As I mentioned in my style article recently, the ethical overhaul on my life began around the time I went vegan over five years ago. As I learned about the atrocities committed by the agriculture industry on animals, workers, and the planet, it opened my eyes to the reality that most modern for-profit industries and big businesses act in much the same way. That is, with very little regard for the impact they are having on the world around them.
The explosion in popularity of low and zero waste living recently has inspired me to start this series and share with you how I go about living as low waste as possible in a world so obsessed with newness, updating, trends, and *shudders* plastic. I am beginning with the top three ways I ensure most of the stuff I own is secondhand. Keep your eye out in future for articles about my pantry and my personal care products, too.
People You Know
Most of my clothing and jewelry and a good portion of my furniture and household goods once belonged to someone I know. Rather than spending your money on something brand new that probably isn’t designed to last very long anyway, tap into the resources at your disposal – your loved ones. You can cut the impact in half for every person who has owned something before you (and for those who come after).
My main tip here is to encourage you to reach out to the people around you and let them know that you would like to be kept in the loop when they get rid of stuff, whether they are moving, redecorating, or just decide they don’t want something anymore. Chances are they will be grateful to you for giving them one less thing to worry about, and you can score some amazing additions to your home that are new to you.
This is something that I feel doesn’t get enough recognition and it really ought to. The piles of “junk” that you see by the roadside a few times a year when council clean up comes around are actually a treasure trove just waiting to be plundered. Granted, a lot of it is usually old or damaged, but oftentimes all you’ll need to do is give something a good wipe down and it will be good as new. My hot tip for this one is to go to the fancy suburbs. I didn’t appreciate the true potential of council clean ups until I moved to a nice area a few years ago, and now every time I spot the piles near my house I get my rummaging face on (picture it as a self-satisfied smirk) and get to work.
If you’re really committed to this, you can even hire a van or ute for the day and drive to some nice areas in your town and… well, go to town. The hire will quickly pay for itself.
I have adopted a beautiful, sturdy wooden desk, pots and pans, a computer chair, jars/vases, statues/art and (my favourite) more baskets than you can imagine all within a couple of blocks of my house over the past three years. They were all things I needed and would otherwise have spent a lot of money on, and now I love them as if they were my own from the beginning.
Hell, even Lentil the cat came from the streets, so I have a lot to thank them for.
This is a relatively new discovery for me and I only wish I had learned about it sooner. While I knew about buy/swap/sell groups in general, I didn’t realise that there is an entire segment of the community that is specifically about trading/swapping only. If you are in Sydney, this one is my favourite. I’m sure you can find a similar group where you live, too. The gist is this: people put up posts either getting rid of or looking for something, and they specify what they are willing to trade for it or, if they aren’t fussed, simply use the acronym NYT (name your trade). I joined the group when I got back from a month in my hometown at the beginning of this year. My mother is living that tiny home lifestyle, and I was inspired to introduce minimalism into my life even more by doing a huge cleanout of everything I own. The first couple of weeks home, I had two or three people coming by every other day to take stuff off my hands that they needed and I no longer did, and it brought me so much joy to know that it would all be useful all over again. And because I didn’t just want to replace everything with more things, I traded for food. I didn’t have to go grocery shopping during that whole clean out and beyond.
The standout was when I went to collect my mother’s fridge that had been sitting in storage and was too big for her new place, and traded the smaller fridge that I had previously got secondhand for a week’s worth of fresh fruit and veg. It went to a group of young housemates who were overjoyed with what was a big upgrade to them. Another touching moment was when a woman came to collect a bag full of jewelry (for a jar of olives) and told me she was going to disperse it amongst single mothers in a group she was in because they often couldn’t afford nice things for themselves.
Low waste living is rewarding. It makes you feel good because you are doing what you can to leave a light footprint on the earth, while simultaneously helping those around you. We only have one Earth, and it is up to us to treat her gently so she can continue to provide for us far into the future. If we don’t act now, there may not be a future in as little as fifty years, and while drastic change certainly needs to happen on a government and big business level, the power is in the people. We’ve got this.
How much of the stuff you own is secondhand? I’m curious!
I have set up Buy Me A Coffee! If you have ever found my writing helpful or insightful, or you just think I’m cute, it’s an easy (and cheap) way to show your support – a big thank you to those who have contributed so far!
As usual, please feel free to ask me any questions in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org