August 01, 2007

Reuse and use used

by Alan Beatts

Writing my piece about the store history this issue made me start thinking about recycling and "green-thinking" in general.  Despite my Bay Area upbringing, I've never been much of a "tree hugger" (as we used to call environmentally-minded people when I was in High School).  In fact, when I was younger, I pretty much didn't give a damn about environmental issues.  But as I got older, I got smarter (at least _I_ think so) and I started to think about those issues.

Now my attitude is much more thoughtful, if not 100% hippy-certified, organically grown, and environmentally conscious (I mean really . . . I do drive a damn big, gas-guzzling truck . . . when I'm not walking or riding a motorcycle).  It's based on two key things --

A) I really, REALLY hate waste.  Perhaps it comes from being dirt poor and living hand-to-mouth for a while (not to mention being homeless, but that's another story) or maybe it's my father's Scottish frugality coming to the fore late in life but whatever the reason I don't like to see something that could be valuable to someone (other than its owner) getting thrown away.  It strikes me as both foolish and inconsiderate.  Foolish since one is wasting something that has value and inconsiderate because one is denying someone else something that might be quite valuable to them.  I think it's simple self-centeredness that makes a person conclude that something is valueless in an absolute sense and therefore trash simply because that object no longer has (subjective) value to that person.  By definition, that's inconsiderate.

B)  I love efficiency and good design.  It just makes me happy on a very basic level.  Up to a point, reusing objects is efficient in that it makes the best use of the raw materials, the energy and the labor that went into creating the object in the first place.  Good design is (in many cases if not always) based on creating something that achieves its purpose effectively with the minimum amount of effort or energy.

The way I run Borderlands is based on those two things.  Not only does working that way save me money but it makes me happy by avoiding something I hate and building something I love.

On reflection it's surprising to me that often, when people talk about recycling and environmentally sustainability, something that seems to me to be an important piece of the picture is given scant attention or even overlooked.  Buying used goods is a great way to recycle as well as saving energy.  In fact, in light of the current interest in "green" business, it seems that any business that sells used goods is a de-facto green business.  Unlike new goods, used goods use no additional raw materials, no additional energy to create plus typically little or no fuel is used to transport them, which reduces energy use as well as decreasing pollution and green house gasses.  At Borderlands we're proud to buy and sell used books.  Furthermore, where possible, we buy used furnishings and office equipment.

And on a final note, there's another big plus to buying used instead of new -- the money you spend almost always goes directly into your community where it circulates and produces the associated with Local First economics <>.

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