How Buying Used Can Benefit the Planet

We have a problem: As a society, our consumer habits are hurting our planet. 

By making choices that often value convenience over sustainability, we’re on a downward path. According to a study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), more than a third of Earth’s natural resources have been destroyed by humans in just 30 years. This is not a particularly well thought out long term plan.

At Brown Button, we’re on a journey.

We as a company are evaluating our processes, digging in to see how we can do better, and starting to take those steps.

In the midst of the journey, we are quite proud of what our company fundamentally does. We connect sellers who no longer need their things with new homes that want them. We don’t create CO2e or use natural resources in the production of new products. We don’t have unnecessary packaging. We keep items out of landfills and cycle them back into homes to have another life — hopefully preventing another new item from being created.

This is where we see a big opportunity.

To encourage others toward conscious consumerism, to consider the benefits of used vs new (whether with BB or any other second hand shop), and ultimately to make more thoughtful decisions around what you buy.

Why Used Is Often Better Than New

Environmental Cost Is Already Paid: There are two costs for every new item that is purchased. One is the monetary cost. You pay $1,850 for that new sofa. The second is the environmental cost, the one paid by our planet. An average sofa creates 90kg of CO2e, uses an array of materials for production, and then (in the case of 90% of furniture purchased in the US) is shipped from its factory overseas to our stores.

When you buy that sofa used, the environmental cost has already been paid. We don’t re-harvest the lumber or use more gasoline to ship it to the US. It’s made; it’s here. You take that environmental cost that has already happened and actually spread it out over more years by extending the use of that sofa.

Buying Used Keeps Items Out of Landfills: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away more than 12 million tons of furniture and household furnishings each year. When you buy a used item, you’re helping keep it out of landfills and giving it a second life.

Better Quality: This is more a pragmatic benefit than a good-for-the-planet win. Have you ever bought a piece of furniture from Ikea? Then you know what we’re talking about here. 50 years ago the terms fast fashion and fast furniture didn’t exist yet. As rampant consumerism and overseas manufacturing have increased, the quality of the items we buy has gone down.

When buying from an estate sale, you often are able to find items that were made with a much higher quality standard than those today. Weekly, we sell heirloom brands like Baker, Henredon, Kittinger, Henkel Harris, Hickory White, Sherrill, Stickley, Ethan Allen, Drexel Heritage, Century, and Herman Miller — nearly all of which were made in the United States and crafted with quality and longevity in mind; these pieces  were made to still be around 50 years from now. It seems counterintuitive, but often you can spend less and get a much higher quality item used versus what you would get purchasing new.

Conscious Consumerism

What we really want to encourage at the end of the day is being thoughtful about what you buy. Often the most beneficial course of action is to not buy a new thing at all. Items can be used longer, or something you think you really need is more of a want. We live in a world of omni-present messaging: If you buy this thing you’ll be happier, fulfilled, have adventure, live the life you want, be more respected, more loved, etc.

Buying things, whether new or used, does not do those things. We’re not here to encourage you to buy more used things. We’re here to encourage you to be thoughtful about what you buy. And sometimes, buying used is a better choice than buying new.

Doing our part to be a good steward of our planet is a core value for the Brown Button team. If you have any questions or suggestions for how we could improve, please let us know: sales@brownbutton.com

Kansas City has a number of amazing stores that focus on selling used goods: