Reuse takes many forms, but all with the same goal: to keep items useful as long as they have a function or value. Reusing can save money and help the environment. Minnesota has an amazing network of reuse stores and online services that can help you “choose to reuse.” Reuse has many benefits. It can:
- Save money.
- Reduce waste by preventing waste before it occurs. Reusing something is better than placing it in the trash, and it is even preferable to recycling because it requires less resources.
- Support the local economy. The reuse, rental, and repair sector directly employs about 46,000 people.
- Save energy. A 10% reduction in new purchases in the average two-person Minnesota household will save 1,102 pounds CO2 equivalent.
First, shop smart and buy durable items
Shop smart: Buy things that will last longer and make them more likely to be useful to others after you're done with them.
- Buy once, buy well. Well-designed and constructed products will last longer and usually save you money even if they cost more initially.
- Share. Many items are needed only for special projects or activities.
- Maintain. Proper maintenance keeps an item useful longer and will increase resale or donation value.
- Organize. Organizing what you have will reduce the risk of damage or breakage and helps you find what you need when you need it.
Repair: Try to repair an item before throwing it away. Repairs can be less expensive than replacement and can improve the performance, safety, and/or efficiency of a product.
Rent: Renting is a great choice if you only need to use something once in a while. Consider renting tools for home projects, lawn and garden equipment, party supplies, and camping and recreational gear. Renting goods also saves storage space and maintenance costs.
Visit a library: Libraries have books, CDs, DVDs, and public computers. Consider checking out a book or CD instead of buying your own copy.
Exchange: Organize a community exchange at the local school, community center or a place of worship.
Garage sales or estate sales: Spring and summer are when most garage sales are held, but they also happen all year round (especially estate sales).
Auctions: Look in the Yellow Pages under Auctioneers and Auction Houses for local businesses. Larger auction houses even offer internet bidding and internet auctions. On-line auction sites are some of the most active sites on the internet. For an excellent primer on internet auctions, see the Federal Trade Commission's page on internet auctions.
- The Twin Cities Free Market is an internet-based listing service for residents who want to give away or get free reusable goods for their home, garage or garden. www.twincitiesfreemarket.org
- The Freecycle Network is similar to the Twin Cities Free Market. It is an online group of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. http://www.freecycle.org/
- Craigslist has free stuff and items for sale and is city-specific: www.craigslist.org
Consignment shops: Consignment shops accept items from the public and sell them for you. The store will take a commission to sell your item(s). While the commissions vary, you can expect to get about 50% of their asking price.
Thrift stores: Thrift stores are a great place to get really good bargains.
When not to reuse
Some items may be unsafe to reuse. For example, a toy that has been recalled, a damaged bike helmet or wood painted with lead based paint. Electrical items, sports, medical and exercise equipment, and children's goods should all be examined carefully and tested before donating. The FirstGov for Consumers Product Safety section and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's websites are good places to start researching product safety issues.
Let’s talk specifics! The Choose to Reuse directory
Hennepin County has a searchable online Choose to Reuse Directory of over 500 retail locations that offer reuse options in our community. You can search for businesses and organizations that reuse, repair, rent, resell or accept donations in and around Hennepin County: www.hennepin.us/choosetoreuse
Anoka and Ramsey counties have similar directories in print versions, you can find information on them at RethinkRecycling.com