Teaching Your Kids Sustainability Through Second-Hand Shopping

By Wendy Powell, owner of Childish Things (Estimated reading time: 3 minutes)

Colorful baby outfits hanging from a rack. Photo credit: Baby Natur via Unsplash.

As we head towards summer, city kids get fresh opportunities to connect with nature through camps, vacations, or even exploring the flora and fauna simply walking down the street. Connecting children with nature has been shown to have many benefits, among them developing a sense of responsibility for the environment.  

At Childish Things one of our favorite things to hear from our littlest customers is that we are their favorite store! Throughout our 15 years, we have lost count of those comments, but we hold the memories dear. Everyone likes appreciation of course, especially moms who often feel a tad underappreciated. The real joy for us comes from knowing there is another child who has learned to appreciate the delight of shopping resale. Kudos to the parents who expose them to this choice! We hope that they will take their experience forward with them as a consumer, making thoughtful choices throughout their lives. 

These little shoppers may not be fully aware of the many environmental benefits of shopping second-hand. But they can still enjoy the unique experience of shopping resale. It’s always changing, never the same store twice and feels like a treasure hunt! We should reinforce that while they enjoy this, they are also reducing carbon emission, water usage, pesticides, energy and packaging waste! 

This summer when kids are connecting with nature, it is a great time reinforce the small steps they can take to become better stewards of the earth. At Childish Things, we are here to help. We realize there are other choices as well, such as donating items to charities or trading with neighbors or friends.  

My daughter, who was just entering kindergarten when I started Childish Things, is in college now, studying sustainability. We recently had an interesting conversation about whose responsibility it is in the supply chain to provide solutions to bring about change. Which group can make the effective changes – the manufacturer, the retailer or the consumer? We had some friendly mother-daughter debate, but we settled on the reality that we all need to care – the consumer, the manufacturer and the retailer. Asking consumers to change their behavior alone probably won’t be enough.  

Market demand has a role, as does the government in reinforcing sustainable shopping behaviors with policies such as making the purchase of second-hand goods tax-exempt. Government should incentivize companies to keep packaging minimal and sustainable. Retailers have a role in letting manufacturers know they care and make buying decisions based on sustainable packaging choices. Doing this can influence designers to consider packaging at the same time as product development.  

I am optimistic that our newest generations can drive great change. I love that Childish Things can play a part in teaching kids that making sustainable choices need not be painful or require sacrifice. There is so much we can do.  

Below are some creative ideas to get kids on board with the second-hand shopping experience: 

  1. Make it a game by giving them a budget and seeing how many items they can find.  
  2. Encourage them to create their own unique style by mixing and matching second-hand items. Shopping second-hand provides a much larger selection of different styles than any mall shop can.  
  3. Teach them about the environmental benefits of shopping second-hand. Gather a few facts to share. Here is one: every time a new pair of jeans is produced, it’s like turning on your shower and letting the water run down the drain for 21 hours, and the equivalent of driving more than 620 miles in a car.  
  4. Show them how much money they can save by shopping second-hand and have them bring in some of their outgrown items to trade in. This will show them how they can stretch their budget even farther. In the infamous words of Dr. Seuss’ Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” 

Wendy Powell

About the Author

Wendy Powell is the founder and owner of Childish Things, a resale boutique offering a curated selection of gently-used items for babies and children (preemie to size 8), maternity, new products, and gifts. Wendy knows firsthand how hard it is to start a parenting journey alone. She participated in a PEPS Group in 2001 with her son, as she had no family in town that could support her here in Seattle. Since opening the doors of Childish Things in 2008, Wendy has been a generous sponsor of PEPS. Year after year, she gives back to families in our community, and not only to PEPS families. Through her passion to support families in our area, through her store and her involvement with PEPS, Wendy truly makes an impact in our community.

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