Sustainability is about ecology, economy and equity.- Ralph Bicknese

Shopping Alternatives

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sleeveA little while back I wrote about the plagues of consumerism and how to better navigate the temptations of holiday shopping. Valentines Day, marking another shop-heavy time of year, may be another time in which our inclination to buy new items rises higher than usual, whether or not those items are romantically charged. Amped up sales and ads target us from all angles, all of them promoting with the word new, new, new. But does new have to be included in the rush we feel when we shop? I find that I get just as psyched, if not more so, when I discover something through an alternate, second-hand route. After all, isn’t a second-hand item still just as new to you and your life as that shirt hanging in the department store? Besides going thrifting, which already feels like a citywide sport in wonderful Seattle, there are a few other ways we can shop alternatively, being kinder to the planet in the process by eating up less resources.

Dumpster Diving

Not even kidding. The idea might seem out-there, but there’s nothing wrong with finding something you could use in the dumpster and taking advantage of it. Just be sure to wash and/or disinfect any items you do retrieve.

Farmer’s Market

Going shopping at a farmer’s market means that your money is going to a better, more needy place than the corporations that nest at the mall. You can also discover some offbeat and original stuff that can’t be found when limiting your vision to brand-name.

Swapping with Friends

Not only is trading a more sustainable way of acquiring items, it can also enhance a sense of community. Instead of getting rid of something you don’t need anymore, try asking around to see if any friends could. And if you’re on the lookout for a particular item, try checking in with your cohorts to see if anyone might be able to lend you what you need. As college students we’re often forced into this kind of sharing, swapping textbooks and doing anything we can to not pay for stuff; perhaps we can view this as training for the future.


You knew this was coming. If you haven’t combed over the craigslist free section, you should get on that. My roommate and I are proud to say that we didn’t pay for a microwave or dining table, instead finding both for free on craigslist, the items located just a few blocks from our place. The microwave is still in use today, and there isn’t a trace of death on its electric horizon (new band name?). And the dining table? I’ve started to forget that it was even used. Simply put, if you like your stuff free, craigslist.

What was your latest secondhand find?

One thought on “Shopping Alternatives

  1. Talk to your friends about their favorite online shops. There are millions of sites out there, and there is no way you can find them all yourself. Talk to the people you know to find out who the reputable online retailers are, and where they like to shop. This can save you a lot of time and energy.