Custom Search

Friday, August 16, 2013

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle French Style and my Authentic Vuitton BAG

One of Viviennestyle's commenters lamented the lack of thrift shops in her European home. I left a brief comment about my observations in France, where I was lucky enough--owing to perhaps over-extreme frugality--to spend some weeks this summer and the one before. Unlike in the USA and in Great Britain, where there is an established tradition of charity shops, France seems to boast only the occasional uber-pricy designer resale store, snobbier than any retail environment I have ever experienced.

In Paris I witnessed an amazing eco-system. On our evening walks, we would see people assiduously going through garbage cans. Some had little wheelie carts in which they amassed food. One sight from this past summer: an old woman with a full cart, sitting on a stoop, shelling beans. I noticed that people often waited till dusk to put out their garbage, carefully laying nice clothing and linens at the top. I walked by a wonderful trove (this is what I mentioned in my comment chez Vivienne) containing a lined classic wool skirt, a vintage Persian lamb jacket, and a pair of Doc Martens. This stuff was so nice that I sent Mr FS out to make sure it had been taken before the trucks came: he reported that all was gone!

We also saw interesting furniture. Mr FS lamented the fact that he could not transport a great wooden door for one of his art projects. We saw an ecstatic-looking Parisian fellow--decidedly middle-class--carrying one of those circular tables with two leaves that you put against the wall. It seemed like good wood. It was missing a leaf, but it would still make a snazzy addition to a small apartment. We also saw tons of Ikea-type pressboard, but these often did not survive a night in the rain. Lots of baby equipment too.

And, of course, books. There was a giant box of books outside the Aloha Hostel right down the street from us--perhaps left by travelers? A woman and her son pulled out a lot of books. Then Mr FS and I had a look: many academic books on feminism (in French). It was about to rain, so we took a few and kept them safe. We then left them on the doorstep of the used bookstore around the corner. According to a used bookstore owner here, this is a common practice: much of his stock was gifted by kind people who hoped for a good home for their books.

I guess Mr FS and I participated in the ecosystem by moving those books. We also saw the ecosystem at work on our visit to Nimes. There we saw an ad hoc street sale where zillions of families had wares on the sidewalk. Some of these looked like established marketers, but others looked rather unofficial, e.g. the fellow with stacks and stacks of clothing and a sign that said 2 items for a euro. I spied a Max Mara blazer and some nice sweaters. I have a feeling that the piles of stuff came courtesy of the trash.

We did see some giant metal receptacles in Paris where you could deposit used clothing for charity. Of course, being French, the rules were strict: the clothing had to be freshly laundered, neatly folded, and put into a certain kind of plastic bag (i.e. not a garbage bag). No wonder people left their things on the garbage cans!

Oh, the Vuitton bag. Yes, it is authentic. I got it from the sidewalk. Someone left it. There was nothing in it, save an invitation to a private fashion show. Perhaps the original owner left the bag so that it could be filled with some of the wares left atop the garbage can next to it. Readers, I took it. It is my souvenir. It is, of course, a shopping bag.

It now sits in my study filled with student work from last semester. It is a big and sturdy bag. I love it.


Shelley said...

Amazing find! Most of the interesting shops here in Nice are shut, it being August. At least it saves me from temptation. I hadn't thought to look for charity shops, to be honest, mainly because my carry on suitcase came full. My impression from our trip to Paris earlier this year from observing women on the trains was that they wear their clothes until they are probably too tatty to donate, but perhaps this was a biased sample. I also remember seeing the 'shanty town' on the outskirts of Paris near a garbage dump site. It's the first real life place like that I've seen and it was upsetting. Recycling isn't as easy here as in Britain. At home it is all collected outside our door: glass, paper, plastic, textiles, metal. So far as I can tell at this flat, only plastic is collected outside the apt. building. You have to cart glass and paper to a collection bin about a 15 min walk away.

Shelley said...

Oh, and BTW, Bill forwarded a news article to me and when I saw this young woman's recipes I thought of you. I'm sure going to try some!

Duchesse said...

That is how castoffs are handled here, too, and it's a time-honoured method of big cities- the discarders and the pickers- though I also see people using the wonderful site Freecycle to give away larger items.

We have a novel system in Montréal: all leases expire on Juy 1 so that is official moving day. On or just before that date, the streets are full of discards. (Yes, a minority of people move at other times but then assume remaindered leases.)

Frugal Scholar said...

@Shelley--It is a PAPER shopping bag! P.S. It just ripped, alas. Thanks for the website--looks very good.

@Duchesse--We were in Montreal on July 1 a few years ago. An amazing scene!

Anonymous said...

Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.
Biogas Plant in Kerala
Recycling of Waste in Bangalore