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JANICE WELLS: The thrill of the second-hand hunt

All dressed up environmentally friendly jacket, scarf and bag, $22.50. JANICE WELLS PHOTO
All dressed up in environmentally friendly jacket, scarf and bag, $22.50. - Contributed

I started shopping at Thrift stores because I wanted nicer clothes than I could afford to buy, and then, when finances weren’t as dire, I realized that I quite enjoyed the thrill of the hunt.  

Plus, while climate change may be relatively new, being thrifty used to be a way of life. Clothes were handed down or ‘made over’ or both. A dress could show up as an apron and a hooked rug.   

I don’t do sewing well, but “Me Janice – hunter warrior”!  

Sometimes I go out hunting and come back empty handed. Last week I scored a classic suede blazer for $15 at the Salvation Army. Now that’s real trophy hunting.  

I need a new purse. I like good leather purses.

Newman opined that having saved that much on a jacket, I could treat myself to a brand-new purse and, considering that I will use the same purse until it wears out, I looked around in a few regular stores.  

I didn’t see anything I liked well enough to spend a lot of money on. I didn’t find a great gem in the thrift stores either so I bought a cute one for $5. It will do until I find exactly what I want, at which point I will donate it back to a thrift store.  

I’m ready for a new-to-me coffee table and end tables.

My coffee table converts to a tray and came from a yard sale. My end tables are nesting tables I bought at an antique store in Nova Scotia at least 30 years ago. They’ve all become wobbly over time.  

I repaired the nesting tables a while back but now a leg on the middle one has fallen right off. Turned to the back and nested, nobody would ever have known if little Miles hadn’t appeared one day brandishing the leg like a club.  

So, I’m hunting again. The ReStore, Kijiji, thrift stores and Facebook market place are all fertile grounds.  

The beginnings of a gingerbread village on the dining room table, brand new with tags still attached from Wicker Emporium and extra leaves, $90 at the Salvation Army. JANICE WELLS PHOTO
The beginnings of a gingerbread village on the dining room table, brand new with tags still attached from Wicker Emporium and extra leaves, $90 at the Salvation Army. JANICE WELLS PHOTO

I’ll find what I want eventually and the bragging-rights trophies will be front and centre in my living room. 

If my tables decide they’ve had enough before I find something I love, I’ll get the best that I can and pass them on again if I see something I like better. 

I can’t stand throwing anything in a landfill but I’d never really thought about how good buying second hand is for the planet.

Then the other day, I heard a statistic that really drove it home (hah); each adult in the United States buying one gift at a thrift store would be the carbon footprint equivalent of taking 500,000 vehicles off the roads.   

Vehicles carrying synthetic objects which require lots of energy to producer, as well as harmful dyes, gasses, caustic soda and crude oil by-products, chemicals which end up in surface and ground water through soil runoff. 

Nothing is perfect. The production of cotton and linen is highly pesticide-intensive, causing soil acidification and water contamination.

Growing one kilogram of cotton requires 5,300 gallons of water, while wet processing and printing use 18 and 21.6 gallons respectively, per pound of cotton but it is still environmentally responsible to buy natural fibres (like fur).   

Americans (the only statistics I can find) get rid of anywhere from some 80 pounds of textile waste annually, and only about 10 per cent of this makes it to thrift stores.  

It would be almost impossible to stop buying new altogether but this year I have decided that my Christmas gifts will either be consumable, an experience, up cycled or recycled. I’d add homemade but that doesn’t work well for me. 

Which table has three legs? JANICE WELLS PHOTO
Which table has three legs? JANICE WELLS PHOTO
And then there’s buying local, which greatly reduces transportation pollution and supports our own instead of large conglomerates, so even if you want new, spend your dollars at home.  

If you can’t afford quality handcrafted, you should try the hunting game. It’s a learned skill but can be very rewarding and you might just enjoy yourself. 

Newman’s not into shopping for second-hand clothes yet, but when I shop for him, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Ha ha.     

Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. She can be reached at janicew@nf.sympatico.ca. (or jwelloeo@hotmail.com.) 


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