I have loved Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) thrift stores since I was a kid. An essential part of my childhood revolved around a big, old “tickle trunk” filled with frilly pink bridesmaids dresses, cut-off pirate pants, and scarves in all shapes, sizes and colours. These treasures were discovered in the racks at the Vancouver store.
When I outgrew my playroom and the overflowing trunk, I shopped at the MCC thrift store for other things. I even gained some high-school work experience at the thrift store.
In university I studied English literature, and buying used books there made my addiction to them a lot more affordable. I started thinking more about spending money and realized shopping second-hand was advantageous, as it left me with money for other things or more books!
In recent years, I have spent more time thinking about my purchasing choices. Why do I spend money where I do, and what do my consumer choices say about me? Leaving Vancouver to go to Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind., meant that for the first time I needed to buy things like plates, cups and flatware. I thought about buying things new, but quickly realized that second-hand items would not only be easier on my student budget, but would be easier on the environment, too.
One of the first commands God gives to people in the creation story is that we should rule over the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1:26-28). This is often interpreted as meaning that people have authority over plants, animals and the environment, and, to a certain extent, I agree.
However, this passage is using authoritative language to talk about the relationship between humans and the rest of creation. We are to be as rulers over it, acting out of a desire to see justice and longevity throughout the world God created. We are to act out of a desire to see all of creation flourish. Thrift-store shopping is one of the ways to act on the charge we have been given.
Consider this: The average North American throws away about 2.5 kilograms of waste per day. By buying and donating used items, we can not only cut down on packaging waste going into landfills and a broad spectrum of abuses of the earth’s resources, but we can also take part in the recycling process.
My cupboards and drawers are filled with second-hand items that I enjoy and use daily in Indiana, and I know that future students—or the MCC thrift store in Elkhart—will be happy to take them off my hands when I get ready to move back to Vancouver. Thrift-store shopping makes for a more sustainable way of living. It is one way that we can take seriously God’s charge for us to rule over the rest of creation as people blessed to be made in God’s image.
There are so many reasons to shop at MCC thrift stores. I have known for a long time that the money the stores make go to many different initiatives, such as refugee or Third-World clean-water programs.
However, I did not realize the extent of their environmental stewardship until I got a job at the Vancouver store as a summer-student worker. Not only are the products they are selling second-hand, but the boxes and bags are reused. The volunteers in the back are busy fixing things so they don’t have to be thrown away, and many of the clothes that aren’t sold go to the warehouse, where they are made into things like woven rugs, or are sent somewhere where they can be used.
On top of all that, the majority of the people working at these stores are volunteers, making them the epitome of good stewards.
My love for MCC thrift stores has grown through shopping, realizing the many aspects of stewardship being exemplified through the stores while getting to know people of different ages, cultural groups and economic statuses. Moreover, I have committed to purchasing more second-hand goods so I can contribute to preserving the world our God has created and to doing good to humanity through just consumer practices.
I can’t think of a good reason to not shop at MCC thrift stores.
Annika Krause is a member of Sherbrooke Mennonite Church, Vancouver.
--Posted Sept. 24, 2014