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How I Do the “3R’s” in a Local Store

2013 August 12

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Amy Miller

I walked into my neighborhood second-hand shop recently to shuffle through the dress rack, but the owner had a different idea for my visit.

“Amy, what do you think of us becoming a non-profit organization?” the local proprietor asked me.

Her notion of a non-profit thrift store reminded me that secondhand shops are actually one element in national efforts to reduce waste. No longer just destinations for bargain hungry and hip shoppers, thrift stores have a role to play in environmental protection.

Remember the three Rs of environmentalism – reduce, reuse, recycle? Reuse, as in wear other people’s clothes, or use other people’s dishware.

This local owner had no idea I am working on zero waste materials as a writer for EPA. And she had no idea that I have become smitten with the thought of communities encouraging second-hand stores. By the time I finished talking, the poor woman had a glazed look that said, “TMI!” in no uncertain terms.

Thrift stores and consignment shops represent the best of reuse. Shoppers happily reuse each others’ clothes, shoes, mugs and books. That means one less dress, coffee cup or dictionary is manufactured and shipped, and one less product heads for the landfill or transfer station.

Although second-hand clothing has been trendy for a while, these shops are not part of environmental policy in South Berwick, Maine, or anywhere else I’ve been lately. EPA encourages shopping at re-use shops and buying used or recycled when possible.

Yes, we have a small swap shop at the dump, as we call it. And yes, some residents have created a local “swap, sell or give” Facebook page. But, these are still not part of town environmental policy.

Later, I wondered if the next generation has internalized the importance of reuse faster than adults. I asked my son if he knew why it is better to reuse than recycle a bottle, for instance.

“Yes, Mommy,” my son told me. “It is better to reuse than recycle because it takes oil and energy to recycle the bottle.”

Plus, I noted, “It takes energy to transport the bottle to the recycling plant, and then back again to another customer.”

He had heard it all before.

Perhaps the owner of my second-hand clothing shop wasn’t ready to turn her store into the cutting edge of waste management policy. But, I am still dreaming of a thrift shop promoted or subsidized by the town. Maybe she will be ready to see me again next week.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, eight chickens, dusky conure dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Pitter permalink
    August 12, 2013

    cool! blog

  2. Arman.- permalink
    August 12, 2013

    Amy….., Your Dream Will Be Come True !!!

    The Capitalism glorifies the present lifestyle, the exact opposite with The Socialism. But both of them be polished by human natural talent that over saturated with sense of wasting. Fundamentally, the Human are longing for life as they needed, like Environmentalism Thinking…!

  3. electra27 permalink
    August 12, 2013

    Every Monday, Wednesday, Fridayand Sunday I do my “walk around” to the nearby highrises near the waters’ edge. This is my “Boutiqua Estrada.” Over the years I have collected furniture and plants, pictures, various sundry items like animal carriers or litter boxes, etc. One pathetic note on a beautriful desk said, “Will someone pick me up, anyone?” Being very resourceful, I have used and or distributed to friends or coworkers. There are ways people can tell others of good garbage in my city, but some people don’t want to bother. Not that I found it easier either. Some places won’t take furniture or charge to have it picked up. If there were a method of people or myself bringing it to a nearby shop down a nearby street in the currently empty office space, I would love to have a grant from the EPA to run it on a pilot project basis. I certainly couldn’t bring all the pieces I see to even our city’s recycling spot as it is so far away. Otherwise, more and more will land in landfills. So it would be a free store to donate and to pick up. So I think we need the intermediaries, like the people who hand collect our cans and bottles for recycling, and for the cat rescuers (like myself) and the modern day gleaners that get bread from a nearby bakery that throws it out—once again, no one wants to go to the bakery to pick it up.

  4. Jason D permalink
    August 13, 2013

    Excellent blog, very informative. Thank you!

  5. Ashley K permalink
    August 13, 2013

    Fun read, thanks. – J.d

  6. rudi permalink
    August 19, 2013

    nice blog

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