Since April is Earth Month, it seems like a good time to take a look at the world of second-hand shopping. After all, buying used consumer goods does help reduce, reuse, and recycle. We visited almost every Value Village, Goodwill, and Salvation Army in the GTA to find out which locations had the best merchandise. Here’s what we discovered:
Is thrift store shopping really green?
While it’s great that gently used clothing and housewares aren’t ending up in a landfill, justifying your need to consume by buying used is not earth friendly.
Does it matter where you shop?
Value Village is a for-profit enterprise, which is part of an American-owned multinational called Savers (although it does buy merchandise from non-profits). If you want to act locally, Goodwill and Salvation Army are registered charities and money from sales goes back into the community.
The plus side of Value Village is that the chain has an assembly line approach to pricing, meaning that a shirt is $5 whether it’s from the Gap or Gaultier. There are exceptions, such as a Jonathan Adler-esque vase priced at $49, but overall, VV has decided it’s more cost efficient not to judge the merchandise. The down side of the Salvation Army and other shops run by religious groups is that they won’t sell books or records that they find offensive. So don’t expect to find a hidden cache of Jim “Foetus” Thirlwell albums.
Where’s the best place to buy furniture?
The Salvation Army on Parliament between Queen and Dundas has a good selection of couches (and occasionally brand new mattresses). The Goodwill at Gerrard and Coxwell offers an array of shelves and side tables. Value Village’s Rogers Road and Lansdowne locations both house sofas, desks, and single bed frames. For decorative accent pieces, the two Victoria Park Value Villages (at Finch and at Eglinton) have the best variety of tchotchkes, wall hangings and other decorative pieces.
Where’s the best place to buy clothes?
If you like Big Primpin’-style vintage, the best individual clothing finds are at the Goodwill at Bloor and Sherbourne, but it requires digging through the racks. The Queen and Logan location of Value Village has a consistently good selection of handbags, scarves, and shoes. Overall the Rogers Road Value Village has the best overall mix of retro and contemporary job interview-type garments.
I’m really just looking for books, music and electronics.
If it’s book and records ye seek, steer straight to the Bloor and Sherbourne Goodwill and the Danforth and Woodbine Value Village. But be warned, you’ll still have to wade through dusty stacks of John Grisham novels and bins of crappy Jane Fonda Workout LPs to find treasure.
As for electronics, wherever there’s a good furniture selection, you’ll find stereos and gizmos (although the Value Village at Victoria Park and Eglinton and the Parkdale Sally Ann also have cool gadgets). It’s mostly Lloyds and Yorx quality, but if you go once a week, in time you may be rewarded with a Casio SK-1 Sampling Keyboard or a Marantz Amplifier.
One last note: Don’t buy things that have holes or weird smells because it could end up costing a pretty penny to fix the problem. And remember, students will be moving en masse at the end of the month, so you will be able to find used IKEA furniture for free on the curb.
Photo by fortune cookie.