Sustainability Recipe: Shopping Second-Hand

August 3, 2017

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Sustainability Life Recipes provide practical tips to go green and save green. Each recipe features strategies that save money while protecting the environment and contributing to good jobs for people in our community.

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Produced in collaboration with (former) Get Your GreenBack Tompkins

America is wrapped up in a “throwaway culture” when it comes to consumerism, which comes at a high cost to both shoppers and the environment. Purchasing secondhand items is good for your pocketbook, uses no additional natural resources, and keeps material out of landfills. According to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, $200 billion of revenue is generated from US reuse stores. This money creates jobs and contributes to maintaining a healthy local economy. Shopping secondhand also reduces our carbon footprint, as manufacturing new goods is energy- and pollution-intensive.  


Each year a typical American spends $1,800 on household furnishings and apparel, and a family of four spends closer to $4,500. With reuse stores selling items at 70% of their retail price, that’s $1,000s of dollars in savings when you buy used. In addition, more of your money stays in the local economy as most reuse stores are locally owned and sourced locally. Reuse stores help keep resources in use instead of in storage or landfills. And better yet, we don’t have to manufacture new goods.


In the Community

Ithaca and Tompkins County have a wealth of reuse, resale, consignment, and thrift stores, so shopping secondhand is easy and convenient. Shopping secondhand is useful for more than just clothes! Around Ithaca and Tompkins County there are secondhand stores in the following areas: 

For specific stores, Get Your GreenBack Tompkins and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County have put together a full list of secondhand stores in their Second Hand Shopping Directory - Reuse Tompkins web page. For shopping secondhand online, check Craigslist Ithaca

On Campus 

  • Cornell Thrift is a student organization that hosts a clothing exchange called Ezra’s Exchange, mending workshops, and a pop-up store at Eco-Fest. 
  • Cornell Wardrobe is a student organization that provides professional attire to students, either as a rental or for free in their pop-up shops
  • Dump & Run is an annual program open to both the Cornell and Ithaca communities that collects items from students leaving campus each May and resells them to students moving in each August. 


  1. Can I sell my stuff to stores? Yes, here is a list of stores that will purchase or consign goods. 
  2. Can I donate my stuff to stores? Yes, here is a list of stores that take donations.
  3. I have a lot of stuff that I want to know what to do with. Who can help me? There are professional local organizers who can help you figure out how to declutter and organize your home and help circulate your unwanted possessions into the economy again.