Out With The Old, In With The New (& Used)

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Crossposted at Safemilk.org

I don’t know what it is, but I find the practice of purging to be incredibly satisfying (as in, the contents of closets or inboxes, or car glove compartments—stomach contents, on the other hand, not so much fun).

When the holidays roll around, I become acutely aware that the math of bringing more things into our already crowded abode just doesn’t add up. While avoiding more stuff is always the first choice, sometimes it can’t be avoided. In cases like this, something has to go. But where exactly? Since the landfill is the last place we want to send our stuff, here are some eco-friendly options for making way (and room) for new (and recycled) items you might be bringing home this holiday season. 

Furniture

There’s always someone out there in need of something. That’s why I love services like Freecycle. Don’t think anyone wants that martini shaker with plastic pink flamingo on top? Think again! Post your available items and wait for the requests to pour in.

Another service iReuse, will come take your unwanted furnishings and either give them away to nonprofit organizations in need, or auction them for cash. There’s a fee for pickup, but it’s relatively cheap when you consider your time and physical energy costs in renting a truck and doing it yourself. Plus, I like the fact that nonprofits doing good work can furnish their offices for the cost of a little sweat and the use of wheels.

Clothing

Have your kids outgrown their cool duds? If they are still in good shape, donate them to a local Goodwill, or try trading them in for something new at a clothing swap near you.You can also join thredUP, an online clothing swap that lets you exchange boxes of your kids’ outgrown clothing for new stuff that fits. Pay only shipping and handling fees.

If items are too beat to wear, you can still keep them out of the landfill by placing them in a USAgain drop box for recycling. USAgain collects unwanted textiles and resells them in the U.S. and abroad, effectively diverting millions of pounds of clothing from landfills.  Locate a USAgain drop-box near you and earn money for your school or organization.

Electronics

This is definitely the season of gadgets. And since that new thing you’re about to buy will already be old by the time you plug it in, making sure to recycle that e-waste responsibly is of the highest importance. E-waste is loaded with toxic chemicals that should not be dumped into the landfill. Disreputable companies claim to recycle e-waste, but, instead, ship it off to poorer countries where it is oftentimes dismantled by children.

If you’ve got to get rid of that gadget and you can’t give it away to a friend, make sure you recycle it through a recycler certified with e-Stewards, a certification program that verifies recyclers are not exporting e-waste for dumping. E-Stewards is the only certification program designed and supported by the environmental community.

Toys

So long as you’re sure the item you’re giving away is safe (i.e., doesn’t contain lead or other harmful chemicals, hasn’t been recalled), re-gift it to a friend, post on Freecycle, donate it to a local childcare center or local charity. But please do this only if you’re sure.  And how can you be sure? Search the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website for past recalls and check out HealthyStuff.org, and Center for Environmental Health.

If you are planning on doing any holiday shopping this weekend, I urge you to think before you buy. Check out the latest buying guides for toys, electronics, and books. Even better, if you buy them through iGive, you might even help support a group like MOMS in the process.  And that’s a gift we could really use.  Happy Holidays!

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