November 1, 2021

BERNSTEIN | Ithaca Makes It Easy to Reuse; Take Advantage of It

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Within this city that we call home, there’s a trail you can travel with troves of treasure stashed along its way. Chests full of your wildest dreams stock aisles and crowd warehouses, line the walls of basements and fill storefronts to the brim. To one who doesn’t stop and look, it’s trash: but dust away the layer of what’s old and dirty on top, and underneath, you find something that’s not just pre-owned — but pre-loved.

This is the goal of the Reuse Trail of Tompkins County, a directory of over 40 places where you can get reused items for low prices. I found its little rack card while in East Hill Antiques over the summer. On one side is a map that lays out the county’s secondhand shops allowing you to plan your scavenger hunt accordingly. On the other is a complete list of locations sorted into seven categories: Clothing & Accessories, Antiques & Collectibles, Music & Books, Home & Furnishing, Sports & Outdoors, Arts, Crafts & Sewing and Computers & Electronics

Since then, I’ve kept the map up on the bulletin board of my desk, taking it down every time I’m in the market for something “new”. My entire living room is furnished by the Reuse Trail: we bought a dining table, TV Stand, reclining chair, coffee table, TV stand, lamp and posters all for about 125 bucks. Not to mention, our kitchen is stocked with reused plates, bowls and cups. On top of that, I’ve used the map to find clothes a number of times, and one of my friends even borrowed it to go shopping for accessories to his Halloween costume this past weekend.

I’ve found so many cool and useful things from reusing in Ithaca, and while I’d heard of some of the spots on the trail, seeing everything listed and compiled together lays out all of the options — and there are a lot. 

Ithaca makes it so easy for us to reuse. All over the city, you can find shops selling quality secondhand goods for cheap. Take advantage of it. Not only will you save money, but you’ll reduce waste, support local businesses and give a new home to an item that might otherwise be discarded. 

Buying secondhand keeps items from filling landfills and preserves resources. This is why Get Your GreenBack Tompkins started the Reuse Trail back in 2013: reusing is good for the environment and lowers your carbon footprint. You stop things from ending up in landfills, you use less waste in shipping and packaging and you don’t increase demand for newly manufactured goods, which is energy and carbon intensive. Plus, you don’t support big businesses with unsustainable practices. For instance,  if you’re thrift shopping, you’re not giving money to fast fashion or un-environmental clothing factories.

In fact, reusing actively supports local businesses. The trail promotes tons of locally owned secondhand shops, so when you follow along you generate revenue for the city and benefit the local economy. Plus, some of the stores are nonprofits devoted to helping the community.

Take for example Finger Lakes ReUse. It’s a community-oriented nonprofit and its goals are to prevent waste from populating landfills and serve as an education center on reusing and repairing. At its two locations, ReUse offers practically anything under the sun, with low prices and special deals every day. Going to places like this supports their mission in helping this town.

It’s important to take a step back for a second and recognize that reusing is bigger than the Reuse Trail, and bigger than Ithaca. It’s about environmental sustainability, supporting local businesses and saving money. We’re lucky to go to school in a place that prides itself on reusing, but you can and should reuse anywhere.

There’s something kind of beautiful about buying secondhand, too. Someone else’s trash really does become your treasure. You can find so many hidden gems along the aisles of a consignment shop or secondhand store. And when you reuse, you give an item a new story: the jacket you got at Trader K’s will keep another generation warm, the couch from Mimi’s Attic will host a whole different set of guests and the records from Angry Mom will serve as the soundtrack to a brand new movie.

Anything you find at a thrift, consignment or antique shop was once owned, and maybe even loved, by someone else. This doesn’t make the item less valuable — it gives it history. And you, by reusing it, give it new life. 

We should all strive to reuse more: to reduce waste, to save money, to support the community — and to get cool things! Ithaca offers great opportunities to make reusing a part of our life. It’s up to us to follow through.

Daniel Bernstein is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. Feel the Bern runs every other Monday this semester.