Second hand shopping

Thrift score

A recent Vancity poll found that 97% of British Columbians buy, sell or donate used goods. 97%!

We do this for a number of really good reasons:

  • For access to higher quality goods
  • To reduce clutter
  • To support creative self-expression
  • To save money

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve shopped at a thrift store or sold something used to someone else. Because Biritish Columbians participate in the second-hand economy so much it’s important for us to have a thriving second-hand industry (in order to save money, for example). Here are five ways that cities can better support the second-hand economy for us all:

1. Create incentives for second-hand exchange

Through supportive policies, regulations and initiatives, municipalities can support this industry:

2. Make permanent spaces and storage facilities available to the industry 

Libraries along with underused warehouses, old fire houses, community centres, transportation services and buildings can be used for community sharing and reuse. For example, libraries in Kingston, Toronto and Vancouver lend musical instruments alongside books. By creating an inventory and matching available spaces with needs, cities can make these facilities available to host swaps and flea markets, and to house new second-hand businesses.

3. Connect reuse with reduce, repair and re-purpose

One way cities can make these links is by supporting green enterprise hubs and programs. The City of Vancouver is supporting co-location models for reuse and repair activities, for example in the False Creek Flats area Green Hub.

City zoning and bylaws can also enable second-hand enterprises to co-locate. For example, an upholstery businesses can exist in a space with a used furniture charity vendor or used goods flea market with maker spaces for repair and re-purposing items. Companies are already seeing the benefits. Salvation Army is considering connecting tailoring services to their second-hand clothing stores. While Mountain Equipment Co-op offers repair services alongside Gear Swap – its outdoor clothing second hand market.

Second hand shopping

4. Lead by example

Cities can lead by purchasing second-hand equipment. For example: MuniRent, a private sector web platform that launched in January 2014, facilitates the sharing of equipment and personnel between and within municipal governments. It provides a searchable listing and handles reimbursement paperwork.

One member said that “On an enterprise level, MuniRent is the future of intelligent, multi-agency equipment sharing.” Resources like MuniRent have the potential to streamline and simplify existing sharing within local and regional governments.

5. Celebrate second hand

Sharing reuse stories or creating a city-wide garage sale is a great way to engage the community. The City of Victoria can build on the success of Used.ca – the Victoria initiated used goods online platform.

Furthermore, the cities of Cranbrook and Kimberley can celebrate the creation by local residents of the “Pickers Paradise” map that locates second hand and thrift stores and pawn shops. Additionally, Bowen Island is celebrating the success of its “Knick Knack Nook” second-hand store. This celebration includes creating a short film and launching a scholarship for Bowen Island residents undertaking environmental studies degrees.

In these ways and more, local governments can play a critical part in extending the useful life of goods and supporting a thriving second-hand economy.

For more information on these trends or to learn more about this economy in B.C., check out the report I authored, Thrift Score: An examination of the driving forces behind B.C.’s second-hand economy.

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