Tag Archives | shop at thrift stores

Car Seat Reycling and Depot Tour

I’ve been given wings to fly from UsedVancouver.com – a company that is allowing me to put my wishes for the environment into action. They are a classified site where people list or buy used items so talking about up-cycling and reusing is right up their alley. We just completed an awesome car seat recycling campaign and the reaction to this community project was fantastic. Car seats are probably the toughest item to dispose of with an earth friendly focus (read this article to understand why) so it felt great to assist with keeping 44 car seats out of the landfill! And yesterday I had the pleasure of delivering these car seats to Gibsons Recycling Depot because they deconstruct car seats and recycle the metal and plastic from the base and straps. UsedVancouver.com absorbed the cost of this initiative and needs to be recognized for their dedication to community projects.

I first learned about Gibsons Recycling Depot when writing my predictions for 2012 and thinking about ownership of waste. Talking to their staff and checking out their website really inspired more meaning to what being Eco-conscience with consumerism is all about. Thinking about the life cycle of a product before we buy it is so important to our health and the environment.  Now after physically visiting the depot, I had another light bulb moment about improving my consumer footprint and it’s a sign located as you drive into the depot with a simple, but important message “what do things really cost?” I took a picture and it’s included below:

 

You just need to tour your local recycling depot to understand the answer to that question. Your answer might be different than mine, but I interpret it to mean that the little things we as consumers purchase – things that we don’t need to survive (clothing, shelter, food, education) that we can afford in the moment because they seem affordable and give us temporary/instant gratification. These items have a higher cost than we think. An example is the plastic toy that costs $2 and seems like a really inexpensive purchase, but what happens when you try to get rid of that toy in 5 years? It can’t be recycled and will hang around in the dump and outlive your children..is the true cost of that toy still $2?  No it’s not. And when you visit a recycling depot like Gibsons, you see the true cost of ‘stuff’. They have a place to put almost everything and if it can’t be recycled – they try to sell it in a little make-shift store. I’ll never forgot the container (where items go that need to be taken to the landfill) with plastic toy trucks around the top. There are containers for most plastics, tin cans, glass, dirty wood, clean wood, etc. but these toys were made up of too many pieces of non-recyclable parts. It’s what I pointed out to my son that I brought with me for a ‘field trip’ because it resonated with me. The true cost of these items can no longer be measured in what the owner originally paid – the cost of having something last on earth forever has a high cost.

But, don’t think I came away disheartened – actually it was the opposite. When you see how efficient a recycling depot is, the knowledge the staff has, and know items are closing the loop on their life cycle – it’s inspiring. My favorite part of the depot was the glass recycling section. For people that think that glass is too heavy, too expensive, etc. as a food packing option – if the glass gets to a recycling depot…magical things happen. The glass is sorted into different colors (green, brown, clear) and then tumbled in a huge machine and broken down into cullet. There are so many uses for glass and because it can be recycled an infinite amount of times – it’s a great material. Some uses are ingredients in paint or building supplies, sand on beaches, ceramic tiles, fiberglass, etc. If you look at the top picture with the sign, the white material that looks like snow is actually glass that’s been recycled into beach sand. Here is the glass going up the conveyor to become cullet:

 

So this week I got to complete a project of collecting car seats and delivering them to a recycling depot that is clearly setting the bar high with their dedication to efficient disposal – it’s been amazing to be on these field assignments and I thank UsedVancouver.com for sponsoring. I share my experience and highly recommend parents taking their children to see the behind the scenes of a recycling depot before the holiday season approaches. A clear message from my tour is how wasteful the holidays can be with people just buying to ‘buy’. Giving stuff that doesn’t have purpose or meaning needs to be curbed and helping children to realize what is truly important with gift giving or celebrating can be redefined and still create memories and fun. We just need to be creative and think about where things go after we are finished using them!

Related Articles:

My Guest Post for The Soft Landing called ‘New Year’s Prediction – Ownership of Waste

Who Should Shop At Thrift Stores?

Spoooky Disposable Tableware

Baby and Children’s Car Seats – How To Dispose or Reuse?

A Greener Christmas Plan

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Who Should Shop At Thrift Stores?

It’s a question I hadn’t really pondered until it was mentioned in a Facebook discussion last week. Should only people struggling with making end’s meet shop at thrift stores? I immediately felt a little ill because in the last year I’ve started shopping for clothes and books at our local thrift store. Is this wrong for me to do?

I was going to my 2nd hand store days after reading this question and decided to walk in eyes wide open. I went solo, without kids, and once I could sit in the children’s book isle and pile up a stack of books I remembered why I’m so comfortable and why it feels good for me to shop this way. I like the fact when I look through the books I hear whisperings of where they’ve once lived. I remember when I went to look for Christmas books, I found a post-it note in the front of a book, hand-written from grandparents about why they thought the child would enjoy the book. It made me feel special that I was seeing the note and it reminded me that even these books had a story. They had already lived in multiple houses, been read to numerous children, they no longer smelled of fresh ink (which my sensitive nose appreciates), and I don’t have to worry about breaking the book in. I am recycling, I say in my head and feel proud.  I am taking something and making the decision to not purchase it new, rather to find it, contribute to a non-profit that helps other people, then when my children are finished we will donate it back to the store. A very good cycle of use I would say!

When it comes to the books, I would say I’m pleased to also see dollar savings. Because I’m donating these books back to the store after they’ve been well loved, it’s nice to pay $1, rather than the high cost of brand new books. But I would argue that point about purchasing clothes 2nd hand. I think you could probably find clothes for the same price that are brand new if you watch for deals at Walmart or other brand name shops.  But when it comes to clothes, I’m not there shopping for deals.  I simply LOVE used clothing.  I believe that new clothing can be toxic. Here are several reasons why:

~ plastic decals, appliques, and embellishments are everywhere on clothing. What do I mean? Check out your child’s t-shirt & PJ drawer and look at the front…you will find a graphic or character there. When I talk about making better choices with clothing and buying 100% cotton clothing over polyester, it’s crazy that the clothing is marked 100% cotton when there’s a huge plastic decal attached to the front of a t-shirt or PJ set. That is not 100% cotton and that decal will be subjected to high heat in the dryer, wash and is breaking down. In really cheap clothing, they are using clothing embellishments made from PVC that contain phthalates and off-gas. When you purchase clothing 2nd hand, these types of decals have been washed multiple times and there is less leaching of materials.

~ the toxic nature of producing cotton has been well documented. This is why organic clothing, especially for babies has been so popular over the last few years.  Organic options are readily available for babies and toddlers but difficult and expensive to source after these ages. I like to think that when clothing is washed over and over the pesticides are eliminated from clothing which is awesome when purchasing 2nd hand!

~ clothing that fits!  And won’t shrink!  I have really bad luck with pants and my 9 year old son. He’s on the above average size and we try on clothes at the store and everything fits him perfectly, after it’s washed they are instantly too small in the waist and leg for him. This has happened to me with every single pair of paints I’ve bought him in the last year. On my last shopping trip I got smart and visited the boy’s jeans section at the thrift store. I paid $5.99 for a pair of broken in jeans that will last him a long time. They fit awesome because they aren’t stiff and awkward, but the best part is I don’t have to worry about shrinkage!

~ if you are on a constant journey to only purchase locally manufactured clothing, it will be a difficult and expensive journey. I try really hard to source everything I can locally, especially for myself, but this is hard with 4 kids and a husband. I don’t shop at big box stores, especially Walmart and others where their business and purchasing methods are questionable…but by shopping at a Thrift store, I can say by recycling clothing, this is more earth friendly in my mind than even shopping locally because I’m not investing in anything ‘new’. Only new to us. And I’m lucky that I have 4 children that see clothing for what it is. Clothing.  There is not talk of brand labels yet which is a blessing, although I know even popular brands exist in thrift stores, you just need to invest the time to look.

~ in an article I wrote years ago, I featured a store determined to change clothing with using sustainable ink. I learned from this article how toxic ink can be and urge you to read the Little Inkers story. Whenever I can, I love to support screen printers that create prints with earth friendlier dye solutions that are free from phthalates and PVC. These designs on the clothing are also so much more original and safe! I also feel when purchasing clothes 2nd hand that many of the toxins in these dyes have been washed out, which reduces exposure. I know the focus is 2nd hand, but I love giving examples of stores doing things right so I want to introduce you to Wren Willow. This clothing store is dedicated to using environmentally friendly water based inks and no harsh chemicals AND the store owner sketches the design that is later screen printed onto the clothes ~ Wren Willow is a magical place to purchase special clothes. These clothes look different,  tell a great story, and what a better alternative to big box clothing? I’d much rather my girls wear this big strawberry than Dora any day!

So back to my visit to the thrift store, and by the time I finished sorting through the pile of books and feeling very comfortable and happy with my decisions to shop thrift, I decided that I’ll continue on the path of being proud of myself for shopping 2nd hand. It is a very earth friendly option with consumerism and when I purchase things for myself and children, I don’t feel the consumer guilt that normally follows shopping at a traditional store. I am recycling. I am reusing. And with spending over $4.99 on each piece I purchased (pair of jeans, 2 dresses for my twins) I realized it’s also not just about saving money. I see new clothes being blown-out on sales all the time for $5. It shows me the markups in these stores is beyond ridiculous and the price tag doesn’t dictate if a shopping trip was successful, it’s the feeling that comes with bringing something new into my home. And if the item has previously been worn, washed, and then donated, it makes me feel proud to have found it.

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