Living off the waste stream

Day 116

photo by Wilson Alvarez

photo by Wilson Alvarez

Revel’s growing like a weed, and I needed to buy him some new clothes.

But every time I went shopping, to the store, to the mall, to target and the other big chain box stores,

I’d gather up small and adorable outfits in my arms,

and put them down before I ever made it to the register, leaving empty handed.

I just can’t do it.

I can’t wrap my dear child up,

in clothing made by poor people in other countries,

possibly children themselves.

Tiny t-shirts with ghost slaves hovering around the edges,

the small, quick fingers,

of people forced to work too hard,

for too little money.

And it’s tough, ya’ know?

Because there are fair trade companies,

using organic cloth,

and natural dyes,

carefully crafted by

people respected for their skill

and paid accordingly.

But those wonderful garments

are expensive.

Don’t fit our budget,

based on happiness,

and small, simple living.

So what do I do?

I buy used.

From thrift shops, and second hand stores, from yard sales, and consignment shops.

I gather,

from the waste stream,

from the billions of pounds of trash flowing like flooding rivers through cities, towns,

the world.

Baby clothes, furniture, housewares, and toys,

in great condition, gently used, sometimes brand new,

discarded, thrown away, abandoned like so many pieces of junk.

Sold for dollars, cents, thrown away, free.

There for the taking.

Let’s use the things we have,

until they can’t be used anymore.

When you shop, shop local.

Support the people you know, frequent their stores.

But when you can, by all means

buy used,

or better yet, find it free.

Hunting for used stuff is fun, like a scavenger hunt.

Challenge yourself, make it a game.

Be creative.

We have to suppress our appetites for consuming,

if we hope to make it out alive.

We can’t keep living the same way,

and expect the world to change.

Our decisions make a difference.

Act accordingly.

Thank you for listening,



photo by Wilson Alvarez

Revel’s “new” jacket, compliments of local consignment shop. Bought today. Score!
photo by Wilson Alvarez



One response to “Living off the waste stream

  1. A few years ago I received an invitation to a friend’s baby shower. The invitation specifically requested nothing new, but stated that gently used items were gratefully appreciated. I was thrilled to see this, being a dedicated recycler of thrift store clothes myself. I really admired their dedication breaking out of this cycle of consumerism. I went through all my daughter’s old clothes and put together a mountain of babywear. It was far more than I ever could have given if they had expected brand new items. I gave them her swing, and a baby camping crib. I was able to give from my heart instead of my meager wallet. But when they started opening gifts, my heart sank. Everything else was brand new! Tags, packaging and gift receipts arrested to that fact. I sank into my seat, feeling smaller and smaller as each shiny new object was opened. Had I made a mistake? Hadn’t they specifically requested nothing new? My gifts were last to be opened. My friends graciously accepted them and I slipped out the door, feeling I had missed some social cue to which everyone else was privy. The next afternoon, my friends showed up at my door. They told me they had spent the morning returning the sweat shop clothing and shiny plastic toys that everyone else had given, and they thanked me for honoring their request. They reaffirmed their desire to teach their daughter a better way of living, to be part of the solution rather than just another mindless consumer contributing to the problem. It was not me who couldn’t read the social cues after all. It was that their idea was so far from everyone else’s reality that they could not believe it wasn’t a serious request. Who wouldn’t want brand new things for their baby? Simple. Parents who want a different future for their children.

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