My heart was pounding. Was that what I thought it was? I glanced to around to make sure no one was looking and then crouched down, tugging the stuffed bear over. A pair of black and grey snow boots. I gingerly turned the left one over to look at the size.
It was my son's size exactly and, at $3.99 a pair, a total economic and environmental bargain from my local second hand store.
The manufacture, use and disposal of consumer goods has had a heavy imprint on our planet. Anyone seriously considering a lighter lifestyle must, by definition, consume fewer new goods. The easy eco-answer has been buying second hand.
There's nothing more satisfying that finding exactly what you are looking for used and at a fraction of the cost. Not much can describe the thrill of a pristine item in a dirty thrift store, of a fall wardrobe for $40, of a closet-full of second hand games that will find their way back to the resale store once you've outgrown them, or of finding your child's snow boots for $3.99.
Unfortunately, that thrill will evaporate on February 10, 2009 - also known as National Bankruptcy Day.
That is the day that the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (the "CPSIA") goes into effect. The law was designed to protect consumers against the rash of recalls over lead-laced Thomas trains and Mattel toys that we experienced two winters ago. The law, though, is so poorly written that it does much more than simply "protect consumers." It requires extremely expensive independent testing for all items to be sold to children under age 12.
JessTrev wrote here last month about the laws implications for small manufacturers of toys and the handmade toy industry. Short answer: bankruptcy. The law will also prohibit the resale of toys, children's clothes, children's furniture, electronic devices and even children's books. The Smart Mama has been all over this. (Yesterday, the CPSC issued "guidance" for resale stores. UPDATED: The "guidance" is so vague that most children's resellers will still have to close their doors. Moreover, it is only a press release, not law, and does not apply to ebayers, Etsy, and the like. Please see comments).
Everything on store shelves that has not been tested by February 10 will be landfilled - as if we need more trash. All the children's clothing, toys and other items in your home cannot be donated to second hand stores and have no value whatsoever. Say goodbye to library sales. Ebaying your children's wardrobes - both buying and selling - will be a thing of the past. Homeschoolers looking to buy used curriculum books on Amazon? Not any more.
And the fine for disregarding this new law, for selling used children's items without the lead test - a felony charge with up to $100,000 and 5 years in jail.
This is a full scale green super hero alert, people.
If you have any desire to buy a child a handmade or second hand item in the foreseeable future or if you would like to see millions of items saved from the landfill, please don your cape and take action.
1) Email or call the CPSC Small Business Ombudsman - Contact information is here. Comments can be left here through January 30, 2009.
2) Contact your local representatives. For their contact information, just enter your zip code here.
3) Make your voice heard by voting on this issue! The top 3 in each category will be presented to President-elect Obama through Change.org.
4) Sign the petition.
5) Spread the word! Forward this post. Send an email. Post about it on Twitter or Facebook. Write about this on your blog. Tell others about this issue and encourage them to do the same.
Obama has said that he wants a country full of involved citizens. Let's give it to him.