Over 32 million pounds of waste is diverted away from landfills and incinerators each year by the simple act of donating your gently used items and shopping at your local Goodwill of Greater Washington retail stores.
I spent several years as a struggling small business owner. There were months when the business expenses were greater than what the business was earning. I dipped my toe into shopping secondhand as a means of adapting to having only one reliable source of income and two small, but rapidly growing, children. What began as a retail option for extra kids gear quickly became my go-to shopping choice. Secondhand stores provided our family access to quality clothing far below market price I knew would keep my kids dry, warm, and stylish.
What began as a financial necessity for my family quickly evolved into an ethos. The more I learned about the textile industry (second only to oil in its negative environmental impact) the more I began to see my choice to shop previously owned clothing as doing my part in supporting a more resilient environment. Today, I’d estimate that between 75-80% of my family’s wardrobe is purchased with a purpose – always resisting shopping more than I need and considering secondhand first.
During April we focus on environmentally sustainable practices, like donating to and shopping at Goodwill, as we celebrate Earth Month. The idea for a day to raise public consciousness about air and water pollution came out of the rising activism of the late sixties. Just as Earth Day has evolved into Earth Month over the last 50 years, so has the notion of environmentalism itself. This evolution reflects the growing need to consider the impact of human behavior on the natural environment more broadly and for more than just a mere 24 hours. Our planet Earth, resilient by design, is weakening in its ability to rebound from the extraction of raw materials and the release of pollution caused by our demand for new products and our tendency to toss what we no longer want or need. In response, environmental leaders are turning their focus toward resiliency with the hope of building capacity in communities to adapt to a changing climate and recover from unexpected events.
As the creators of a marketplace where, “one man’s trash” and treasure seeker meet, secondhand shops reign as the world’s leading unsung waste diversion experts that also help to build environmental, personal, and professional resilience. At Goodwill of Greater Washington, the revenue from the sale of donated goods is leveraged to build human resilience by tailoring free job training and education programs to close skills gaps, provide career services (resume writing and interview skills), and host the first tuition-free adult charter high school in the Washington D.C. area.
So take a moment this Earth Month to stop by your local Goodwill, make a donation, shop their stores, and give yourself a pat on the back for helping to build a more resilient community and supporting a more resilient Earth.