Nothing but my undies.

I own almost nothing new – though I make an obvious exception for my underwear. I buy (most of) my stuff new because I’ve learned just how much more sustainable it is to use something that already exists than to encourage and incentivize the manufacture of something new.

You might be thinking ‘yeah, well you have access to a whole lot of secondhand stuff, so it’s easy for you’ — but it should be noted that I have made a point to create this ease of access for myself (and for you) because I believe that choosing reuse over new stuff is a critical behavior change that we need adopt,together, if we’re to successfully mitigate/minimize the increasing devastation of climate disruption.

It also helps to recognize that we’ve been culturally acclimated to expect convenience in a shopping experience that gives us exactly what we want, when we want it. And recognizing this — that we’ve been conditioned to immediately gratify our ‘needs’ — is a first critical step toward embracing reuse as a powerful environmental solution. Once we kick the ‘need it now’ reflex, we can put more thought into our choices… and take more pride in them, as well. Psychologically, there’s power about knowing we’re doing our part to offset climate disruption – and choosing to establish a preference for secondhand products is an important first step.

In the interest of making this easier for those of us who don’t work in the resale biz, there are several ways in which we can move gradually backward from ‘buy it new, buy it now.’

1. Buy used stuff online: even if you can’t be patient, you can be deliberate: eBay and Amazon both allow users to specify ‘condition’ as a search field (here’s where to find the ‘Used’ condition option on eBay, and here’s where to find the ‘Used’ condition option on Amazon).

Getting back to patience (or a less urgent need, anyway), eBay also allows you to specify ‘used’ as a criterion when setting up search alerts, so you can get pinged when the object of your intention shows up as a secondhand option.

2. Shop locally: In Minnesota, you can use the reuse database at to perform a specific product search at businesses in our state (and mostly in the metro) that resell, repair, and lease (rentals) stuff to the public. Don’t hesitate to call the shops you find there to make sure something’s in stock before making a trip. If you’re on a quest for something specific, it’s a great place to start.  Craigslist also offers a ‘used’ criterion, so again, even when shopping for reuse locally, the internet is your friend. 🙂

3. Borrow it: There are also some great resources worth having on the short list – if not for what you need right now, then for future reference.

Libraries are always great for books — but there are other ways to borrow what you need: is a location-based peer-to-peer lending network with active members in the metro, the NE Minneapolis Tool Library provides access to a whole range of stuff, and the Minneapolis Toy Library is also a great resource for parents of youngsters. Of course, friends and neighbors are also great sources — and there are all sorts of special interest and/or local swap groups out on Facebook.

4. Think creatively about what you *really* need: Realistically, this is the ideal solution (don’t buy stuff) — but it’s not always the most obvious, and we wanted to offer concrete tactical solutions before we risked losing our audience. 🙂

You can exercise creative consumption when you question your perceived need for a purchase in the first place. Do you need new curtain hooks, or do you just need a solution that results in curtains installed at your windows?

We also have names for all sorts of products that seem to have cornered the market on a specific function, when the world got along for millennia without them. Typically, this means that someone has marketed the hell out of something that didn’t previously exist, because people got along just fine without it. For example, maybe we don’t need a salad spinner. Maybe we just need to figure out a better way to rinse and/or store our lettuce. Bonus: more cupboard space.

Do you need to buy a hammer, or do you need to sink a nail?

BTW, we love eHow for finding others’ hacks to similar problems (because you’re not the only one dealing with ’em).  Google works, too.

Allowing ‘purchase’ to be our only solution in solving everyday problems has taken a lot of the creativity out of our lives. Identifying desired outcomes and figuring out how to use what’s available to achieve them is a great way to stretch our brains a bit more — and it’s also a habit worth developing, a mindset, a choice.

Leave a Comment