Friday, 29 August 2014

Green Consumerism 1: Second-hand and Charity shops

Second-hand and Charity shops

Today we shall be discussing second-hand buying and charity shops. Let us first start by making a distinction. Second hand-shops are shops that sell second-hand that is their sales depend either on buying for cheap from people and resell or from donations and finds. Second-hand shops are not always cheap: rare objects, antique and vintage are all considered as second hand. However, most second-hand shops do tend to be cheap.

Charity shops on the other hand are shops owned by organizations who usually  have things donated to them and they resell them to fund their services. Charity shops usually have second-hand things, however, you can find new things (and not just unused but previously unowned) such as for example when a shop is closing and they donate their things to the charity shop. 

In Malta, we mostly have charity shops and we have seen an increase in the past few years, although there are a few second hand shops as well. However, do be careful because in some countries abroad such as Hungary shops called second-hand could be for charity so it is country dependent. 

From a Green point of view, they are both good. They allow for less imports and carbon emission on transportation and manufacturing and as you are reusing something, less landfill space is used. Your money also helps local economy instead of it going to profits abroad. I will be mostly talking about charity shops from now on, as that is something I have more of an experience with.

Buying from these types of shops will help you save money and find objects which are no longer in the market. You can get a lot of deals on good quality and brand objects. When you go to a few shops, you acquire skills on what to look for although there are new things all the time. Expect that even if you go in the same day you will find that there are new things already. From personal experience, there is usually a nice atmosphere and you can treasure hunt although some shops because they are small and have a lot of things may feel stuffy. Most of the time, unless the shop is specially for something (such as books), you can find clothes, electronics, accessories, games, DVDs and CDs, books, things for babies, furniture, house novelties and much more. 

As it is a cycle, one should also give to charity and second-hand shops. This will help you tidy up your living space without feeling guilty that you are throwing them away or giving them to someone that may end up not liking them. It could also ensure that people with low income are provided for. Either they would buy the objects themselves or the shop could save it for them. This is the case often with wedding dresses and uniforms as there are individuals and groups that collect to give to those that could do with saving some money. If you are in need, do not be ashamed: approach someone that could help you and they will provide as much as they can. 

Shops vary between themselves. For example, some shops have fixed prices, while others give you a price on the bundle that you bought (so sometimes it does not matter if you buy 7 or 9 books, the price is the same). Their content also varies depending on who donates to them (so for example one store would have an abundance of mills and boons books and another would have a lot of thrillers- you can see what I look for when I go shopping). 

Charity shops in Malta have good waste management systems. Clothes that are not fit to be sold would for example be given as bedding for animals; objects that are recyclable are recycled. Of course, this does not apply for all shops but asking a few questions at the shop(s) of your choice goes a long way to know the situation better. In Malta, most of the charity shops’ income would go almost entirely (except for utility bills) to the services of the charity organization. As such, they depend on volunteers. 

If you have some time on your hands or cannot afford to donate, helping in the shop would be a great idea. You would usually need to sort the objects given, take care of the shop or mind the till. It is almost a sure thing that you would meet amazing people and get more discounts than shoppers and are the first one to see what there is for sale (it’s exciting).

Buying from charity shops or second-hand is also a good way to avoid giving profits to unethical companies that for example use child labour, unfair labour conditions and exploitations and pollute.

With charity shops, one must be careful for what charity it is. There could be an ethical dilemma: if you spot something that you would like to purchase but the money would go to something you do not agree with. It would be good to have an idea what shops are located in your area. When visiting, it is always good to speak with the staff regarding how they acquired the objects and what they do with things that are not fit to be sold. One should also ask where the profits go to.