Guest Column: Less spending helps promote a more sustainable environment

Melissa Burlingame

Let’s be honest: Saving money is more exciting than leading a sustainable lifestyle. Luckily, living sustainably also often saves money, especially when it comes to purchasing second-hand.

You may know the phrase “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” Think about times growing up when you found the most incredible thing along the side of the road on trash day. There are great treasures out there waiting to be found. Reed Scherer, ESE Institute/Environmental Studies director, found a limited first-edition copy of his favorite book about traveling to Antarctica (The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard) for $1 at a used book sale. Incidentally, the book is worth thousands of dollars.

When looking for a piece of furniture or an addition to your wardrobe, there are dozens of options to find good-quality, used items cheaply.

Yes, shopping at big name stores can often be inexpensive, but the low price may reflect poor quality.

Plus, if you purchase items at the big name store, you end up with the same things as everyone else. Thrift or auction shopping allows the buyer to get better quality items, which will likely last longer than low-quality, new goods at great prices. As a bonus, you can be sure that your furniture and wardrobe won’t be just like your neighbor’s.

So instead of shopping at the big name stores, consider shopping vintage. Downtown DeKalb boast several stores where you can purchase furniture, vintage and gently used clothing, books, records, small household appliances, antiques, and an endless list of other items. Lindsey Engelsman, the marketing and special events coordinator for ReNew: DeKalb, recommends that students shop locally because most of the money spent locally (up to 70 percent) stays in the local economy. Much of that money goes to pay employees who likely live and spend locally. Local businesses also support other local businesses and non-profit organizations.

Online shoppers can also find fantastic deals on sites such as eBay and other online auction sites, or on direct sales sites like Craigslist and Etsy. The very budget-conscious student should also join the local Freecycle network, where all kinds of odds and ends are posted, free for the taking.

Although summer, the prime garage sale season, has nearly passed, garage sales are a fantastic way to find good deals on just about anything. Fortunately, some local organizations are planning events that are similar to garage sales. One event coming up on Sept. 28 is a swap meet held in Neptune Hall on campus, and it’s totally free.

Shopping second-hand is a fun part of living sustainably. Choosing quality reused items can help us put cost-and the environment-first. It is through sustainable actions that we are able to save some green!

The content of this column is the opinion of the author and does not reflect the opinions of the ESE Institute/Environmental Studies.