When this challenge was brought up in class, I wasn’t even aware that there was an anti-consumerism movement. It never really occurred to me that fighting consumer culture was part of “going green.” We were encouraged to do a little research, so I did and I learned about something called The Really Really Free Market online that has caught on across the country.
They are scheduled events where people bring any unneeded items, food, and services they can offer. It’s completely free – you bring something, enjoy what everyone else brings, and get to take home anything you find that you want. Almost like a potluck. I thought it was an interesting and creative approach to sharing and helping out the community and environment.
I wondered why there weren’t any of these events in Davis, but I thought of something we have that may be sort of similar. Last summer one of my cousins introduced me to Davis “dumpster diving.” My initial reaction was, “Eww”, but after he explained that I wouldn’t be jumping into a garbage can and swimming through leftovers I decided to go along with him and a friend for a night of this “dumpster diving.” Around late August/early September leases expire and everyone moves. It’s a Davis-wide moving week. Students that don’t want to bring their furniture back home or are trying to lighten their load for the move to another apartment decide to throw many things out. Before this experience, I had no idea that most apartment complexes section off an area specifically for these things. In this area, you can leave anything that is still in decent condition and can still be used. People leave out furniture, clothes, textbooks, dishes… almost anything you could imagine, and anyone and everyone is free to take what they want. It’s amazing what people throw out. That night I actually found a barely-used black book shelf that goes perfectly in my new room and some unused moving boxes to help with my move. Something you don’t want any more could be exactly what someone else has been looking for. Buying things used was sort of a foreign concept to me until I started college. Away from home you realize you need or want things that you can’t afford - at least not if you want to eat more than one meal a day for a month. It was a revelation to find out that other people would sell stuff I wanted and for cheaper – or sometimes even for free.
This kind of giving, borrowing and buying used really takes two, though. We can focus on getting people to buy used, but it makes it hard when there isn’t much to buy. There are many things out there that are people are willing to sell or give away, but I don’t think that everyone puts them out there. Most people throw everything away or horde a lot of things that they really don’t need. I know that I have three different closets that are full of clothes, and I don’t even wear half of them. Sometimes we hang on to things that we think we’re going to need, but they end up collecting dust until we decide to throw them out. If an item is still in good condition, it has another life – maybe not with you, but with someone else. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.