Recipe #2: Shopping Second Hand

Sustainability Life Recipes Series


What practical things can we do in our daily lives to protect our living environment, save money, and contribute to good jobs for people in our community?
We’ve done the research alongside our partner Get Your GreenBack Tompkins, and these 13 steps in the areas of local food, building energy, waste reduction and transportation are a great place to start. The Sustainability Life Recipes series will focus on ways to save money, go green, and learn about resources to support your journey. Have an idea? Send us a note at

America is wrapped up in a “throwaway culture” when it comes to consumerism, which comes at a high cost to both shoppers and the environment. Purchasing secondhand items is good for your pocketbook, uses no additional natural resources and keeps material out of landfills. According to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, $200 billion dollars of revenue is being generated from reuse stores in the US. This money creates jobs, and contributes to maintaining a healthy local economy. Shopping secondhand also reduces our carbon footprint, as manufacturing new goods is very energy and pollution intensive.  


Each year a typical American spends $1,800 on household furnishings and apparel, and a family of four spends closer to $4,500. With reuse stores selling items 70% their retail price, that’s $1,000s of dollars in savings when you buy used. In addition, more of your money stays in the local economy as most reuse stores are locally owned and sourced locally. Reuse stores help keep resources in use, instead of in storage--or in landfills! And better yet, it means we don’t have to manufacture new goods.


In the Community
Ithaca and the Tompkins county have a wealth of reuse, resale, consignment, and thrift stores so shopping secondhand is easy and convenient. Shopping secondhand is useful for more than just clothes and around the Ithaca and Tompkins County there are secondhand stores in the following areas:
Clothing & Accessories
Antiques & Collectibles
Music & Books
Home & Furnishing
Computers & Electronics
Sports & Outdoors
Arts, Crafts & Sewing

For specific stores, Get Your GreenBack Tompkins and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County have put together a full list of secondhand stores in their Second Hand Shopping Directory - Reuse Tompkins web page. For shopping secondhand online, check Craigslist Ithaca.

On Campus
Cornell Thrift is a student organization that hosts a clothing exchange called Ezra’s Exchange, mending workshops, and a pop-up store at Eco-Fest.
Dump & Run is an annual program open to both the Cornell and Ithaca communities that collects items from students leaving campus each May and resells them to students moving in each August.


1. Can I sell my stuff to stores? Yes, here is a list of stores that will purchase or consign goods.
2. Can I donate my stuff to stores? Yes, here is a list of stores that take donations.
3. I have a lot of stuff that I want to know what to do with. Who can help me? There are professional local organizers who can help you figure out how to declutter and organize your home and help circulate your unwanted possessions into the economy again.

This series in partnership with Get Your GreenBack Tompkins. Get Your GreenBack Tompkins is a community-initiated and community-supported campaign that works collaboratively to help people and organizations take key steps in the areas of food, transportation, waste and building energy that simultaneously reduces our community’s carbon emissions, saves money and creates a socially just local economy.

Views expressed in News posts may not be those of Cornell University. No endorsement is implied.