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Three years ago, when Long Beach, Calif., resident Lisa Hernandez felt restless working in a corporate office, her daughter urged her to "follow her dream." At the time, she just didn't know exactly what that meant.
Hernandez had spent her entire life reusing household items, a habit instilled by her father, who recycled old wood and cardboard as protest signs in the Bay Area and used coins as screw drivers for loose nails.
"He told me that everything had a purpose," she says. "If it didn't, it wouldn't be here."
Hernandez decided she wanted to open up a shop of gently used knickknacks and unwanted items that might not be accepted by thrift stores or Goodwill but are too good to be thrown away.
She created The Long Beach Depot for Creative Reuse, a place where artists, parents, students, craft lovers and children go to find (or donate) materials such as buttons, feathers, old cards, glitter, beads, fabric and more -- all neatly organized in easy-to-browse bins.
Hernandez runs the depot with help from daughter, Yoshino Jasso, an artist who teaches hand-sewing classes there on Saturdays.
"With the economy the way it is, not everyone can afford to go to a hardware store to buy an entire package of nails when you can come here and buy just a few for a penny," Hernandez says. "School projects can cost around $40, but here, you can get the supplies needed for around $5. This is not just reusing, it's also economical."
Hernandez says different versions of the Long Beach Depot for Creative Reuse are popping up around the country. She was inspired by the Scrap store ("A Source for the Resourceful" in San Francisco) and the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse ("Every Teacher's First Stop and Every Artist's Second Home"). She has a vision that every city will have a reuse center so that people can walk, rather than drive, to donate materials they do not need and buy materials they could use.
"You know, I defend hoarders," Hernandez says. "They are not hoarders; they just realize that some things, even if they cannot use them personally, are just too good to throw out. The Depot for Creative Reuse gives them the opportunity to save these items without having them clutter their attic or garage."
Visit the Long Beach Depot for Creative Reuse here. Northern California's East Bay Depot offers this handy collection of Reuse links.
Here are five more online hubs that can help you reduce your consumption of materials and money.
1. Neighborrow. This organization prides itself on being eco-friendly, saving people money and bringing communities together. Here's how it works: You post requests for products you would like to borrow or products you would not mind lending, such as golf clubs, DVDs, steam carpet cleaners, cameras and bikes. If someone living near you has something you need or needs something you have, your neighbor can contact you.
2. Lendaround. Tim Jackson founded Lendaround after realizing how much stuff goes largely unused. His idea combines social networking and movie rentals: People join the Lendaround network, add friends and then everyone lists the movies they own. From there, members swap DVDs for free.
3. Freecycle. This site lets you browse for free stuff in your area and share free stuff that you don't need anymore.
4. ReCellular. Technology can be reused effectively too; ReCellular helps you sell your old cell phone or buy a used cell phone.
5. Zilok. Zilok is another peer-to-peer rental service; unlike Neighborrow, it costs money.