Shopping Saturday: Second-Hand Shopping

Earlier this week we talked about spring cleaning, and giving away the excess stuff in our houses. We shared a sampling of the various charities, organizations, and businesses to which you can donate or sell items for which you no longer have a use.

Today the focus is on the other end of this, second-hand shopping. There are several reasons, both environmental and economic, to consider buying gently-used items rather than brand new.

First, buying used items contributes to a green lifestyle by reducing waste and reusing items that would otherwise end up in landfills. Every year enormous amounts of energy, water, plastic and other materials are used to make new clothes, consumer goods, and the packaging to contain them. When you purchase a second-hand item in place of a new item, you reduce your environmental impact.

Don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bag!

Secondly, second-hand shopping can save you money. Most of the time second-hand items are available for a fraction of the price of new clothes or furniture. If you are buying from a small locally-owned business, that money goes back into the local economy, or to a great charity if it’s a shop like Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

Finally, for the fashion-conscious, shopping second-hand shops provides you with a variety of unique choices. You can find sporty, chic, or girly clothes that none of your friends are going to have. The same is true of furniture and other home decorations. Shopping this way is adventurous and allows you to be creative and resourceful. Second-hand shops can truly make your style yours!

And of course, we can’t forget books! In Mobile, be sure to check out Bienville Books on Dauphin St.

So how can you find a good deal when buying secondhand?

Here is a list of items that are best to buy used. It includes things like furniture, tools, and of course clothes! This way you are saving money and helping the environment.

Also, keep a running list in a small notebook or on your cellphone of the items you are looking for. Whether it’s lampshades, picture frames, dress shoes, or Nancy Drew books,  if you have a goal in mind when you walk into a second-hand store, you won’t be as overwhelmed and you’ll have a better chance of finding what you’re looking for and not spending money on things you don’t really need.

You can also consult this guide for further advice about second-hand shopping:

Tips for Thrift Shopping

Now as far as where to shop, there are countless stores and shops out there just waiting for you! Here are a few in Mobile, reply in comments about other stores around Mobile Bay that you love to shop. And if you’re not form the coast, let us know where you shop where you live!

Seconds on Sage

Penelope’s Closet


Salvation Army

Divine Consign (women’s clothes)

Divine Consignment (furniture and home decorations)

Bienville Books


Saturday: Grow Alabama

At Table
Grow Alabama
Originally published in the Mobile Bay Times on April 3, 2012.

By The Clever Cleaver
A box of Alabama delivered right to your door.

Before you begin envisioning Nick Saban standing on your stoop, please allow me to cast the dye of dispersion onto your gaming table. I am speaking of something bigger than that. So big that Coach Bryant himself (yes, I paused to genuflect) would have been proud of this effort of which I am going to share. He was after all, a farm boy and as such never forgot his agrarian roots.

The name of the organization is Grow Alabama and the concept is brilliant in simplicity. Alabama produce (predominantly anyway) harvested each week on Monday or Tuesday and delivered to Lower Alabama on Wednesday. Fresh, enticing, delicious and dedicated to promote the farming of “table crops” in our beloved state.

Founder and President Jerry Spencer began by growing his own veggies on his farm near Birmingham and offered selections to local restaurants and word quickly spread in the community. Jerry did some research and realized that Alabamians were spending about $50,000,000,000.00 annually on farm products grown in other states, harvested, packed and shipped across several states before even being offered in the grocery store.

Jerry envisioned a fresher alternative and a way to keep those agriculture dollars in our state. Hence Grow Alabama was born.

Seasonal crops from farmers all across our state are available for direct delivery to a communal drop off point(s) in a particular community or, for a small fee, delivered right to your door each week.

The ability to draw from the entire state ensures a variety of products and helps to combat problems faced by growers such as weather. Jerry recalls the drought in south Alabama last year that hampered the sweet corn crop.  Grow Alabama customers were fortunate to have corn grown in the northern part of the state.

Geographical boundaries are also overcome as those delicious Chilton County peaches will soon be available here and strawberries grown in abundance here will be shipped to parts north.

Jerry’s philosophy is that if we buy it, they will grow it.

Most table produce is grown on relatively small farms that do not qualify for government subsidies and as such often fall into the scope of larger operations that lease or purchase the land and grow those crops that the government mandates such as feed corn for ethanol, soy beans for non-direct food consumption or other subsidized products.

The vision of Grow Alabama is to increase both the demand and the awareness of the table food farm in our predominantly rural state.

I think you would agree with me that locally grown produce also just tastes better than mass produced dietary staples.

With a bow to the late great Jerry Clower, ‘Put some South in your mouth’ and join me by trying a box of produce packed especially for your family, grown and cultivated by the sun and the sons of Alabama.

Visit to learn more or call 205-991-0042 to learn more.

Ward “Cleaver” has been involved with the culinary community in the greater Mobile area for many years. Join him every Sunday morning at 9 a.m. on FM talk 106.5 for Mobile’s only restaurant and food themed radio show –The Epicurious Hour. Have a question or comment? Email

Saturday: Buy One Thing Organic

Many of us at Mobile Baykeeper strive to buy local or organic foods, and we know that many of you do too. We also know that buying organic food expensive. In some places a gallon of organic milk is twice the price of conventionally-produced milk. We’re going to share a few reasons that we shop organic, and then we’re going to challenge you to start integrating organic food into your household by starting with one thing.

(1) Healthier for you. Eating organic produce lessens your consumption of pesticide and herbicide residues, while organic dairy and animal products are free of antibiotics and growth hormones. Many sources also indicate that organic produce, meats, dairy, and eggs are more nutritious and contain higher levels of healthy fats, nutrients, and antioxidants. Read more about this here.

(2) Healthier for livestock. Livestock and poultry that are raised organically (including their dairy and eggs) are not given growth hormones and preventative antibiotics, and generally it means they are raised in more humane conditions.

(3) Healthier for the environment. Organic production uses alternative methods for weed and pest control, which means fewer harmful chemicals entering into the environment. Every chemical that is sprayed on agricultural fields has the potential to run off into our waterways. The fewer harmful chemicals used, the less impact our food production has on the environment.

Again, we know that there are countless reasons to eat organic; the higher price is the biggest thing standing in the way. So instead of asking you to start buying everything organic, we’re challenging you to start buying just one thing organic. Maybe that means buying organic milk or organic strawberries from now on. We have some articles below that can help guide your decision of the produce and food items that are most important to buy organic. Let us know what you decide to start buying organic! We want to hear from you!

Happy shopping! Together we can make a difference!

Some guides for shopping organic:

The Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods To Buy Organic

What Foods Should You Buy Organic?

Why Buy Organic Dairy Products?

Saturday: Shop Your Local Farmers Market

What's more local than your own backyard?

Strawberries, in season now in Alabama!

The Make-A-Difference Month Saturday Challenge is about making a difference with the way you shop. This Saturday we are talking about shopping locally and supporting your local farmers market. Beth, our Partnership Coordinator at Mobile Baykeeper, lives on the beautiful Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay, and shops for fresh produce at her farmer’s market every week.  Below she shares the reasons that she buys local produce.

(1) Support your local farmers market. The farmers market is a perfect place to find a refreshing and nutritious summer treat. Depending on the season you can find fresh berries or melon.  And who doesn’t agree that fresh green beans are better than frozen? We all know these things about local produce, but still buy produce from other states and even other countries! As a community we need to be buying these produce items from our local farmers as often as possible.  Buying local is beneficial for both you and your community.

(2) Fresh, nutritious produce. Produce that is fresh and hasn’t been frozen just tastes better right?  While I can’t say that it’s a fact, I know I prefer my veggies fresh.  The process of freezing fresh fruit and vegetables decreases the amount of nutrients in the produce.  And we want to get all the vitamins and minerals that we can from our produce.  And when we buy produce that has been shipped across the country, or across several countries, we’re paying for transportation and shipping on items that could have been picked several days before.

(3) Our local farmers need us.  Farming is a business that has been outsourced so much lately that local farmers are losing their grip in the business.  When you buy locally, you cut out shipping and transportation costs and you help local farming families by keeping them in business.  Your money will go directly to the farmer rather than spent on shipping.

For more information on local farmers markets, take a look at these websites:



After doing a quick search on Sustainable Table’s website, I discovered that strawberries and sweet potatoes are in season right now in Alabama.  I’d like to share some fun recipes that I enjoy making with both of these items.

  • For sweet potatoes, you can’t go wrong with simply baking them and eating them plain as a side dish to pretty much anything.  But I recently discovered this fabulous recipe which features sweet potatoes as the main dish: Loaded Sweet Potatoes with Chili Beans. It’s very easy to make and the combination of the sweetness from the sweet potato topped with the spicy and smoky flavor of the chili beans compliment each other very well.  This is an easy weeknight dinner idea and perfect to try right now while it’s time for sweet potatoes.
  • To satisfy your sweet tooth after your loaded sweet potato, you have to try this recipe for 1-Minute Berry Ice Cream.  Since strawberries are in season, substitute the blueberries for fresh strawberries. And don’t forget to add fresh mint; it really makes a difference!
I hope you enjoy these recipes and remember to buy local! Whether it’s every week or every month, every time you shop at a local farmers market, you are helping to support your local economy and your community, not to mention the environmental benefits of buying food closer to home. Share your farmer’s market story in comments below! And if you have a favorite seasonal recipe, share that too!

Monday: Plastic Shopping Bags

Hello! Today we are tackling plastic shopping bags. Ubiquitous, abundant, and convenient, they pose several problems environmentally. The first is that plastic bags are produced from oil. The second is that while many plastics are recyclable, disposable plastic bags are so thin that they are really only viable for “downcycling” – the term used for a recycled product which is of lesser value than the original material. Third, although some grocery stores are starting to collect used bags for recycling, many plastic bags do not get recycled. Estimates of the number of plastic bags consumed annually range from 90 to 100 billion. That’s a lot of bags! This represents a significant resource expenditure, and a waste disposal problem.

There are two ways to manage this plastic bag situation.

(A) Reuse: Save up the bags that you get when you shop and reuse them for a whole host of household tasks. In addition to reusing plastic shopping bags for another shopping trip, you can use them as trash can liners, wet clothes bags, or to collect pet waste. Pinterest has a ton of ideas for reusing plastic bags, and has some fun suggestions for how to store them: Another tip is to keep a few spare plastic bags tucked in your purse or coupon book, if you carry one.

(B) Reduce: Bring your own bag. Keep a few reusable bags in your car and by the front door so you don’t forget them. There is a variety of options for durable, reusable shopping bags: Tote bags, knit bags, and even reusable polyester produce bags.

If you’re feeling crafty, you can even make your own tote bags out of old t-shirts! Click here and here for two good tutorials.

Finally, because it’s hard to remember to bring your bags into the store with you, check out this website where you can order a free static window cling to remind you to bring your reusable shopping bags with you. This site also has good deals on stylish shopping bags.

Now the challenge is up to you. Take a picture of yourself using your reusable shopping bags and send it in! Or, if you tackle one of the DIY projects listed above (or another one that you think we should know about), send that in too! Every time we hear from you about a challenge you have successfully undertaken, we will enter your name in the weekly drawing. Email photos and descriptions to with subject line “Make-A-Difference Month.”

Let’s make a difference!


The Green Book by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen