For John Cameron, trying to be part of the solution left him feeling like he was actually part of the problem.
The industrial electronics consultant lived on the go with infrared and ultrasonic tools to help companies save energy.
“My passion has been sustainability and reducing energy pollution,” said Cameron. “It’s amazing. It’s like converting 500 lightbulbs from CFLs to LEDs. It’s a big deal.”
Then one day he thought about his lifestyle – he drove 1,000 miles a week; staying in five hotels a week, flying and eating out constantly.
“Those numbers took it where I wasn’t sustainable,” he said, realizing that another part of his work actually negated his sustainable mission.
So Cameron resigned from work. And in August, he opened MKE Outdoor Indoor Exchange, Wisconsin’s “cradle-to-cradle” gear store, according to its website.
The exchange is located at the intersection of Delaware and New York in Bay View. Cameron stock a wide range of outdoor clothing, tech and other gear from well-known brands – almost all of it used or recycled.
“And I have to say my wool department is amazing. These are all handpicked, mostly vintage,” he said.
Cameron is part of a booming second-hand market. GlobalData expects it to more than double to $82 billion by 2026, according to online broadcaster ThredUp.
Online resale is driving the trend, especially after the pandemic pushed more shoppers to the web and apps.
“If you think about making a new t-shirt, it uses about 6,000 gallons of water,” said Marissa Jablonski, sustainability expert and executive director of UW-Milwaukee’s Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin.
“I think in the US we’re finally reducing the stigma of buying used clothes because we’re such mass consumers. And it helps reduce the impact of our water energy on planet Earth,” she said.
Other GlobalData research on ThredUp shows that more than 40 percent of all consumers now think of second-hand first, with Gen Z and Millennial shoppers leading the way.
Cameron has already outgrown its brick-and-mortar business and is also offering products online.
He wants to scale and envisions one day doing business in places like Ann Arbor or Duluth.
“I came up with this in March of this year. I woke up at 3am and wrote a business plan. And I’ve been doing about 110 miles an hour since then,” Cameron said.
Finding a solution that fits his mission was a big risk for Cameron.
“I took my credit cards and maxed them out. I officially paid off one just last night. I’m crawling out of it all,” he said.
The exchange is located at 3044 S Delaware Ave in Milwaukee. And, said Cameron, they will be open on Black Friday.
Products that you cannot find in the shop can be found online at: https://www.mkeoutdoorindoor.com/
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