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Green Living: Another Man's Treasure

I’ve written about “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” many times in this column, because it’s a concept that — when incorporated into daily life — can make a truly positive impact on the environment. This month, I want to concentrate on the first two “Rs,” and explain my personal favorite way of putting them into practice. And yes, it does involve shopping.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is straightforward in explaining what it means to reduce and reuse: “Reduce the amount and toxicity of trash you throw away, and reuse containers and products.”

The Clean Air Council reported that in 2008, the average American generated 4.5 pounds of waste … every day. Of those daily 4.5 pounds, 66.8 percent went to a landfill or was incinerated. What are you getting rid of every year? Old clothing and furniture? Used books? Knick-knacks? Junk lying around the house? It’s easy to toss something then forget about it — especially if you’re eager to get something new. Next time, why not challenge yourself to keep your old belongings out of landfills, and make an effort to reuse somebody else’s castoffs.

If you like to shop, but you’re also interested in reusing materials  — refer to them as vintage — one of the best places you can go is to your neighborhood thrift store or consignment sale. Yard sales or estate sales aren’t bad, either, and I’m a huge fan of local Etsy artists who work with repurposed materials (you can follow the Etsy Little Rock community on Etsy.com or “like” Etsy Little Rock on Facebook).

Repurpose unwanted items by donating to Goodwill, which annually diverts more than two billion pounds of stuff from landfills, in addition to providing jobs for disabled and disadvantaged people. If you shop at the Salvation Army’s thrift store, you’ll contribute to the funding of homeless shelters, disaster relief and other programs. You can also feel good about shopping at, and donating to, Savers, which employs a recycling program to prevent unsold merchandise from going to landfills.

Another option for shopping, especially when you’re working on a home project, is the Habitat for Humanity ReStore outlets, which sell home accessories, furniture, building materials and more at a reduced cost. The store accepts donated goods, and the revenue from sales supports Habitat for Humanity’s work in the community.

A great way to keep your clothing out of the waste stream is to participate in a consignment sale; just clean out your kids’ closets and pull together clothing, toys, strollers and other kid accessories no longer put to use by your family. For fall and winter children’s clothing and toys, baby accessories, baby books and more, check out the Duck Duck Goose sale, which in Little Rock begins on Sept. 15, at the Hall of Industry at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds. (Duck Duck Goose runs fall sales in: Conway, Hot Springs, Jacksonville and Pine Bluff. From Aug. 28 until Sept. 3, you can also shop at the Rhea Lana’s fall consignment sale at the Conway Expo Center.

Try to avoid the dumpster, whether you donate your old furniture, clothes and unwanted household items to a thrift store; sell to a consignment shop; or run your own yard sale. Instead of heading to a box store (or the Internet) for replacements, shop for vintage and used pieces that are unique and less expensive than new alternatives. Reuse … it does the earth good.

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