When I think about this beautiful place where I live, gorgeous downtown Staunton, Virginia, and its awe-inspiring natural surroundings in Augusta County and the Shenandoah Valley, I can’t help but reflect on its ancient origins and hope with all my might that such a great little mountain city and such amazing natural beauty will be here for many more centuries for future generations to love and enjoy, too.
But I worry, too.
It’s not just the threat of the proposed (and widely opposed) Atlantic Coast Pipeline cutting through our beautiful farmland and communities.
Rather, it’s also how we Americans consume energy and products in general — “Americans constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy.” It’s just too much! If everyone on earth consumed like Americans we’d need four earths to supply it all. That’s crazy!
For this reason, so many folks here in America and world wide, really, have begun to embrace ideas like eating local, supporting local farmers and local businesses, and generally doing what we can to lessen our plastics use and trash impact (that Great Pacific Garbage Patch scares me!), and even cut our consumption.
But the fact remains that we need things, and we want things, which is part of being human and living an interesting life! And we also want to take care of things, and nurture things, which is why folks take so much pride in their communities, like we do here in Staunton and Augusta County.
So how do we make all of these things work — making and needing things, wanting things, taking care of things, and managing our waste?
This very dilemma is one of the reasons I opened the Staunton Antiques Center.
To me it’s obvious that vintage goods and antiques are the ultimate in recycling, or rather, in re-using what’s already out there. That means less new energy spent, fewer natural resources newly despoiled, and less impact in our landfills. So let me give you three reasons why vintage and antiques are THE ultimate eco-friendly buying choice.
1. Feel the Power
So here’s a wild concept. It’s called “embodied energy.”
What embodied energy means is that when something is already made, it is “embodying” the energy of the resources used to make it — fuel energy, and raw materials like wood, iron, hides for leather, cotton for clothing, sand for glass, etc.,
On the other hand, every time you make something new — unless it’s by “upcycling” existing things into a different new thing — then you have to get new raw materials and use newly drawn on water and fossil fuel energy to manufacture it, which at this stage of history makes a HUGE and troubling impact on our world’s systems.
When it comes to vintage and antique goods, though, they already have “embodied energy” in them, which is why it’s SO MUCH BETTER to re-use them in our stressed world. Because you don’t have to tear down new trees, or use fresh water, coal, gas, or oil to make antique goods, or transport them en masse from across the globe.
And it’s the number one reason that vintage and antiques are so much more eco-friendly for our homes, communities, and kids and grandkids than anything new could ever be.
2. Preserve and Protect
Vintage and antique items, whether glassware and dining supplies, furnishings and decor, art and tools, linens and textiles, jewelry and clothing, or anything else really, reflect an earlier stage in manufacturing where things were “built to last.”
Today the watchword in manufacturing is “planned obsolescence,” or making things that are designed to breakdown in a short period of time, sending you back to Wal Mart or some other cheap outlet for a replacement because “no one fixes things anymore” or because it’s “gone out of style.”
But few things beat mid-century American-made appliances for their durability, or antique linens for their weave, fine detail, and elegant hand, or the weight and style of older plates, glasses, and serving ware. And that’s just the tip of the high-quality iceberg. I could go on and on and on praising the quality of these items!
So when we buy and use these older items instead of buying new, we not only preserve and protect those precious resources, and draw on that higher quality, we also preserve and protect the history bound up in them — the stories, the manufacturing histories, and the “built to last” quality found in them. It’s where history meets environmental care and frugality to give us a life full of meaning and goodwill, and it’s the second reason antiques and vintage are your eco-friendly choice.
3. Spare the Landfill
It’s shocking to think of how much more trash Americans create today than they did even a century ago, back when very few things were disposable and most things were built to last. Things cost a lot more in the past, too, because there weren’t things like “fossil fuel subsidies” to artificially lower prices. So back then people tried to preserve what they had because it would be pricey to buy new things.
But now we regularly buy cheap things of every variety all of which is covered in excess packaging and then we just toss all that packaging “away’ (hint, hint, to our local landfills) and in short order we toss the item that came in the packaging too because of that planned obsolescence I mentioned above.
So many perfectly good items in every category imaginable just get tossed, creating local waste headaches, generating current and future environmental hazards, and just plain being wasteful with our bounty of human-created goods.
Buying vintage and antique goods (and even second-hand things from thrifts stores, etc.) avoids that vicious, wasteful cycle and leaves useable items around for a continued shelf-life, keeping them out of the landfill and helping to avoid environmental hazards. And all this good stuff happens while at the same time creating local jobs in the vintage and antiques industry that supports the local economy while sending a signal to the industrial economy to SLOW DOWN and relocalize.
So reason number three that antiques and vintage are more eco-friendly? Less waste, less trash, and less impact on our local ecosystems when we reuse.
One final note is that I’ll remind you of a previous blog I wrote about how the items at Staunton Antiques Center are highly curated. I wouldn’t want to leave you with the impression that every thing from the past is useful, handsome, and worthy of re-using. Much of it is, even most of it is, but not all of it.
And then it’s how you find things. Are they clean? Are they complete sets or good replacements? Are they still in good shape, still able to be stylish, still in working order or easily fixed?
There are a lot of different kinds of vintage and antiques suppliers and other second-hand offerings. To effectively source the things you need, and to consciously choose to re-use existing goods over heading to the big box stores, you want to be sure that you can readily find high-quality merchandise in good condition and well presented in a shop. Speaking for the Staunton Antiques Center, curating and presenting items in a beautiful manner is what we do best!
We source it all, and then pass on our knowledge, style-making, and fair-pricing to get you the best deal on a treasure trove of uniquely fabulous items for your home, garden, guest houses and airbnbs, as gifts, gags, clothing, and just for fun.
So come on in and see why vintage and antiques are back and better than ever because they’re helping to save the earth, and save us right here in our communities, too!
— Ellen Boden, Proprietress, Staunton Antiques Center