by Kelly LaPlante
We all know that the things you choose to bring into your home make a difference. Where they are made, how they are made, how the makers are compensated—for the conscientious consumer, factors to consider can be overwhelming, paralyzing even.
I'm lucky, I suppose, that when I started on my path as a sustainable designer, there weren't a lot of options. "Green-washing" wasn't a thing, yet. I didn't have thousands of companies vying for my sustainable spend. At the time, it was very clear to me that buying secondhand furnishings was the best, easiest and most efficient way for me to produce sustainable interiors.
Today, there are plenty of excellent companies who are doing a phenomenal job of producing new items that are healthy and enriching for both people and the planet—and, believe me, I spend some serious cash with these companies. That said, I still regularly make the case for finding a piece at your local vintage store. Here's why:
Local = Good
Recently, I accepted a stint as the Guest Editor for Trove Market—an app and website that helps people buy and sell vintage or pre-loved furnishings, locally. Theirs is a mission that definitely resonates with me. Supporting your neighbors = good for your local economy. Buying something from someone nearby, rather than having it shipped from overseas = good for the planet. See where I'm going, here?
Also, I admit it, I like instant gratification. Finding something local means I don't have to wait. I can go pick it up today!
They Don't Make Them Like They Used To
In this current era of disposable furnishings (need I even mention the "I" word?) it feels incredibly satisfying to find a great old piece that has already stood the test of time and has plenty more years to go. Not to mention that our design forefathers were pretty damn fantastic. There's a reason mid century modern never goes out of style.
I'll (Not) Have What She's Having
Nothing is worse than spending good money on your furnishings, only to see the exact same pieces all over Instagram. I can think of a particular rug that, last year, suddenly became the go-to piece for designers from Los Angeles to Brooklyn. How disappointing to put all that work into a project and then feel like a key component is nothing more than a carbon copy!
Having the same piece as everyone else also pretty much guarantees that you are going to get sick of it faster. Buying something vintage solves that problem—it's uncommon to see the exact same piece twice, much less hundreds of times.
The Damage Is Done
Aside from a few extraordinary companies who are achieving a net zero carbon footprint, even sustainable manufacturers leave a mark on our planet. That's not to say that they aren't doing a lot of extraordinary things, like creating jobs and producing eco-friendly goods that are safe to bring into our homes. But, from time to time, I just like to feel like my purchase results in no new ecological damage, whatsoever (save for the 1/8 tank of gas I use to go pick it up).
The footprint of that old table or chair was made decades ago— and my purchase relives a tiny bit of the demand for new production. Gold star for me.
The Thrill of the Hunt
This is really what inspired Trove Market. The founders love hunting for diamonds in the rough, and so do I. When you find the perfect vintage treasure at the perfect price, you feel like you hit the jackpot.
It's a feeling worth chasing.
Kelly LaPlante is a sustainable designer, entrepreneur and journalist. She is the author of écologique: the style of sustainable design (2008) and was the founder and Editorial Director of Standard Magazine (2010-2013). Currently, she enjoys serving as Guest Editor at Trove Market. You can find Kelly at kellylaplante.com, or via Instagram and Twitter @kelly_laplante.