The Green Scene

Jess Vogt

With the end of their last midterm reading period at Lawrence, many seniors will finally begin to contemplate the reality of the impending day-after-graduation just one month from the date on this issue of The Lawrentian. For those who have avoided thinking about “Life After Lawrence” until now, discussion of who will be living in their parents basement come June 15 seems more relevant than ever.
Because I’ve been thinking about “Life After Lawrence” for the better part of the last year – through the graduate search and decision process, visits to schools and towns and, finally, the apartment search – I’m lucky to be actually feeling less apprehensive as these last few weeks roll around. I’ve chosen a graduate school (Indiana University-Bloomington), my boyfriend and I just signed our apartment lease for next year and paid the $200 security deposit, I have a job at Conkey’s Bookstore for one last summer, and my two brothers have already confirmed their willingness to help us move to Indiana come August 14.
I am now feeling less panicked about paying the bills, and more excitement about finally having a place I can call my own. Though it’s been great living in the dorms at Lawrence for these past four years – with all my living expenses paid in one lump sum with tuition, not having to worry about purchasing furniture, and not having to worry about cooking for myself or cleaning a kitchen – or bathroom, for the large part – I have to say, it will be nice to finally have more control over my living style.
This impending sense of freedom to control my life extends more than to just where I live, what I eat and whether I have to clean a bathroom. It also means I have control over what furniture I have and what I eat my food off of. I’ll need to buy many things when I move into my first apartment: dishes, cooking utensils, furniture and even trashcans. And there are lots of choices of where to buy these items.
When considering what type of furniture to have in a first apartment, planet Earth may not be the first thing most people think of. But the various fabrics, woods, plastics and other materials used to make couches, chairs and beds all originated from natural resources obtained from the Earth. To boot, most of the furniture made and bought today is cheap and of poor quality, resulting in a lot of furniture broken and placed in landfills after only a few years of use.
Think of most of the cheap futons bought and used by college students: how many of those end up in the landfill each June? In my common room in Hiett, there is definitely a landfill-destined futon from Ikea propped up on old textbooks.
So, when many of us seniors are faced this fall with empty apartments and empty wallets, what are the alternatives to cheap Target or Ikea furniture that will not break itself or break the bank?
The key is to look for second-hand furniture. One good place to look is your parent’s basement or attic. If your parents are like mine, they’ve been saving furniture unbeknownst to me for years, and have an old dining room table and a couple of shelves, still in great shape, they’ve been saving for my first apartment.
Another good source of fairly cheap but quality furniture is a furniture consignment store, Goodwill or other thrift stores, second-rate antique shops, or yard sales. Here, you’ll find gently used furniture, the quality of which is tried and true, though it may be a bit tired looking. However, you can easily take an old kitchen chair in need of refinishing and put a quick coat of paint on it to spruce it up for your new place.
Second-hand stores are also a great place to look for dishes or flatware. For usually less than a dollar apiece, you can make an eclectic table setting, often with really good quality dishware. I’m planning on taking the plates from the old set my boyfriend’s mom is giving us to Goodwill and finding as many colorful bowls and mugs to match as I can for just a couple bucks!
For me, setting out into the world is an adventure in thrifting. Because I have what I call a strict “eco-conscience” that starts nagging me every time I have to buy something new that will eventually end up in the landfill, I feel much better about purchasing things second-hand.
Second-hand items require no new resources to be manufactured, and often are longer lasting than the equivalently priced items in Target or Ikea.
Also, because thrift stores are frequently organizations that employ local people, and charitably give back to the community through improvement projects, I can feel good about supporting my new community while creating a unique home for myself that feels much more warm, comfortable and loved than anything you’ve seen in the pages of Target or Pottery Barn.