye towards sustainability adds up to big changes in resource conservation. For the average American, options for embracing secondhand are practically limitless and often cost effective, all while reducing the impact of waste on our planet. For broader society, secondhand is key to curbing new production of goods (e.g., cars, clothes) that drain our valued resources.