Reasons for and environmental benefits of holding a garage sale

History of Garage Sales

It is very difficult to find information about the history of garage sales in Australia. They seemed to have been around for a long time. I moved to Australia over twenty years and have certainly seen them ever since. Other terms for garage sale are "yard sale", "rummage sale" and "moving sale". Someone posted a "demolition sale" on this site. In America, they are also called "barn sale" or "junk sale". The term "moving sale" is very interesting because it refers to the actual reason for the sale.

Reasons for holding a garage sale

There are many reasons for holding a garage sale. Some are practical, some are environmental, some are financial and many are a combination of all of those. If you need more space in your garage or house you can hold a garage sale to get rid of the items, you do not need any more. This is practical for you. Holding a garage sale before a scheduled council clean-up is practical for the council because they need to pick up less stuff and can avoid putting high pressure on their landfill sites. This practice is encouraged by at least two of the Sydney Metro Councils. Selling unwanted goods in a garage sale or otherwise and diverting them from landfills is an obvious environmental bonus. The Great Australian Garage Sale Trail originated to prevent illegal dumping. The financial benefits of a garage sale should not be underestimated. It is very difficult to find any reliable data about how much money to expect from a garage sale but the first Great Australian Garage Sale Trail in April 2010 nearly generated an average of $600 per sale. This high number was probably due to the high profile and the location of the event, Bondi. My personal guess is around a quarter to a third of that amount but I could be totally wrong.

Environmental benefits of holding a garage sale

Finding a new use for an item by selling it in a garage sale makes your household more environmentally sustainable because it diverts goods from landfills and even avoids the potentially expensive and energy-intense recycling. Re-use is always better than recycling. The following table is my personal interpretation of the environmental effectiveness of the different item disposal practices.

End-of-use PracticeEnvironmental Effectiveness
Not use in the first placeBest
UpcycleSlightly better
Dispose in designated landfillBad
Illegally dumpWorst

A garage sale can turn questionable, bad and very bad disposal practices into good ones. It is estimated that the first Great Australian Garage Sale Trail diverted 15 shipping containers from going to landfills or illegal dumping sites. This is roughly equivalent to 3 cubic metres per garage sale. Of course, this amount of space is not just diverted from landfills but also freed in your garage or house. For these very reasons, many people hold a second garage sale after the first one to give away for free the items they could not sell in the first garage sale.

So, what are you waiting for? Be sustainable and have a garage sale! It is good for the environment and your wallet, frees some space in your house and makes happy customers who can get what they want at a reduced price. You even get to mingle with the neighbours.