An American expat who is well-known for his efforts in cleaning up Hanoi has been collecting second-hand items and selling them to raise funds for environmental protection activities since 2019.
The project aims to raise awareness about the importance of fixing, recycling, and reusing old items instead of throwing them away.
The shop is located in a three-floor house on Lac Long Quan Street in Tay Ho District, Hanoi, where young people have come up with projects to revitalize the city, reduce waste, and study the reuse of second-hand products to protect the environment.
The small shop is filled with a wide range of items that are neatly arranged.
“At the beginning, we had more foreign customers visiting the shop, but now we have more local customers,” said Tran Nguyen Ngoc, a part-time employee and teacher at the shop.
Every day at 9:00 am, Ngoc classifies and arranges items while receiving donations from residents across the northern region. As the project gained popularity, more people started sending their old items to the shop.
A foreigner from Hai Phong City in northern Vietnam donated two bags of clothes that were ironed and made to smell nice.
An attaché from a foreign embassy in Vietnam also delivered several trucks of items, including a piano, before returning to his homeland.
Ngoc joined Kendall’s club for picking up trash six years ago and has been working at the Green Gem Shop since it opened in 2019. She dedicates all her free time to working at the shop.
In the beginning, the job was unpaid as it was voluntary work. However, the organization recently started paying salaries to its members to ensure they can continue working for the organization in the long term.
“This is a community project, but our members need to support their families as well,” Ngoc commented, adding that although the job at the shop is busy, she loves it.
Bui Ngoc Diep, the director of the project, recalled the day they launched the initiative to raise funds from the sale of second-hand products. At that time, they were collecting garbage but didn’t have enough tools.
One of the members suggested selling her own items to raise funds for tools, which inspired the establishment of the Green Gem Shop and the Keep VietNam Clean recycling project.
In the beginning, the shop had few donors and buyers, but after three years, it now covers two floors and has seen an increase in followers on its social media fan page.
“Previously, many people didn’t favor second-hand items, but their perception has changed as they’ve seen the high-quality old items we offer. The awareness of protecting the environment has gradually improved, and that is our goal,” Ngoc explained.
At the shop, there are decorative plant pots made from recycled plastic and hundreds of books, most of which were donated by foreigners and are in English.
The shop also sells bags, footwear, and hats made from old jeans, as well as hand-made earrings, necklaces, scented candles, brushes, and cards.
Ngoc shared that once a foreign customer shouted, “Why is it so cheap? I’ll pay triple!” when making a payment for an item. Another customer was surprised to learn that an item they bought for VND200,000 (US$8.1) was sold for much higher prices in the market.
Loyal customers can call in advance to choose items and collect them later. The shop always reminds customers to bring their own bags as they do not use plastic bags.
Through the sale of second-hand items, the Green Gem Shop has raised VND600 million ($24,276) in total revenue in 2022. After deducting rental costs, electricity and water expenses, and employees’ salaries, the remaining amount is donated to the organization’s environmental fund. This fund has supported the activities of Keep VietNam Clean.
The shop has also become a destination for university students who volunteer or work as apprentices.
For example, Nguyen Thanh Ngan, a junior student at the National Economics University in Hanoi, and Nguyen The Anh, a third-year student at the Hanoi National University of Education, are currently apprentices at the organization.
“I’m passionate about volunteer activities. When I was in 11th grade, I read about a foreigner who devoted himself to cleaning up Hanoi. I also wanted to improve my English skills, so I registered to join,” Ngan shared.