Living the 3 Rs: Be green and save

In this environmentally conscious age in which we live, there’s an easy way to shop green.

In this environmentally conscious age in which we live, there’s an easy way to shop green, save some green while you’re doing it plus support some very worthwhile community institutions. Old time church rummage sales are alive and well and thriving in Lake Cowichan. Wednesdays from 11 to 2, check out the bargains at Cellar Treasures in the basement of St. Christopher’s and St. Aidan’s Anglican Church on Cowichan Avenue. On Thursdays from 10 to 1 check out the United Church sale at the corner of King George and Nelson Avenue,

“It’s the ultimate in recycling. Finding something new that you have a use for or seeing a new use in something that the original owner never saw,” said Irene Palmer, a church member who regularly volunteers at Cellar Treasures.

These sales, like most charitably run thrift stores, depend on the donation of used goods from the public to keep their inventory up. The public is then welcome to come in and shop for items that they need, at prices miles below the retail average.

“It’s like gambling as you just never know what you’re going to find,” said local teacher Debbie Martel, who frequents the United Church sale in search of books for her students. “As a teacher, I find books here that you just can’t find anywhere else.”

Thrift and rummage sales are the perfect working model of the “3-R’s”. First, they reduce waste by diverting items that may have found their way into landfills. By reusing someone else’s hand-me-downs, you  reduce the volume of new goods required, which saves on everything from raw materials, to the energy used to produce the item to the imprint of shipping and trucking from producer to consumer. The recycle part comes in when folks find new and innovative ways to utilize used goods for a whole new purpose, like making curtains out of old bed linens or using old fondue forks as plant markers in the garden.

Sales like these also benefit the community in a myriad of ways. The funds raised go to help keep the church doors open, but also benefit other charities both locally and globally.

“We donate a lot of stuff to the Compassionate Resource Warehouse through the Nazarene Church who ship it overseas,” said Palmer. “We’ve sent loads to Haiti, Sri Lanka, Moldavia, wherever there are people in need. Plus we donate money to many local groups like Community Services”

But it’s not just people on the other side of the world who are helped by these sales. When families are in need after things like a house fire or a sudden family break-up, the church sales are there.

“We’ve given furniture, bedding, appliances and more when people have been burned out by a house fire,” said Sheila McFarlane of the Anglican Church.

“We’ve given away complete layettes, strollers and playpens to young single moms who just needed a hand.”

Low income families, seniors, single moms or anyone who just likes to save a buck wherever they can, can all benefit from having a bargain department store in their hometown.

“The deals are just too amazing to pass up,” said Barb Chojnacki. “I shopped a lot here for the kids when I was fostering children.”

The team of volunteers, who sort, clean, repair, organize and display the items for sale are a devoted bunch. The Cellar Treasure’s team are all members of the congregation of St. Christopher’s and St. Aiden’s. At Lake Cowichan United, a core team of seven church members are assisted by a variety of volunteers from the community who pitch in to lend a hand. Both teams are always happy to welcome new volunteers.

But it’s the social aspect of the sales that is important as well. Neighbours meet, seniors run into old friends and young families visit while hunting down that next amazing bargain.

“It’s the full spectrum of customers. All ages, all kinds of people,” said Audrey Towle of the United Church. “It’s always a very social day, with lots of laughter and smiles.”

The only downside to the sales is the vandalism, theft and dumping that both churches have experienced which occurs after hours in their drop-off areas. If you have items to donate, Tuesday and Thursdays are best for the United Church with Sunday mornings and Wednesdays for the Anglican Church.

So Lake Cowichan pickers, bargain hunters and collectors take note, the deals are out there and half the fun is in the thrill of the hunt.