Green Downsizing

Green DownsizingLooming on the horizon for many baby boomers is the formidable task of downsizing their households, and for some of us our carbon (CO2) waistlines too!

Face it, you can procrastinate, but sometime over the next few years or maybe even a decade or two, you will have to face the task of reducing all those carbon-intensive items around you – that lifetime collection of items, each with its own embodied energy – the energy used in its production and during its useful life.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent decades being a model consumers squirreling away lifestyle items, electronics, entertainment, gizmos, an extra set of that, just in case the whimsy might hit you again to use it.  Plus there’s all the stuff your family busied themselves with collecting.   I still have my childhood toys! Oh boy.

Why not start now and chip away at it over the next few years?  Otherwise, it will be a paralyzing and monumental task for either you or your executors to handle all at once?

Look at it as “lifetime” recycling and a great way to reduce the carbon footprint of others by allowing them to repurpose your former items instead of buying a new one that was likely recently manufactured in some far away, (CO2) belching plant.

As you look around your house and in your overstuffed closets you’ll probably find so many entertainment options that you’ll need a few more lifetimes to enjoy it all.   But the rationale part of your mind tells you that if you haven’t used it in the last three years, you probably never will.

Read: Ready Your Home For Sale or Just A Smaller Footprint

Why keep all that carbon clutter?

Behind each of these possessions is a certain amount of embodied energy, the energy expended manufacturing and distributing the item to its current resting place.  Plus now, on an ongoing basis, the item consumes the heating and cooling energy you expend keeping it in your home. If you can bring yourself to part ways with this carbon clutter,  here are some options that are both rewarding and environmentally friendly.

Green Blizzard suggests that rather than undertaking it as a chore, turn it into a sport or self-challenge.  Look around the house and decide that you’re going to thin the home inventory out by 10-20% over the next year and make a list of discard targets.  

Group the targeted discards into these four categories.

(1) Generous Gifting – Items that someone can appreciate your generosity going forward.  Gift away these items to friends, family, nieces and nephews setting up households, neighbors – items such as toys, books, videos, pictures, small pieces of furniture, blankets, cooking and eating utensils, vases, picture frames, sporting goods, coolers, chairs…

(2) Speciality Items – those that are not easily sold or gifted and are best donated to local charities:  old winter coats, nicknacks, clothing, furniture, really old cars.

(3) Large Bulky Items that sell well locally on Craigslist (lacrosse goals, bounce-backs, basketball posts, tools, bikes, dollhouses, garden items, foosball tables, ping pong tables….)Craigslist –   Make this your first stop for the bulky, not-easily shipped items.  Items that should stay locally.  Take 3-4 photos of each item. Gather the manufacturing information from any labels, write the fullest description you can (this will set you off from the competition and  save you mind-numbing repetitive inquires) and start fishing.   You’ll be surprised how much this source is worked by real, dye-in-the wool experienced shoppers.

(4) Items to list on eBay – Collectibles or curiosities that might be filling your closets or book shelves (antique toys, old books, photos, memorabilia, …) eBay – Before you list, you can research the marketplace to see if its worth your time and you can test the waters at a certain price and if it doesn’t sell during the first listing, adjust the offer terms and re-list.  It may take 3-4 listings to find a buyer.  eBay makes it really easy for anyone to sell with payments managed through Paypal and the ability to print a shipping label (on regular paper) that just needs to be attached the shipping envelop or box.  Speaking of boxes, start collecting them from neighborhood discards on recycling day.  You’ll have a nice collection of fresh, clean Amazon boxes in no time.

(5)  Items to sell on Amazon  –  Anyone can set up a personal store account on Amazon, especially if you have tons of standard items with bar code. Amazon With its broad marketplace makes it easy to list products Just enter the barcode and there’s already a picture and description you can use, plus you can review the competitor’s price points.   Many books, CDs, DVDs, and standard household items are easily found and listed.  The only challenge I have found is that some resellers have suppressed the price point to mere pennies and make their money in the shipping charge, so oftentimes this tactic makes it marginally worth your time.   You might be better off hauling them to a local charity shop.  That way there’s less transportation energy, a smaller carbon footprint generated while relocating the items.

Whichever option you choose, disconnect yourself from any emotional attachment to the item – its just assembled carbon after all.  In addition to taking both the philanthropic and tax-deduction perspectives, add an environmental do-gooder point of view. Take the perspective that you are reducing your carbon lifetime footprint by relocating the item that generated clouds of carbon in its design, manufacturing, and distribution and is now being repurposed to someone else and will avoid even more carbon generation to fulfill their consumer desire.

Be sure to also read: Gift Ideas For A Green Handyman, What is Phantom Electricity, Green Cleaning Products, Savvy Green, Energy Efficient Windows, and Water Conservation Around The House.


About the author

Keith Blizzard

A life-long environmentalist, Keith set out on the never ending journey of adjusting his lifestyle to a more sustainable one, with a goal of annually shrinking his carbon footprint. When he looked around for a dependable source of meaningful carbon footprint reduction ideas, it was pretty lame - so he launched Green Blizzard loaded with eco-friendly lifestyle tweaks. When he's not managing Green Blizzard, you'll find him on the trails around Mid Coast Maine with his trusty trail companion mutt, Moose.