Having such a limited amount of any unpackaged stores in the area, I tend to clutch at straws. Bulk nuts at Lidl? Need to get them. Unpackaged soap? I’m in heaven. Free produce from the garden? I’ll dig it up! But one thing I’m never tired of and would continue doing regardless of whether I am wealthy or poor, zero waste or not, student or professional: I’d still go charity shopping.
Every time I happen to be around town, I nip into one (Or two. Or three. Actually, all of them. You never know!) and have a quick scan. I usually know what I need (aspiring a simple lifestyle and only buying what I need), so my visits usually take less than 3 minutes. But if I do get a find, it literally makes me feel like the environmental superhero.
What’s so great about charity shops then? (And second hand shops, for that matter. We don’t have any of them here.)
First, it’s as zero waste as I dare to say you could get. Apart from the clothing/book/item, you usually get only the tag that’s ‘extra’ and needs disposing of. The clothing itself, as it’s second hand, doesn’t use any extra resources to be produced (it’s already around anyway). Sure, the charity produces all kinds of waste, from transport to collection to staff. But this would be the exact same in any clothes shop. So unless you make your own clothes from fibres of the tree in your back garden (GOD I need to meet you!), this is your best bet.
Secondly, it’s also reducing other people’s waste. How come? By keeping unwanted items out of landfill, and by eliminating the need to produce the exact same item new with possibly non-renewable resources. Just imagine how many times somebody in your home town has thrown something out that you were desperately looking for? Probably countless times! I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time a few times now, but this is all down to luck, and unless somebody posts on Freecycle (or similar sites), there is no way to find out. Enter: charity shops, “The place where things can make a stop-over while waiting for their new owners”. Oh, and did I mention raise money for a good cause..?
Who would you rather give your money to? This non-transparent, probably multi-national corporation who claims to employ humane working conditions and fair wages when producing their garments (Come on. We all know they don’t), or the people who actually have a tax-free status so they could use all the money they can get to improve the health and life of people who are not as lucky as you?
Lastly, let’s get down to the point where usually everybody is hooked. They are cheap. And when I say cheap, I mean ridiculously “Are-you-sure-they-haven’t-mixed-up-something-here-this-cannot-seriously-be-the-actual-price”-cheap. It does depend where you go, yes. But even the ‘expensive’ shops sell clothes, books, DVDs, and other stuff at 50%-90% cheaper than Primark-cheap. Which is ridiculously cheap in itself.
Today’s shop is the prime example. My boyfriend and me went to pick up a glass jug which was about to go into the bin (he knew because he was volunteering there), and came out with said jug, four books and a steamer. How much would you think this cost us? I’ll give you some more info on the items.
- The books, three of which were hardbacks and looked near as new, one of which was a well-used paperback, cost together £81.98 new (official RRP).
- The jug was in original packaging (and it was supposed to be thrown!) and is very similar to this one here (same manufacturer & product line), which costs £8.96.
- The steamer is a bit harder to estimate, as I cannot identify a brand or any clues. It was basically two steaming baskets sold together, one of which looked like this, the other one like this. Let’s assume they cost new £20, which is still a more than decent price.
This amounts to a new price of £110,94. Of course they weren’t all new (the jug was, and the books came very close), so I’d really encourage you to have a guess. How much would you pay for these items? I’ll tell you at the end of this post (NO peeking!).
“What’s the downside of charity shops? Everything has to have a downside!”, I hear you say. I give you the downside:
They are tempting. Once you get over the initial “Aren’t only poor people supposed to shop here!?”-feeling that society trained you well to feel, it’s like you’re on a retail treasure hunt. I wanted to reduce my books by giving them away via Bookcrossing, but since I have bought so many new ones that I ended up with more than I started with! I imposed a book-buying-ban for the time being (which I kept for weeks but broke today. Oops), in order to keep my bookshelf from overflowing. I mean, it’s so cheap, so one more book won’t make any difference to my budget! (Until it becomes 20x ‘one more’ book.)
They are far too exciting. Charity shops are like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get. This couldn’t be more true! I sometimes find myself realising that I needed this particular item which I absolutely didn’t come in for, but it makes me more than happy that I have found it. (Insert minimalism post about ‘want’ and ‘need’ here. The line is not clear cut, yet.) If you have high blood pressure, maybe don’t try charity shopping…
They take time. For every one treasure I found so far, I’ve tried 20 previous shops for the same item. As I said, it’s more of a treasure hunt than a shopping tour. And if you don’t have patience, it might become even more frustrating that this awesome pair of shoes are totally not your size.
I can ramble on and on (and on) about this old new passion of mine, but I think you only know what I’m talking about when you set your foot into one. If you think the front show room is full of treasures, volunteer and find out just how much more is waiting in the back storage rooms for a new owner. It’s, frankly, ridiculous that humanity owns so much stuff!
Oh, and by the way, we paid £1.97 for the five items. One. Ninety-seven. That’s more than 99% off. Enough said. Now go out and go charity shopping!! (Or thrift-shopping, depending on what’s in your area)