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The Resource

Keyword: green business

By Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Department of Public Works

Photo of the interior of a vintage clothing store

From Los Angeles to New York, Boston and beyond, there’s a new holiday shopping “trend”: secondhand gifts. According to Accenture’s annual holiday shopping survey, more than half of respondents said they would consider giving thrifted gifts, and 56 percent said they would welcome receiving secondhand gifts. In fact, a recent report by ThredUp projects the resale market will nearly double by the year 2023.

Why are more consumers buying used? The benefits are many. When you buy “pre-owned” merchandise, you are preventing waste and reusing materials, which reduces your carbon footprint. Buying secondhand can help you save money, too. It can give you more buying power and allow you to purchase items you might not be able to afford new.

But let’s be honest—what makes secondhand shopping so fun is the finds! When you shop used, you can find unique and collectible gifts, as well as merchandise not currently available in stores. Sometimes you get really lucky and find items of value at bargain prices. For example, I recently bought a working antique German Black Forest cuckoo clock at a consignment shop for $20 that looks no different than new cuckoo clocks selling for $150 to $300 online. 

The truth is, buying used is nothing new. Some businesses are built on people’s willingness, or even eagerness, to buy used merchandise. By selling used items, these kinds of businesses make waste prevention an integral part of their business model.

I recently visited a few of the fun, unique resale shops in Baltimore County to get a look at their inventory and learn about the ways they prevent waste.

Photo of the Trax on Wax record store

Trax on Wax in Catonsville buys and sells new and used records, and their inventory is 90 percent used. They reuse record inner sleeves and sell earth-friendly tote bags. They also donate old unsellable LPs to schools, artists and libraries for reuse in arts and crafts projects.

10 Car Pile Up in Towson specializes in vintage clothing. Shane, the owner, seemed very knowledgeable about vintage garments and their care. I heard him giving customers clothing care instructions for their purchases. He told me to button up all of the buttons on the shirt I bought and turn it inside out before washing to preserve its collar and silver-rimmed, mother-of-pearl buttons. 

Ukazoo Books in Parkville is one of the few brick and mortar Baltimore County stores we could find that buys and sells new and used books. Like Trax on Wax, their inventory is also 90 percent used. Books that don’t sell are donated. When people bring in unsellable or unusable books, they are advised to place them out with their curbside recycling.

Race Pace Bicycles in Towson repairs bicycles (so you don’t have to buy a new one), rents bicycles and sells new and used bicycles. They also serve as a drop-off location for bicycle donations to Bikes for the World.

The Surprise Shop of Trinity Episcopal Church is a charming consignment shop in Towson that sells used clothing, accessories, jewelry, books, home décor and more. Merchandise that doesn’t sell is donated to help people in need through the Assistance Center of Towson Churches. 

Want to learn more? View photos from each visit, check out the list of local resale businesses below, and download the 2019-2020 Reuse Directory for information on reuse organizations throughout Baltimore County.  

by Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Department of Public Works

The Guiness Brewery.Do you like green beer? Not the dyed frothy beverage some people drink on St. Patrick’s Day, but beer that’s made with sustainability in mind. If so, you’re not alone. These days, many beer enthusiasts are even willing to pay more for sustainable beer. In fact, this focus on sustainability is found across consumer markets: a global Nielsen study found that 66 percent of respondents would pay more for products made by sustainable companies, and a Cone Communications study found that 76 percent of Americans expect businesses to address climate change.

Some might say this expectation could negatively affect a company’s bottom line, but studies show that sustainability is good business. An eight-year study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group found that companies can profit by implementing sustainability practices. A study by CDP shows that companies that do this enjoy an 18 percent higher return on investment (ROI) than companies that do not. And a Harvard Business School study shows that one dollar invested in 1993 in a portfolio of companies focused on environmental issues while growing their business would have increased to $28 in 2013 – nearly twice the ROI as a dollar invested in companies focused only on growth in the same time period.

While a global circular economy may seem impossible to some, industry leaders, such as Google, Philips and Unilever, are looking for ways to make it work for them.

Two pints of Guiness.This brings me back to the beer: as a closed-loop model, a circular economy relies heavily on waste prevention and natural resource conservation, and it just so happens one company operating in Baltimore County is leading the way toward a sustainable future by changing its approach to waste.

Located in Halethorpe, Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House is Baltimore County’s newest and largest brewery and the brand’s first U.S. brewery in more than 60 years. Over the last several years, Guinness’ parent company, Diageo, has made great strides in sustainability, most recently making the Global 100, which places them among the most sustainable companies in the world. In addressing waste, the company is wasting no time, with a target of eliminating waste to landfill from their operations by 2020. Besides recycling, their methods for doing so include:

  • Phasing out plastic straws and stirrers in their establishments.
  • Making packaging more sustainable by reducing the overall packaging weight, increasing the level of recycled materials used in packaging, and ensuring all packaging is recyclable or reusable.
  • Using waste for agricultural purposes. Brewing and distilling by-products are now being used by farmers as animal feed.

Diageo has also committed to establishing sustainable supply chains by working with local suppliers, encouraging suppliers and business partners to adopt similar sustainability standards, and by providing training to help their suppliers do so. Diageo also seeks to use and waste fewer natural resources by improving water and energy efficiency, sourcing low-carbon or renewable energy and using new technology to eliminate unnecessary materials from operations.

Since 2009, Diageo has reduced packaging weight by eight percent, increased recycled material in their packaging by 40 percent, and improved the recyclability of their packaging by almost 99 percent. The company has reduced waste going to landfill by 90 percent and absolute carbon emissions by 36 percent since 2007.

Lastly, Diageo and Guinness undertook a massive “upcycle” project by rehabbing old buildings that housed an historic whiskey distillery instead of building new structures for the brewery site, using recycled and low VOC (volatile organic compound) materials in the process.

Visit Diageo’s website for more information about the company’s zero waste to landfill target and efforts to reduce its environmental impact. To learn more about the brewery, visit guinnessbrewerybaltimore.com.

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Revised October 25, 2019