Three Things You Can Do: Swap, Share and Donate

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Have you ever seen lightly used household items — things like lamps, books, toys, furniture and clothes — piled up on the curbside and wondered if somebody wouldn’t want that stuff?

The answer is probably yes, and it might be easier than you think to connect your unwanted things with new owners.

One way to do that is through apps and websites. Craigslist, Bunz, Listia and Freecycle allow you to swap or give away just about anything. People often use Meetup to get together and swap records, books and clothes.

Public libraries, bookstores and community groups often also organize book swaps.

If you live in New York City, you could bring your unwanted items to one of the dozens of Stop ‘N’ Swap events organized each year by the nonprofit group GrowNYC.

I went to one in Sunnyside, Queens, and saw how volunteers sorted through the unwanted items that donors brought in and placed them on tables for others to take home.

And I saw dozens of people — mostly moms with children in tow, as well as older people — finding and taking items in great condition. They walked away with things like stuffed toys, board games, clothes, books, picture frames, shelves and even bodyboards.

There were 5,064 pounds of unwanted items donated that day, and when the event was over about 81 percent of that volume had been picked up by new owners. Nearly 300 people took part.

If there’s no such program in your area, GrowNYC has a DIY Swap Guide for organizations, groups and individuals who are considering starting one.

“It’s basically a way of sharing things,” said Yazmine Mihojevich, the program’s coordinator. “That’s why it is free for everyone.”

And here’s another tip for reducing your environmental footprint: Next time you get the urge to buy something, think about whether you really need it.

“We seem to be focused on how quickly we can get things, how cheap they are or how fashionable and trendy,” said Martin Bourque, executive director of the Ecology Center in Berkeley, Calif. “We buy too much stuff because there is an endorphin rush from acquiring new things.”

If you do need that new thing, Mr. Bourque recommended focusing on quality and craftsmanship. Well-made things tend to cost more, but they usually have a longer life. That means they can be given to friends or family, sold online or donated to thrift stores when you don’t want them anymore. They can also be swapped for other high-quality used items.


Being a conservative climate advocate is getting a bit easier.

That became clear when I interviewed college students for an article about the gap between young Republicans and party leaders on climate change. That gap, many G.O.P. strategists fear, could be a political time bomb for the party.

Being a climate-conscious conservative has been “definitely difficult,” said Benjamin Backer, 21, a student at the University of Washington. “You kind of always have to preface your conversations with certain folks to establish the bona fide conservative credibility.”

But Mr. Backer — who founded the American Conservative Coalition, a group that advocates for environmental policies — and other climate-minded Republicans said they felt less compelled these days to fend off assumptions that they lack party loyalty.

Mr. Backer has spoken multiple times to the Conservative Political Action Conference, the largest annual gathering of conservatives. Today, he said, even lawmakers who don’t agree with him on policy questions increasingly acknowledge that young Republicans genuinely care about both the party and the climate.

“I think what it comes down to is that we all come from a place of conservative activism that we can come back to and point to and that really does help us,” Mr. Backer said.

Sarah Hunt, a longtime conservative activist and co-founder of the Rainey Center, a nonpartisan think tank that works on energy issues, agreed. She said casting doubt on one’s Republican authenticity tended to be a weapon of last resort for denialists “when they can’t win on policy.”

But, she said, with a growing number of Republican lawmakers talking openly about climate action, that approach “backfires in sophisticated conservative circles.”

Another Republican I interviewed was Will Galloway, 19, an environmental activist and student at Clemson University. He said he, too, often felt compelled to justify his conservative credentials.

“My generation has always accepted that climate change is a real thing,” said Mr. Galloway. “But for most of my life I didn’t talk about it because the only people talking about it did not fit with my worldview.”

But, he said, addressing climate change intersects more easily with his party politics now. “A big part of conservatism is prudence and restraint,” he said. “That’s kind of what environmentalism is.”


Hello and welcome back!

We got a couple of questions this week prompted by Jillian Mock’s recent item on carbon offsets. Readers wanted to know what platform The New York Times travel desk is using to offset airplane travel by staff members on assignment.

Here’s the answer: It’s Cool Effect, which helps travelers fund carbon-mitigation projects across the globe, like planting trees in Africa and India, putting up wind turbines in Costa Rica and creating cleaner cookstoves for use in China. You can read more here.

And, a correction: We spelled a name wrong last week. In our item on reducing unwanted mail, we quoted a spokesman for the Association of National Advertisers. His name is John Wolfe, not Wolf. Our bad.