Reducing consumption requires knowing where to borrow, hire or buy secondhand goods rather than buying something new. With Buy Nothing New Month coming up in October I thought it would be a good time to look at the secondhand options.
If you have been through the waste reducing principles at the top of the hierarchy, REFUSE and REDUCE, and found you still need to source something to use either for the short-term or permanently, the next step is to see if you can find what you need without buying new (REUSE). Fortunately, there are lots of options to borrow, hire or buy secondhand. Let’s Start with places that cover most bases.
Options for All Your Needs
Charity, Thrift or Op Shops
First a word about charity, thrift or op shops such as the Salvos and Vinnies here in Australia. Otherwise, I’ll just be repeating myself like a broken record (remember those?) because they have so much good stuff!
Charity shops are a fantastic resource for everything from clothes to craft supplies. Some are better than others so it is well worth finding the ones close to you and checking them out. You’re bound to have your favourites. I certainly do. I’ve walked out with entire outfits (including shoes) from my local Vinnies store which feels more like a secondhand boutique than an op shop.
It is always good to look at goods in charity shops with a ‘can see the potential’ lens. You may find, as I have many times, things that are perfect as they are but there are also lots of opportunities to find things that, with a bit of TLC, will become your next favourite thing. They are a treasure trove of upcycling potential!
Secondhand Emporia & Market Stalls
A step up from charity stores are secondhand ’emporia’ and market stalls selling secondhand items. These might be traditional antique stores or enterprises that source quality used goods to sell in their curated shops/stalls. They are usually privately owned, unlike the charity stores, so they might be a little harder to find. You’ll need to do some local research to find these lesser-known beauties. We have one in Canberra run by the ‘tip shop’. They salvage all the best bits dumped at the ‘Green Shed’ adjacent to the waste management facilities and sell them in a shop in the city. We scored a fabulous 1970s era bar from there which ended up my cocktail-making husband’s 50th birthday present.
Trash or Tip Shops
A step in the other direction from charity stores are the facilities mentioned above which are often adjacent to or associated with waste management facilities. These have all sorts of names. Ours is ‘The Green Shed’. Usually, local government websites can point you toward these. Others might be privately run and you’ll need a bit of local knowledge to guide you to them. I collected a lot of our camping cooking and eating equipment from our Green Shed. It is great for bits and pieces for home projects too. Our chook house was built with lots of stuff from the Green Shed too. And books, so many books!
Buy, Swap and Sell Groups
I am constantly amazed by what people offer up for free in our local Buy Nothing Facebook group. The generosity of people is fantastic when members make requests too.
The Buy Nothing Project is an organisation with quite specific rules about how local groups run but there are many other variations of it on and off Facebook. One of the first ones I joined was Freecycle which operates as an email group. There is even a specific Facebook trading group in Canberra for gardens and gardening.
A lot of borrowing goes on in Buy Nothing groups too so it isn’t just about collecting stuff to own. There’s a lovely culture of book sharing in our group. If there is a lot of interest in a particular book offered up, many times it will be passed on from one person to the next.
Ebay and Other Online Platforms
Although eBay, and the entire Internet, are flooded with new goods to buy (so – much – stuff!), they are still a good source for buying secondhand goods. You can filter searches to include only used items. On the occasions that I want to buy a particular book, this is one place I look for it secondhand. I won’t even try to list everything that you could find on eBay. I’d say, if you need it, someone is probably selling it secondhand on eBay!
Etsy, the online handmade marketplace, also has a category for vintage items so is another place to look for secondhand clothes, jewellery, toys, homewares and collectables.
Peer-to-Peer Hire and Borrow Platforms
Rosella Street is a fairly new platform, started here in Canberra but reaching other places too. You can list your stuff on the website and then hire it out, for whatever price you set, to other users of the site. I have rented out my old sewing machine this way a couple of times now.
Streetbank is one of the biggest neighbourhood sharing websites in the world, according to their website. It is another place to share with and give to your neighbours, including sharing your skills.
Friends and Family
From hand-me-downs to tools for a specific job, don’t forget to ask family and friends. Share items, such as a trailer or lawnmower, between family members who live near each other.
Other Options for Specific Needs
Whether it is for daily wear or a special occasion or a holiday (like a ski trip), there are lots of options for sourcing the clothing you need without resorting to buying everything new.
- Hire specialist clothing for things such as ski trips from specialist outlets.
- Clothes Swaps are a fun gathering of friends who bring clothes they no longer want for others to try and take home. My friend Virginia from WellSorted Professional Organiser has a great blog post about how to host one.
- Why buy an outfit you’ll only wear once? There are physical and online formal and special occasion hire shops to use instead.
- If you love designer clothes, there are secondhand designer emporia just waiting to be discovered. They are also a great place to pick up quality basics that will last ages in your wardrobe.
If you need furniture or appliances only for the short to medium term, hiring might be a more sensible option.
- Places like Renta Centre rent a wide variety of large homewares. They even have a package tailored to students.
- Businesses like Radio Rentals also have homewares from small kitchen appliances to large whitegoods.
Parties & Events
- Tool and equipment hire places will also rent you things for events such as a fridge, a spit roaster, tables, chairs, even a megaphone!
- Party hire businesses
- Specialty kitchen stores and cake decorating shops often rent out cake tins. Online business Cake Decorating Solutions has cake tines for hire.
- Party Kit Network is a community-run network of kits to borrow with things you might need for a kids birthday party.
Tools & Equipment
There is really no need for every household to own a drill. How often are they used by the average person? There are lots of options to borrow, hire or buy them secondhand.
- I’ve already mentioned tool and equipment hire places, such as Kennards Hire. They, of course, have all manner of big and little tools to hire.
- Tool & equipment libraries, or ‘libraries of things’, are popping up all over the place now. They operate like a book lending library but have all manner of things to borrow. Some are strictly for what you’d traditionally think of as tools. Others have kitchen, leisure, crafting equipment and more. I’ve been involved with starting one up here in Canberra. Look for one in your local area.
The amount of books discarded at our local ‘tip shop’ is staggering. As much as supporting authors is an important thing, the waste from publishing is alarming. Swapping over to borrowing or buying secondhand more of the books we need has to be a good thing.
- If you don’t have a card to borrow from you local library, sign up now. They are fantastic. Most also make eBooks and audiobooks available to members too via apps like Borrowbox and Libby.
- For books you want to own, from the classics to reference books, secondhand book stores are a treasure trove – and one of my favourite outings!
- Lifeline also hold huge book sales in various places on a regular basis raising money for this very excellent service.
- I’m sure you’ve seen little street libraries popping up around the place. There are three I can think of within a couple of streets of my place. Pick up something new to read and drop off something you’re finished with.
Exercise & Leisure Equipment
We all know the story of the piece of exercise equipment that becomes the most expensive clothes hanger ever bought. What if you were to hire what you needed instead, at least to see if you can make the exercise a lasting habit. Sometimes you might only need a piece of equipment for a short time, such as during recovery from injury or surgery. Hiring is a great option.
- Some more general rental business, such as Renta Centre have things like treadmills and exercise bikes.
- Specialised exercise equipment hire companies have a wider range of equipment for strength and cardio exercise.
- For particular hobbies, sports or activities, there is usually somewhere to hire the equipment you need which is a smart option if you are likely to only do it once or just a few times a year.
For Babies & Kids
Finally, one of the most gear-intensive sports there is – raising kids! Our Buy Nothing group is very active in the baby and kids stuff department. There are lots of other options to borrow, hire or buy secondhand the goods you need for your family.
- As mentioned above, local libraries are a fantastic resource and they cater to kids wonderfully. Most also have story and craft times for preschoolers.
- For toys, puzzles and games, there are toy libraries dotted around. Kids grow out of or get bored of things so quickly, joining a toy library just makes so much sense.
- Businesses like Hire For Baby have all manner of things for hire from breast pumps to portacots to carseats. With the rate of baby development, buying things that will only be used for, in some cases, only a few months doesn’t make a lot of sense.
- The Australian Breastfeeding Association also hires out breast pumps.
- Nappies are also available to lease through nappy services – and they are washed and dried for you too.
Phew, that was a long list to put together! I’m sure I’ve missed some ways to borrow, hire or buy secondhand. If you have something to add, please let me know. I hope this list helps you to avoid the need to buy new in the pursuit of lowering your carbon footprint.