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Thursday, June 16,2011

'Old' is the new 'new'

Setting up house doesn’t have to break the bank

By Elizabeth Miller

I live with a kitchen stocked with 12 forks, three methods for making coffee and two corkscrews (priorities, right?), but no cheese grater, vegetable peeler or functioning blender. Essentially, I’ve got no more advanced cookware than a basic skillet.

I haven’t had a steady mailing address since last year, and during my time in and out of apartments, on and off the continent, there’s been some serious paring down of property. Ditto for my boyfriend. We’re combining households now and discovering that we’ve got some strange surpluses and some serious shortages. But my boyfriend has a growing interest in all things culinary and has started to inquire after all manners of specialized cooking tools: pastry tubes, a food processor, a metate (an American Indian corn-grinding tool).

While I want him to cook the kind of elaborate feasts that occasionally require specialized equipment, so that I can eat those elaborate feasts, I’m hesitant to buy all of those products new. Buying second-hand goods spares those resold items from being dumped in landfills. Goodwill Industries estimates it saves two billion pounds of clothing and furniture from landfills. Buying used can also cut down on the consumption of virgin materials and petroleum use, and spare the gasoline of shipping new goods from factories out of state or off of the continent.

Fortunately, there’s a long list of thrift stores and online trading groups for acquiring used goods in Boulder. Here are a few of your options.

Much of the Flatirons ReStore has your basic thrift store feel — a little chaos in the stocking, a random and sometimes surprising selection, and lots of fluorescent lighting. The feel-good of shopping at the ReStore comes from knowing all sales benefit local Habitat for Humanity housing projects. Flatirons Habitat for Humanity has built 159 homes locally and abroad since 1993 and has five homes under construction.

Electronics at the store are labeled with a “Worked when tested” sticker, so you know that $20 blender is likely to work when you get it home. In addition to the basics of coffee pots, board games, clothing and books for less than $1, the ReStore also stocks second-hand and overstock home appliances, including refrigerators and dishwashers, and furnishings like windows, doors, light fixtures and tile, all for discounted prices. A used bathroom sink can run as little as $5, a kitchen sink including faucets $55, or a double-wall oven with microwave, $1,000.

The stock has some surprises, like a matched 12-piece dinner place setting that sells for $2,000 and an antique piano, also on sale for $2,000.

But, no metates.

For a request that specific, and a chance to participate in the used market’s equivalent of online shopping, we could check out the local chapter of ReUseIt Network, www.reuseitnetwork.org, or Boulder Freecycle, groups.freecycle.org/BoulderFreecycle. Both groups allow members to post ads for what they want and what they want to give away. They place requirements on how often users post requests, but their main rule is everything has to be given away for free.

Farther from the kitchen, the Boulder area has some more specialized stores for reusable goods. Recycled Audio, in Longmont, sells used stereo equipment. They keep a detailed inventory online, but you’ll need to know what you’re looking for by name, since that’s how the inventory is listed. They provide a 90-day parts and labor warranty with everything they sell and a one-year trade-up policy. The Boulder Sports Recycler stocks season-appropriate gear and parts sold on a consignment basis. They list a sample inventory online, but to know what’s really there, you’ve got to go into the store, browse, and tap into the knowledge of the gearhounds who’ve been doing this for decades.

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