Tag Archives: green living

How buying second-hand turns shopping into a green activity

Second-hand dining room table set

Second-hand dining room table set

I’ve been on the look out for the past few months for a quality dining room table set, and I tell you, nothing has been harder.  My boyfriend and I were going for 2 different looks, either an antique country style wood table or a modern design. The problem is, all the modern tables these days travel long distances from China (increases greenhouse gas emissions) and are made out of that fake, compressed wood. So even if the style is nice, the moment you get a nick on the side of it, it starts to peel away and voila, it’s damaged. Whereas a nick in a real wood table might actually add to its appeal and charm by making it more antique looking.

So we started our search in all local furniture design stores like Structube and Maison Corbeil where we found gorgeous tables but you would have to go into debt to afford them. Furthermore, the wood was not from sustainably sourced forests, was low quality or compressed.  We then looked at ultra modern glass tables but the majority of its chairs were only available in leather, which in my opinion, is not eco anymore for obvious environmental and ethical reasons.

We then turned our searches onto FairTrade stores like 10 Thousand Villages where you often find furniture and décor objects coming from the Orient or Africa. Sure enough, we found a beautiful table from South East Asia which was recuperated from a burnt forest.  However, the table alone was $1800 and didn’t come with chairs.

So we lowered our design expectations and started looking at local department stores like The BaySears and The Brick.  Sure enough, the prices were better but we were faced with design that was better suited for say…well…grandparents, sorry grandma!  Having a deadline with the Canadian Thanksgiving coming up and family & friends coming in to town, we started stressing.

Our last hope was to search on the local classifieds; kijiji and craigslist.  Here, we were immediately surprised with the quality and price.  I guess buying a table set is a lot like buying a car, the price decreases 30%-40% when you drive it off the lot!  Now, we were looking at tables in great condition including 6-8 chairs for $600-$800 instead of $2000 brand new. Within a day we had found and visited a couple who were selling their Acacia Wood dining room table set with 6 chairs and a wine rack for $700.  I swear it was the addition of this wine rack that made us flip!  I mean, here was a table that was in the same condition as anything we found in store, which included the chairs and a wine rack for less then the price of a table alone at retail!

The wood was beautiful, and most of all real. I do admit, however, that the fabric on the chairs, although in great condition, was not our style. But no big deal, I’ll get them reupholstered with the same guy that did my couch and then we’ll have a unique piece of furniture! All and all, I can’t stress how happy I was to purchase second hand. I helped out a couple who were downsizing, stopped us from participating in consumerism, saved money and got a fantastic quality table.

Sometimes I think we forget that purchasing second hand is “green” and puts emphasis on reusing rather than buying. With the emergence of sites like Kijiji and Craigslist which have garnered great awareness in the last few years, I believe we are all on the road to being greener.

How to start your green life

The very first thing you can do to make a noticeable impact on the environment is to “green” your home.  Let’s start by examining the products you use to clean your house. Are you aware of how much you are contributing to water pollution, air pollution and waste by buying all these grocery store chemical cleaners, not to mention the toxic effect they have on your body? Let’s face it, if you went camping, you wouldn’t dump a bottle of Windex into the lake nor wash your clothes in it with Tide so why do we feel less guilty when we do it at home?  Yes, our wasted water goes though treatment but it still ends up in our waterways and all that chemical laden gunk that’s extracted from it doesn’t just disappear. The toxic fumes from these cleaners go into our air, irritate our eyes and respiratory systems (asthma, allergies). I know many people who can’t even wash their house without going through a box a kleenex because their nose drips the entire time.  And let’s open that can of worms when it comes to the serious carcinogenic ingredients like coal-tar, Quarternium 15 (which releases formaldehyde), synthetic dyes and perfumes that are left behind our or dishes, skin, floors, walls and windows when cleaning. What really bugs me are all these manufacturers who keep coming out with new and improved products (what because they didn’t work before?) which are mostly petroleum based (more reasons to be in Iraq), contain toxic ingredients that are non-renewable, non-biodegradable and seriously harmful to our bodies plus they contribute to more waste through packaging.  How these ingredients pass Health Canada and the FDA are beyond me even when they have proof that they are carcinogenic.  If they are passed it’s usually because they do short-term tests.  I mean a big manufacturer doesn’t have 15 years to spend testing a new “grease fighting” ingredient when they want to sell it now, so the effects of them on our bodies in the long term are unknown and synergistic tests (how it reacts with other products or ingredients) aren’t even mandatory. So how are we supposed to know the “real” effect of when it will be in people’s homes? Seriously, if these products are toxic for the environment and potentially dangerous for our bodies, then this begs the question, why are we using them when there are natural alternatives that in my opinion are far more effective?  And for all the pet lovers out there, don’t for one moment think that cosmetics are the only things tested on animals, cleaning products go through just as many tests as cosmetics.  No company is more plagued with animal testing scandals than Procter and Gamble, who for example, tested the toxicity levels of their Tide-tablets by force feeding them to beagles. So, I don’t know about you but when I hear that ingredients like Quarternium 15 which release formaldehyde in my dish soap may be carcinogenic, I don’t need to read 300 articles stating it may or may not be dangerous.  I think I have enough common sense to realise that I am just cleaning tomato sauce off my sauce pan…I can do without the dead body preservative when washing my dishes and use a vegetable-based, grapefruit smelling one instead, thank you very much. So what’s the solution? Simple!  First of all, get rid of the notion that you need such a wide range of cleaning products. Most were created through marketing initiatives to increase sales by slightly altering the products and adding a different scent.  Second, you can use green brands that are vegetable based, non-toxic, biodegradable, cruelty-free and usually made with recyclable packaging. So what about the effectiveness you ask? Very good!  citrasolvI use Citra-solv as an all purpose spray made from orange oils so its breaks through grease, dried up tomato sauce and leaves a pleasant smelling scent. Best of all it’s concentrated – 1 bottle can be diluted to make 10 spray bottles, so you reduce packaging and save money. For dishes I use Nature-Clean brand products but there are tons of other green brands available on the market. This brand for example has a complete line of cleaning products that can be found in the natural sections of major grocery stores, health food stores or online. Third, you can make your own cleaning products with ingredients you probably already have in your home like vinegar (perfect for hardwood floors and washing windows), baking soda, (abrasive for stains, declogs sinks), lemon juice (degreaser), hydrogen peroxide (natural disinfectant or bleaching agent) and borax (anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and bleaching agent). I admit, I haven’t yet made the leap to making my own cleaning products but I can’t wait to try them out. In one of my next posts I will do a complete article on making your own cleaners, their effectiveness and how easy it is to find the products.  None the less, I enjoy shopping for natural cleaners and love trying new brands and you will too. There’s nothing not to like! A recent 5-year EPA study found the concentration of 20 toxic compounds to be as much as 200 times higher inside homes than outdoors. Green Seal’s Choose Green Report, March 1998