Goodwill Hunting

"Thrifting" to support charity continues to get a lot easier.

Goodwill Industries quietly launched a back in 1999. The bidding format is similar to eBay and lists goodies from around the nation for sale.

We say it's time for an updated site. You shouldn't be stuck selecting items to furnish your apartment from the inventory at your local Goodwill. Why, when you can source vintage tea cups and other decor from around the country? is among several other well-known shops across the country whose second-hand merchandise funds charitable organizations.

Here are a few more online sources for scoring charitable second-hand items:

Second-Hand Peer Review
charitable donations benefit: job training

pros: You can search national inventory of second-hand goods and the prices are very reasonable.

cons: If you're on the hunt for a very specific item you can't save the search as an RSS (Really Simply Syndication) feed. Saving an RSS search is what makes Craigslist so handy. The RSS creates an alert that will notify you immediately the moment someone posts a matching item. (Craigslist is a great source of second-hand items, but, the sales do not include a charitable donation.)

Housing Works
charitable donations benefit: homelessness activism and AIDS charities

pros: Housing Works has the best website and the highest quality merchandise. In fact, they have two sites: one for merchandise, and another for books (via Amazon and Barnes & Noble). The stores themselves are a visual treat thanks to high-quality donations and talented merchandisers.

cons: All furniture is available for pick-up only, effectively reducing what non-New York City residents can buy.

Habitat ReStores
charitable donations benefit: homelessness programs and fund low-income housing

pros: Habitat ReStores are a great place to source materials for apartment renovation or specific projects. Items available range from paint to cabinets to light fixtures.

cons: Habitat ReStores focus on home goods and construction materials; an average store typically has a small percentage of furniture and no clothing. Limited locations provide online shopping (e.g., Kansas City).

United State's branch of Oxfam
charitable donations benefit: anti-poverty and pro-environment programs

pros: Oxfam, along with other non-profits, sell goods and raise funds using eBay's "Giving Works" charitable platform. This allows you to view merchandise from several retailers who donate a portion of sales to charitable organizations.

cons: A small transaction fee (3.75% of the purchase price) is retained by MissionFish, eBay's non-profit partner.

Environmental Impact

No doubt: thrift-store items can also be a less-expensive way to decorate your apartment and fill your closet.

Buying second-hand items is usually better for the environment - but not always. If you purchase items from all of these stores and have the items shipped separately, your fuel consumption and air pollution could be higher than purchasing a newly-made item shipped in bulk to your nearest retail store.

However, the environmental considerations are just one part of the puzzle that favors buying an item second-hand. A "new-to-you" item does not consume new material and energy consumption for its production. More critically, many newly-produced home furnishing and clothing items are produced in under unfair work conditions (such as sweatshops) or outside the United States. Buying an items second-hand doesn't erase this lineage, but does prevent supporting those practices today.

Wherever you buy thrift-store, second-hand, or vintage items, take heart. A collection of unique clothing and furnishing is a lot more interesting than most store bought style.
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