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Written by Patricia Dines

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This Month's Column:
Discarding Your Stuff - Ecologically

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Discarding Your Stuff - Ecologically

Published in the West County Gazette
August 2008
(c) Patricia Dines, 2008. All rights reserved.

Dear EcoGirl: Where can I pass along my unwanted items to others? I'd like to keep them out of the garbage, and maybe make some cash too. Signed, Cluttered in Cazadero

Dear Cluttered: I'm delighted that you want to help reduce the waste sent to our overflowing landfills, thus lessening that environmental harm and the eco-costs of making and shipping new items. And, yes, you can also make money and feel good about contributing to others!

Waste reduction is especially vital in Sonoma County. Did you know that our local landfill was closed in 2005, because of contaminants leaking into groundwater? Since then, we've been hauling our 6,000 tons of weekly garbage to out-of-county dumps, emitting countless pollutants along the way.

The County can't afford to fix the landfill, and hopes a corporation will invest. But then they might also revive a prior proposal to dramatically expand the dump. This risks increased harm to our water supply, nature's creatures, and the sensitive neighboring Petaluma Marsh (California's largest remaining unaltered tract of tidal wetlands).

That's why it's so vital to significantly reduce our trash! Our actions do make a difference.

Making a Plan

1) Take stock of what you have. Start by gathering your unneeded items. Is there anything you could repair, repaint, or refurbish, for yourself or others?

2) Identify your discarding priorities. Which items might be worth trying to sell? Which ones do you just want to go to loving homes? This will determine your next steps.

Your Action Options

1) Sell Directly. With this approach, you do the promotion, meet with folks, and keep the full sale price. Offer your goodies on local email lists, such as <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/wacco-bb>. Post them online at <www.craigslist.org>, <www.waccobb.net>, and special-interest sites (e.g., for cars). Or place classifieds in general or specialty periodicals. Consider who might find each item useful and where they'd look for it.

2) Sell Through Consignment Stores. This approach allows you to sell your more-valuable items with less effort. Stores will bring in customers and manage logistics in exchange for about half of the sale price (usually paid after the item sells). Look for places online and in the phone book under Consignment, Antiques, and specific categories, such as Books, Clothing, and Sports. Ask shops what they take, drop-off hours, turnaround time to get on the floor (sometimes 4-8 weeks), and payment rates. (See box for some wonderful local shops.)

3) Hold a Yard Sale. Best for less-expensive items, a sale allows you to make some money, reach more folks at once, move a decent amount of stuff, connect with interesting people and neighbors, watch shoppers delight in their finds, and setup a "Free" area. Also consider a flea market booth ($18, 823-7874).

4) Giveaway Directly. To pass along a few items quickly, especially larger ones, leave them curbside with a "Free" sign. Or post on the above sites and lists, plus <www.freecycle.org>.

5) Donate to Charities. Support community groups, non-profits, and churches with donations to their activities, thrift stores, or yard sales. Contact groups you value, or look in the phone book or online under Thrift Shops and Charities. Some offer tax deductions. (See box for some great local outlets.)

6) Give Creatively. Consider who could use what's left. For instance, offer medical items to a senior center; art supplies to a school or artist; egg cartons to a farmer; and a broken lamp to a repair store (to fix and resell, or use for parts). Even pencil stubs can be given to the library!

For More Information

* Sonoma County Eco-Desk (565-3375, <www.recyclenow.org>). Their website and Recycling Guide (under "R" in the Yellow Pages) suggest places to discard many items (including toxic ones!).

* Book: Choose to Reuse, by Nikki & David Goldbeck. Great inspiration, ideas, and resources for repair and reuse.

For The Future

* Streamline by setting up an ongoing giveaway box or area.

* Complete the circle by buying used.

* Support zero waste projects. These efforts seek to align our culture with nature's ways, where everything either becomes a resource for something else or returns harmlessly back into the earth. For more information, see <www.crra.com/grc/articles/zwc.html>.

So I hope this article helps you find useful homes for all your discards, now reborn as someone else's treasures!

Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guides, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter.

Email your questions about going green to <EcoGirl@AskEcoGirl.info> for possible inclusion in future columns. View past columns at <www.AskEcoGirl.info>. Also contact EcoGirl for information about carrying this syndicated column in your periodical. "EcoGirl believes that everyone can be a superhero for the planet. Then she shows you how!"

© Copyright Patricia Dines, 2008. All rights reserved.

Where to Discard
By Patricia Dines

Here are some local favorite places to sell and donate your treasures. See my Ask EcoGirl article for more options and tips.


* Pine Grove General Store (Sebastopol, 829-1138). Women's, men's, and children's clothing, from casual to professional, plus jewelry, accessories, furniture, art, and home decor. Pays 40% of sale price.

* Shards & Remnants (Sebastopol, 823-1366). Clothing and accessories "to make you feel beautiful." Velvets and silks more than jeans and t-shirts. Style important, mostly newer items, some vintage. "If I can't use it, I'll guide you to someone who might." Pays 40% of sale price.

* Simply Chic (Santa Rosa, 578-8044). Women's clothing, "high-end fashion that's trendy, funky, and artsy." Pays 40% of sale price.

* Hot Couture (Santa Rosa, 528-7247, www.hotcouturevintage.com). Bohemian readers voted this the county's 2008 Best Vintage Store. Authentic vintage clothing (at least 35 years old), plus accessories, are bought (outright) for resale and costume rental. Purchase prices vary. Sometimes will buy items needing repair.

* Cotati Clothing (Cotati, 665-9401, www.cotaticlothing.com). Current or vintage stylish fashions, including accessories. No fur, lingerie, or jewelry. Buys outright, either 35% of the expected sale price in cash or 50% in store credit. (They also sell new eco-clothing, made of organic cotton, bamboo, etc.)

* Vicki's Secret (Petaluma, 765-2807, www.vickissecret.com). Current-season high-end women's apparel and accessories in pristine shape, less than two years old. Pays 40% of sale price.

* Red Umbrella Consignment (Petaluma, 778-3499, www.redumbrellaconsignment.com). Women's clothing and accessories. Current seasonal fashions, bought within two years, better labels, excellent condition. Also vintage and contemporary furniture and decor, art, and some hand-crafted items. Pays 40% of sale price, 50% on furniture.

* New 2 You Consignment (Sebastopol, 823-7377). Children's clothes, toys, and books, plus maternity. Buys outright for 40% store credit. (They have a children's play area plus a dollar clothes rack.)

* Sweet Pea Children's Consignment (Cotati, 794-1215). "Upscale Resale Children's Boutique," specializing in new and gently-used children's clothing, maternity wear, infant and educational toys, books, baby equipment, and more. Offers local handmade items. Pays 35% of sale price.

* Zoe Clothing & Kid Exchange (Petaluma, 775-3239). Women's and kid's clothes, jewelry, and bags. Pays 40% of sale price.

* Harry's Second Hand Warehouse (Santa Rosa, 526-7713). Buys mostly furniture, outright.

* Furniture Consignment Gallery (Santa Rosa, 523-3680). Furniture plus art, lamps, etc. Pays 55% of sale price.

* Play It Again Sports (Santa Rosa, 527-7678, www.playitagainsportssantarosa.com). Sports items, from treadmills to weights to ski equipment. Buys outright (30% of expected sale price in cash, or 40% store credit), or on consignment (50% cash, when it sells).

More places are at http://consignment-thrift-shops-in-santa-rosa-ca.yellowpagesltd.com.


* Sutter VNA & Hospice Thrift Store (Sebastopol, 824-4712). Donated clothing, furniture, and household goods are sold to benefit hospice care.

* Goodwill (Santa Rosa and more, 545-2492, www.gire.org). Donated clothing, furniture, and household items are sold to fund Goodwill's job training, placement, and support programs for people with disabilities and other special needs, and those transitioning from welfare to work.

* The Clothing Closet (Santa Rosa, 523-0550 x281/Peggy, www.gire.org/programs/profiles/csv). Donated women's and men's professional clothing and accessories are given to underprivileged people as part of helping them get jobs.

* Sack's on the Square (Santa Rosa, 541-7227). Clothes, jewelry, household items, CDs, art, and holiday items are sold in this thrift store to benefit two charities. Bohemian readers voted this the county's 2008 Best Secondhand Store.

* Recycletown (Petaluma, 795-3660, www.garbage.org). Accepts used paint, building materials, furniture, bikes, appliances, mattresses, lamps, pans, tools, clothes, toys, and more. Sale proceeds support this non-profit's eco-educational work.

* ReStore (Santa Rosa, 568-3228). Habitat for Humanity resells salvaged building materials to support their affordable housing work.

* Computer Recycling Center (Santa Rosa, 570-1600, www.crc.org) Drop off old computers and tech items, and this pioneering non-profit repairs, sells, and donates them to schools and others. Leftovers are recycled responsibly. Repair services are also available.

* Public libraries (Various, 545-0831 x541, www.sonomalibrary.org/friends). Donations of books, CDs, DVDs, art, and software are sold periodically to help support the libraries.

* The Living Room (Santa Rosa, 579-0142, www.thelivingroomsc.org). The county's only daytime drop-in program specifically serving homeless and at-risk women and children offers them food, information, and referrals. Their website lists donation needs, including women's and children's clothing, blankets, small toiletries, strollers, spiral notebooks, craft supplies, and basic foods.

* The Legacy (Sebastopol, 823-7520, www.sebastopolseniorcenter.org/legacy.htm). Drop off cloth, sewing supplies, and craft materials for resale. They do some consignment. Benefits the Sebastopol Senior Center.

Thank you! to the folks who sent in their favorites as suggestions for this list!

=== More About the Above Places ===

* The Living Room (LR) - will have an open house tour on Sept. 24 at noon. Also, most donations go to LR directly. However, donations of women's and children's clothing are handled a little differently. Bring them to Heavenly Treasures (569-7448, M-F 10a-2pm), which is located behind LR at Mendocino Ave. Women who attend LR then receive vouchers for free or low-cost clothing at Heavenly Treasures.

* Public libraries - The Santa Rosa Friends of the Library Fall Book Faire (where they sell the donations to raise money for the libraries) is October 17-20.  More information is available at http://www.sonomalibrary.com/friends/SantaRosa_bk.html.

=== For Green Building Reuse ===

>> For places to both discard and find used building materials, see my previous column Seeing Through Green Eyes: Remodeling Green on the Cheap <www.patriciadines.info/EcoGirl3.html>

=== Other Places of Interest ===

* Wee Peats (Santa Rosa, 525-9333, www.weepeats.com/3.html). Only very high-quality excellent-condition children's clothing and toys. Trades for store credit. More relaxed trade system.

=== More Options - Reader Suggestions ===

* Healdsburg - Favorites
Mark says - "It is not west of hwy 101, but a great clothing consignment store is FAVORITES in Healdsburg, on Center Street.  Open 7 days a week.  Phone 707 433 2660.  Speak to Louise Gentry, the owner.  Good quality clothes, friendly knowledgable staff.  A fun place to shop.

* Marin County - Laurel House
Jean says - "It's not in Sonoma County, but also may mean one could get a better price by placing items in Marin. Been in business umptyumpty years, non-profit whose funds go to support Marin Art & Garden Center. The Center has begun a nice program of reclaiming areas of the garden overrun with non-natives & encouraging the regrowth/introduction of local species, as well as offering environmental classes for kids, further making doing business with Laurel House a good thing!
Laurel House: http://www.laurelhouseantiques.com/index.html
Marin Art & Garden Center: http://www.magc.org/

=== Another Approach - Clothing Swaps! ===

Portia Sinnott of LITE Initiatives offers them periodically, and can help and give advice about holding them.

She says, "Swaps are a fun, ecological way to get new-to-you goods, get rid of unwanted reusable stuff and get to know your friends' friends. LITE Initiatives holds Spring and Fall Swaps and is willing to help groups and individuals organize events, even small private parties. Loaner clothes racks and hangers available by deposit; you must pick-up and return. Sample invitations and how-to instructions can be found at www.liteinit.org, or contact LITE at lite@sonic.net or from 579-5811.

=== Related Articles ===

* In tight times, more people recycling to earn cash, By KERRY BENEFIELD, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT, August 31, 2008
County buyback centers are seeing visitors haul in bottles, even cardboard, to earn rising rates for recyclable goods
PD NOTE: This article has more of a local focus than their Aug 7 one below.

* ECONOMY: Living simply provides economic shelter - Tough times mean many are pooling resources, Aug 4, 2008 http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2008/08/05//business//z4fc21f0fc9228c408825749b00716e5d.txt

* Trading junk for groceries - Recycling takes off as copper, steel prices soar along with household bills for food, gasoline, Associated Press, Aug 7, 2008
PD NOTE: This article features stories about people selling raw materials for household cash. It doesn't have a local focus or resources.

=== More About the Sonoma County Dump - History & Status ===

* Sonoma County moves toward leasing landfill, Press Democrat, June 10, 2008
Sonoma County supervisors took a significant step Tuesday toward leasing county landfill operations to a private company, unanimously voting to search nationwide for bidders. http://www1.pressdemocrat.com/article/20080610/NEWS/892097079/1033

* EXPORTING REFUSE: The Long Haul, Press Democrat, May 6, 2007
With fewer dumps in state, partnership with trash company and Colusa County tribe may solve future dilemma of waste disposal for North Coast 

* Talking Trash - Environmentalists claim proposed landfill expansion threatens wetlands, Bohemian, Nov. 24, 2004

=== Trivia Answer for the Sharp-Eyed ===

You might have happened to notice that there is a reference to both a wacco email list and website. "Why is that?," you might wonder. Well, the email list (wacco-bb) is the original local bulletin board, and the website (waccobb.net) is a spinoff. They're each run by different folks.

Reader feedback

"Hi Patricia - I met you at the CNPS Chapter Picnic yesterday & recognized your name from the columns ... then when I got home, I noticed that the page I had torn out of the West County Gazette to pin up in the kitchen was actually your column for this month, "Discarding Your Stuff..."! This is SO useful. I wanted to thank you.
Betsy Livingstone, Registered Nurse (RN), CNPS Boardmember


For more information on related eco-topics, see my other Ask EcoGirl columns.

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Page last updated 08/17/09