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Talkin' Trash

Over years of hanging out with green activists (many of whom are actually more hip and fashionable than my TV and actor friends), I've picked up some excellent ideas on eco-responsible shopping. I confess that I do ocassionally buy something that's not on this list, but for the most part, it suits me nicely:

Shop at thrift stores like Renaissance or L'Armee du Salut (Salvation Army)
I've bought some stunning cocktail dresses, formal tops, pants and shoes at my local thrift store. Brand names like Le Chateau, Tristan and America, SmartSet, Old Navy, Gap and more. My current favourite cocktail dress is one from Tristan and America that I acquired for the princely sum of $6.
And I got the most comfortable leather ankle boots ever 3 years ago at Le Chainon (on St Laurent) for $4.
The best part is that extra little glow you get from knowing that the little money you spend on such treasures is going to help marginalized people and social justice issues.
CONS: Shopping at thrift stores is a bit of a crapshoot. Some days you can barely breathe for the racks of perfectly preserved in-your-size goodies, others, you're going to walk out emptyhanded. So if you know you want a charcoal grey double-breasted suit for your job interview on Wednesday next week, Renaissance is probably not your best bet. But if you are simply shopping for the sport of it--or enjoy a good treasure hunt, Montreal is an amazing city for the eco-and-budget-conscious fashionista.

Do you have a treasure you've found secondhand? Send us pics: geeta.nadkarni@cbc.ca

Garage or Estate Sales

Most of my furniture, cutlery and crockery comes from the Village de Valeur. I call it eclectic chic. (And also cheap). Hey, I moved to Montreal 4 1/2 years ago with two suitcases and barely any money. So even IKEA was way outside my means. What started as necessity has evolved to choice. And I think my living room works!
If you're not a Salvation Army shopper or if your tastes are a little more discerning, consider estate sales. The newspapers are full of announcements about Turkish rugs and dark, antique furniture from the 40s being auctioned off. It's a little pricier, but you'll get something that's well-made and that has an excellent backstory. This way, the gorgeous furniture you buy stays out of the landfills and fewer trees get cut down (or sweatshop workers overworked) to produce your item of luxury.

There's lots of gently used (and low-priced) treasure on ebay. The trick here is to watch out for extravagant shipping costs (and try and buy from folks who are close to you geographically or your carbon karma will dip into dung beetle land). Ebay is excellent for books, crafted items, yarn, jewellry, music and DVDs.

Okay, this is a little more involved than shopping, but consider that sweater you saw at the thrift store. The one that came in a gorgeous turquoise colour but was waaaay too big? With a little creativity, you could make it into a nifty shopping bag (that would then help you cut down on the plastic you use). There's a great tutorial on how to do this here.
Old sweaters can be recycled into wine carriers, handbags, cuddly toys, diaper covers, legwarmers and just about anything.
If you're into recycling sweaters (or own or use something made from them), send us pics! We want to see!
You can send them in to my email account: geeta.nadkarni@cbc.ca

Support artists who work with reclaimed and recycled materials

There are hundreds of brilliant and talented people out there who work with recycled materials to produce everything from hang-on-your-wall art to clothing and accessories. Buy their stuff when you feel the urge to splurge. You can find them in stores like Preloved in Montreal (they recycle fabric into sweaters, clothing and accessories), on etsy.com (be still my heart!), on ebay.ca and in environmentally and socially conscious stores like Rien a Cacher on St Denis.

The month of June...
Ahh, this is a beautiful month for eco-conscious bargain hunters. You know how everyone moves on July 1 in Montreal? Umm hmm. Well, as early as June 1, you'll begin to notice treasures--lamps, sofas, carpets, end tables--all showing up on pavements across the city. One man's trash is another man's boudoir-enhancing centrepiece.
I'm just saying.
I guess the only problem is getting that gorgeous bookshelf home....

Now this is just a smattering of ideas. I'm sure you have even better ones. So send them in! Tell me about your favourite eco-friendly way to shop. Whether it's buying fairtrade or some genius crafts project you've started, I want to know! (Send me pics whenever possible)

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Comments (2)



I just watched a program on the CBC which mentions a list of thrift shops ie churches in the West Island. I cannot find this list on your website. Can you send it to me?



Posted March 24, 2008 03:14 PM

Geeta Nadkarni


Hi David,
In my blog post above, I've created "hot" links for all the places that have websites. So if you go to the part about Renaissance and the Salvation Army, just click on the words and that should take you directly to their website where you can find an outlet that's close to you. And if anyone else knows of small independent church sales or thrift stores on the West Island, be a pal and write in?
Have a great week!

Posted March 24, 2008 04:43 PM

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