Not So Fast

Will we ever return to a time when mending, reusing or not buying in the first place is the norm?

November 22, 2019 | | Headwaters Nest

It’s Sunday and I’ve just finished arranging a “porch drop-off” of a pair of shoes that only saw my son’s feet for a few weeks. His growth spurts are ongoing and keeping him in clothes that fit is a battle.

The buy and sell on Facebook Marketplace is somewhere I go to offload some of the great clothes that either he has worn minimally or are still in great condition. I can give them a continued life and get a little money back. Porch drop-offs make for quick and hassle-free exchanges of goods. I put a bag containing the shoes on the porch and later take the buyer’s money from under the mat.

Buying and selling on Facebook has also helped me with our new place. I bought some vintage rattan for the porch, gave it a coat of paint, and it now sits proudly out front. I discovered a lovely hanging chair as well – it’s boho chic vibe is very on-trend. As it turned out, the seller was my Grade 11 math teacher. We had a good laugh when we recognized each other and caught up on his driveway in the Purple Hill subdivision.

I think the way we shop for clothing and home goods is changing. I’ve always loved shopping, and while I don’t subscribe to so-called retail therapy, I do appreciate the creative displays and marketing (yes, I love the marketing – the enticing ads and clever merchandising), and indeed, the newness. Going back earlier in my generation, there was less access to these goods, especially for farm families like mine. The transition from the glossy pages of magazines to the local sales rack took months. A trip to the shopping centre in the city where these items were available was something I enjoyed once or twice a year with my mom and Nan, and then, maybe, a special item was picked. One. Item.

Since my youth, however, fast fashion and Amazon overnight delivery around the globe have taken over purchasing habits. Retailer Forever 21 famously has 52 “seasons,” refreshing their lines with new shipments madly processed every 24 hours. Customers who shop in their store multiple times a week can choose from new fashions every time they visit. Forever 21 ranked as the fifth-largest specialty retailer in the United States, with the average store a whopping 38,000 square feet. Recently, Forever 21 informed their customers that they had filed for bankruptcy protection. Immediate restructuring and store closures have begun.

It’s hard to get kids to feel excited about used goods when the constant smell of “new” and aggressive marketing campaigns have been the norm for their entire lives. It’s all my son has known as a consumer. For Adrian, new is better, and as a growing teen, he is constantly in need of a wardrobe refresh. I’m aware we contribute to the tidal wave of used clothing every time he adds an inch or two.

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  • I try to be a mindful consumer, but it takes a conscious effort. Arming our kids and ourselves as parents with knowledge through ongoing climate change dialogue and modelling our own shopping habits helps. And it’s inspiring to hear about other initiatives leading the way. During last year’s Waste Reduction Week, for instance, a program called Give a Sh!rt, sponsored jointly by the Recycling Council of Ontario and Value Village, involved 70 secondary schools in Ontario and B.C. in clothing collection drives to extend the useful life of clothes. With nearly 60,000 students participating, 16.2 metric tonnes of clothing were collected and diverted from disposal. Perhaps the fast fashion tsunami of the past two decades is finally subsiding.

    I’m trying my best. In my house it is still me (alone) who manages the recycling of clothing and home goods. I’m the shopper who decides which of Adrian’s clothes are still in good enough condition to sell. I take the pictures and post them online. I also enjoy bundling goods and taking them in person to one of our lovely local thrift shops, such as Orangeville’s Seconds Count, Paws & Claws or The Salvation Army. These stores are fun to visit and I’ve picked up goods for myself or the house while doing drop-offs. Adrian will have no part in it, but I love the eclectic offerings and the dedicated volunteers who run the shops. Knowing the money from my purchase is going to a worthy cause and the goods are kept out of landfill is win-win.

    Will we ever return to a time when mending, reusing or not buying in the first place is the norm? I think of my Home Economics course in Grade 9 when I learned to sew by pattern, and my long-lost skills of knitting and crocheting I learned as a child. Perhaps these skills – repairing, recycling and just owning less – can make a widespread comeback. For now, I look at Adrian’s growing feet noodling under a blanket on the couch this Sunday morning and am reminded we need to get him new shoes.

    More Info

    A gift of nature

    A conservation parks membership may be just what you are looking for this season. It’s an ideal gift for the whole family, especially if your New Year’s resolutions include a commitment to outdoor health and wellness in 2020. Credit Valley Conservation has partnered with Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to offer unlimited combined access to all 18 properties in their watersheds (which include Black Creek Pioneer Village and the Kortright Centre). Individual and family memberships are a very reasonable $75 and $135 respectively.

    Equal access to activity

    Giving children in the hills a jumpstart in life is what it’s all about, and that’s the name of a small but mighty program that runs quietly in the heart of many communities in Canada – Jumpstart. Sponsored by Canadian Tire, the Orangeville chapter alone has supported over 2,100 kids, disbursing more than $30,000 to remove financial barriers to sport or physical activity. If your family, a child or group you know could use support, visit the site to connect with grant information and find out what’s covered (climbing, curling, dance, equestrian, Scouts, fishing … the list goes on!)

    Purple power

    Family Transition Place has been a service for families in need, including emergency shelter and transitional housing for women and children in our community since 1984. FTP’s Wrapped in Courage Campaign runs in conjunction with Woman Abuse Prevention Month in November, so keep your eyes open for purple scarves and ties being worn in the hills this season. These dapper accessories show support for the belief that every woman has the fundamental right to live in safety and security. Consider buying a scarf or tie for yourself or as a gift as they are available year-round. Pet bandanas are also available!

    Mental health supports

    This time of year can be hard. If your child is struggling with their mental health, seek help. If you need immediate support, Dufferin Child & Family Services recommends calling them at 519-941-1530 or going directly to the hospital. Many community resources exist and it’s important to know you’re not alone. Parents for Children’s Mental Health has a local chapter that meets monthly. Link with others experiencing what you are going through, plus connect with resources.

    About the Author More by Bethany Lee

    Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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