Green in the City

The value of resale

By Morgan Selvage

Photos by Morgan Selvage

The summer day was almost over, the sun was ready to set. Ana Skolnik, a 21-year-old world traveler and avid thrift shopper, relaxes in a coffee shop in a North Side neighborhood bustling with late afternoon people and activity. She mostly works temporary jobs as a waitress or as a clerk in clothing stores. Her goal is to save enough money to travel the world.

Ana now realizes she is helping to save the planet as well by thrift shopping. A good friend convinced her to be more mindful of the environment. She rides her bicycle whenever she can. “I eat simply so I don’t want to generate a lot of trash,” she says. When shopping at the grocer, “I try not to buy food that is packaged because you have to dispose of the packaging.”

Shopping thrift and resale shops are a necessity in an economic downturn. People also sell their items at consignment shops or garage and yard sales to raise money. But shopping thrift stores has been a pastime and passion for people like Ana for decades.

Ana says she’s been perusing such retailers since she was a child. “I was raised going to the thrift stores to see what I could find for cheap,” she says. “My whole family did it; it was fun and kind of our family thing.”

She got into it even more in high school “where everything depends on your looks. Instead of buying expensive clothing, I bought unique items, something different.”

Being an “old hand” at thrift shopping, Ana is happy that there is an increasingly aware, green-consciousness now. It is promoting something good for everyone and the environment.

By reselling and reusing items that otherwise might have been thrown in the trash, it helps to clear landfills while helping consumers save money.

“Pop culture has a lot of effects on people’s decisions,” Ana says, “and it’s nice to know that at least the media is promoting something worth listening to.”

But even Ana has noticed that thrift stores are taking advantage of the economic crisis by raising the prices of the inventory.

The feel-good green factor has major positives for storeowners as well, who have seen a boost in their sales.

Mattie Reynolds, a manager of the Buffalo Exchange thrift store on Chicago’s North Side, says her store’s sales have been increasing every year. According to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, Buffalo Exchange, a 36-store chain throughout the U.S., generated more than $55 million in 2008.

The association, based in suburban Detroit, reported a 30 percent increase in sales last year, with more than 82 percent of the group’s members experiencing an increase in new customers.

Although prices have risen, Ana says she continues to enjoy shopping at thrift stores and discovering something new and unique.

Thrift shopping is a win-win for everyone, consumers, store owners and the environment.


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