Editorial: Waste not…

Trent Ernst, Editor
This weekend, the Lion’s club held its annual Garage Sale and Winter Wear Swap. The reason for the winter wear swap says Dina Janzen, “is for people who aren’t as lucky to have the money to be able to afford brand new winter wear for the kids…there are some families that just don’t have that kind of money.”
But I’m thinking that these sorts of things are a good idea in general. Most kids’ clothes are worn for a matter of months, as kids have this upsetting tendency to grow up, outgrowing their (usually perfectly good) clothes. Especially winter clothes, where after one season, things are packed away for the summer, only to emerge in October having shrunk two sizes. Or did she just grow another couple inches? Sigh. 
The thing is, there’s so much…stuff…floating around town that there’s little need to buy anything new. Chances are, if you need something, someone around here is looking to get rid of it. New baby and need a crib? Just put out a call and I’m sure you’ll get a dozen. 
But have we become so entrenched in disposable culture that our first response when we discover something is too small for the kids is to throw it away, even though it is perfectly good? 
In 2006, British Columbia generated over 4-million tonnes of solid waste, while most of that was industrial waste, nearly a quarter of that was generated by us. You and me. Sure, a lot of that was banana peels and coffee grinds, but I bet that a few thousand tonnes of that at least was perfectly good stuff that got pitched because it wasn’t needed anymore. 
I realize that we live in a society that is built on the idea of consumption, and most of the stuff we own is, well, let’s be fair, it’s not really that well-built. I know that if we have cars that last fifty years and clothes that last ten, very quickly the people who make cars and clothes are going to be out of business.
But I don’t think that’s the biggest issue. No, there are enough people who are willing to share out of their abundance that the thrift stores are never empty. In fact, the trouble is at the other end: we’re perfectly willing to donate stuff to a thrift store, to give our too-small kids’ clothes to the Lions Club, but to actually pick up something from a thrift store? People might think us poor and needy, and we want them to think us rich and self-sufficient. 
As usual this year there was plenty of stuff donated to the garage sale and plenty of stuff that was not picked up. 
Okay, so the community garage sale is also a chance for people to offload their out-of-date items, but as they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, though I can’t see many people at all treasuring XXXX. 
Still, how much stuff do we really need? How much new stuff do we really need? 
The idea of trading, donating or swapping stuff with other members of the community is not a new idea. In fact, it is a very old idea that is starting to see resurgence in a new form. While we still have garage sales and swap meets and parents donating their old baby clothes to new parents, we’re also starting to see this idea move online, with sites like freecycle.org and paperbackswap.com, preloved.ca and swaptreasures.com. 
Even here in Tumbler Ridge, there is the Facebook Page Tumbler Ridge Mall: Buy/Sell/Giveaway. Currently, there are 100 percent wool equador sweaters for $10. You’ll also find a Dolby Digital Surround Sound Stereo amp, fishing rod bags, snow pants, men’s dress shirts, travel bags, pots and pans, and even big ticket items like campers and snowmobiles. Most of these are for sale at a sometimes heavily discounted price. 
So the next time you look at that pair of jeans and discover for some reason they’ve shrunk to a point where they no longer fit, or go through the kids drawers to find the shirts that are too small, rather than throw it into the trash, take the time to find a way to share it, to pass it along. To let it be used by someone else. Yes, it might take more time than simply tossing it, but it is better for the environment and it’s better for the community.