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Sourcing & the Second-Hand Economy

Welcome to Episode 5 of our “Building a Low Impact Grocery Store” blog series! ICYMI – we’re almost done construction of Nada and have learned a lot about how to build and renovate with as little impact as we know how.

We’re about half way through our list of questions, and by now you may have started to really understand our design ethic. We started with the planning process – being selective in our design and seeking opportunities to reduce our scope so that we have less of a demand for new materials. Then we looked within – what do we already have that we can make new use of in our store construction? For items we did not have, we turned first to the sharing economy, to see if anyone in our community was giving away items that we needed.

Today, we’re looking at second-hand purchases, and how we found several of our major items in store. Then next week we’ll conclude our blog series with some considerations of what we can do when we can’t find options second-hand (here and here).

Can we purchase it second-hand?

It’s easy to think that our purchasing options are limited to what is new. We may have an exact idea of what we’re looking for. We may want everything to match. We may have countless ideas of why second-hand might not work. However, when we avoid buying things new, we also avoid all of the production resources and packaging that comes with new items – which is an excellent reason to at least try it out.

And the good news is that the second-hand economy is thriving! In this Vancity report (from 2016), it’s estimated that 97% of British Columbians are active participants in the second-hand economy in some shape or form – from buying and selling, to donating to thrift shops, charities, and members of their communities. 

While a major driver of second-hand purchasing is affordability, Vancity VP William Azaroff hits on another major benefit of these statistics:

“The greenest product you can buy is one that already exists. The second-hand economy isn’t just about saving money, but shifting our purchases to quality over quantity. This has a ripple effect on every aspect of our economy, from manufacturing to the repair industry and recycling of goods.”

More affordable + more sustainable? You know we’re a fan!

A trip to Sears…

With all that said, our next #zerowastewin came from a pretty unlikely place. Earlier this year, Sears announced it was shutting down all of its Canadian stores, an event seemingly unrelated to the launch of Nada. That’s when our CEO & Founder Brianne Miller got a phone call from her dad, saying that Sears was selling off all of its fixtures, cheap and quick.

What followed was two weeks running back and forth to every Sears location in the Lower Mainland to see what they had… and frantically calling our design team to see if we could make the department store’s furnishings work with our design! The result? Perfect condition track lighting, shelving for our back-of-house storage, almost all of our FOH fixtures (shelving, tare station table, produce table), wet floor signs, and even a Roomba!

Here’s a few snaps of us measuring fixtures for store fit, hauling them back to the store, and considering how they might be brought back into our design.

Shout-out to our team of volunteers to came out to multiple Sears locations to help us haul items back to the store!

We were able to find items that had almost the exact same dimensions of what we were looking for (and in other cases, our incredible design team worked to incorporate the second-hand finds as best as we could). However, in most cases they didn’t quite go with our design…

It’s a painting party! We also asked our community if anyone had drop sheets to protect the floor during painting – check out these creative solutions!

It’s amazing what a coat of fresh paint can do to turn second-hand items into perfectly design-aligned finds! Thanks to our volunteers once again, who came in the store to spruce these fixtures up!!!

We swear, if we weren’t writing a blog about these fixtures, you’d never even guess that they weren’t brand-new custom pieces!