Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. You cover all 3 R's when you shop at most thrift stores: 1) reducing the amount of packaging and energy that goes into production, 2) reusing old items, 3) recycling someone else's unwanted waste. Dishes are always in supply at thrift stores, but the trick is to make them seem like a purposeful collection rather than leftovers from your dorm days.
Tips for shopping for thrift store dishware:
• You don't have to match, but try to stick to a unifying theme.
• Buy one or two colors in different shapes and sizes.
• Build a larger collection from small matching sets.
• Simple designs stay in style, so they're not hard to find.
• Don't buy just because it's cheap.
• Buy what you love, or it'll end up back in the donation box.
• Clean secondhand dishes well with hot water and soap before using.
A few Chicago area thrift stores:
• The Brown Elephant
• The Salvation Army
• The ARK Thrift Shop
Image via morguefile.