How to be an Educated Consumer
Guest writer Leah Wzientek, owner of local small business Gear Hut, joins us for this week's blog post about being more mindful when it comes to the end of an item's usefulness. Gear Hut is a locally owned consignment shop, specializing in “human powered mountain sports”. Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation is Gear Hut’s featured Non-Profit of the Month. Donated items will be added to the TMPF account to help fundraise for our Healthy Parks, Healthy People programming. You can also support the Parks Foundation through Gear Hut by shopping on Sunday September 26th, when 10% of the day’s sales will be donated to TMPF.
When our items no longer serve us, it’s so easy to “donate” them. We all have that box that sits in the car slowly building up a stash of chewed up water bottles, some slightly stained T-shirts, a freebie coozie we won, an old plastic headband, bent up metal hangers, a backpack that’s wearing thin, some scratched up sunglasses, etc. You eventually swing by the donation center, drop off the box with a happy “Have a nice day!”, and your car and life is free of the junk.
I think everyone is guilty of the box of lonely items to take to the donation drop offs in the hope that these items serve another person… but are you just removing yourself from your waste by passing along the responsibility of trashing it onto someone else? When that volunteer or employee sifts through your trash, how are they planning on disposing of your items?
As a society, we need to be more upfront with confronting how much we consume, and the final resting places for these items. How do we be more responsible in engaging with the end of life of our products?
Support and shop at companies that have buy back or return policies, like Patagonia and their “worn wear”. Make sure that when your item no longer serves you, you are utilizing these services and programs companies are creating in order to be more sustainable.
Buy products that are made out of recycled materials, or contain recycled packaging! This means, you are reducing the amount of new raw materials that are consumed.
Use old textiles as RAGS! Ditch paper towels, and use old T-shirts, worn bedsheets, etc. to clean up those kitchen spills or wipe downs. Toss the rags in the washing machine and BOOM - use them again while also reducing your paper consumption of paper towels. You can also donate old towels and sheets to animal shelters and zoos!
When ordering take out to eat at home - SAY NO to mini ketchup, utensils, napkins and other supplies you have in your cupboards. Choose to “dine in” at companies that may not offer compostable containers.
Say no to freebies. Once you get past the euphoria of being offered a fun coozie or free cup, do a quick mental check and consider if that item is going to end up in your “donation junk box” 6 months from now. Same with paper handouts - take a photo and mark the information down when you get home!
Look up Terra Cycling programs! Target does a car seat recycling/trade in program 2x a year, and REI collects your little shiny trail snack wrappers at their checkout line. Urban Roots also has a drop off for personal items, like floss containers, toothpaste tops, razors, etc.
Some of the items and services offered by Gear Hut: exchangeable/refillable camping propane tanks, reusable food/drink containers, and a wide variety of items on consignment.
Consign rather than donate. When you sell or consign your clothes, you know that they are finding a new home, rather than getting dumped into a giant clothes landfill! Reno is filled with tons of second hand shops like Plato’s Closet, Gear Hut, FreeStyle Clothing, Junkees, etc.
Buy used! When you buy used, you are supporting the mind set that you hope others have when you do drop offs! If no one is out there shopping used, it makes it hard for these second hand stores to exist. You are also reducing packaging impacts!
Repurpose. Use old take out containers to sort workshop odds and ends. Keep paperclips and office supplies organized in small electronics boxes. Use your egg cartons to start garden seedlings. In repurposing these items, you are also reducing the need to buy organizers, etc.
Accept when your item no longer serves you, and will not serve someone else. Thank your item and dispose of it as responsibly as you can. This is where prioritising investing in recyclable products is huge for our planet's future… any item we can keep out of a landfill is a plus! Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful provides an amazing Recycling Guide to help you in this journey!
It’s easy to close our eyes to how much trash we create, and hope that the “donation drop off” box ends up in the loving arms of someone. But realistically, that’s probably not the case most of the time. Let’s be responsible consumers and ensure that the items we are getting rid of each season, find their best next life on our own - not by putting it into someone else’s hands.