I mention thrift shopping in pretty much all of my sustainable posts( A Sustainable Girl’s Guide To Fashion, Thoughts On Animal-Based Clothing, Gifts for the Sustainable Person in Your Life, Eco-Friendly Ways to Change Up Your Closet, A Skier Gal’s Guide to Fashion, and many many more), and the items available on the nacstore are all made from secondhand items, so naturally y’all knew this was coming.
Local thrift store items have had a spot in my closet long before I decided to sustainably revamp my lifestyle. In high school, I was dressed with unconventional thrift store formal dresses for Prom and Homecoming, and I found new lives for mom and dad’s old 80’s and 90’s clothing items. But I was still shopping at trendy places like Forever 21 and Target for closet staples.
However, for the past five years, I think I can easily count on my hand clothing items that I have bought new. And now I know how keeping these fabrics in a cycle (rather than the landfill) is so much better than buying fast fashion or new items. But it’s so much more than being sustainable. Let’s dive into why you should love thrift shopping as much as I do:
Let’s Talk Sustainability
While the food and oil industries get a lot of attention about environmental impact, the clothing industry’s is never emphasized as a major contributor. Some ways that clothing manufacturing may impact the environment:
Pollution from dyes
Excessive water consumption
Microfibers shedding in water
Green house emissions
Chemicals from farming
“Green” brands are shedding the light on the importance of re-using old fabrics/plastics. This is a helpful first step towards reducing the impact of the fashion industry, because the public needs to be educated on the influence that new items have on Earth’s environment.
At the same time, not all “green” brands may be 100% sustainable, because other factors like green house gases and water consumption may go into creating the final product.
But trying to stay positive here… definitely look into brands that don’t overproduce/try their best to reduce every factor of environmental impact. It’s always a safe bet to buy local and shop small if buying new.
I love thrift shopping because this cuts out the manufacturing steps, as most of the factors that affect the sustainability of a product are during the production stages. By keeping the items in a loop, it can significantly reduce your impact.
While online thrift shopping using apps like Poshmark are super great, I also try to shop in store as much as possible. By shopping in-store, you keep it local, which cuts out emissions that could be made from transportation and delivery.
Saving Your Money
There is a reason it’s called thrift shopping… you’re being thrifty. According to Business Insider, “your monthly clothing budget should comprise no more than 5% of your after-tax income”. If you are a recent grad like me, that may be anywhere from $100 to $250.
While this seems like a lot, it includes clothing, underwear, socks, shoes, and outerwear, and this stuff can add up fast. New Levi denim jackets go for around $100, while I got one at Uptown Cheapskate for about $15. Plus I customized it, and I didn’t have as much pressure as if I messed up a $100 jacket.
But it’s not just the price of the items that help keep you to your budget. I buy less items when thrift shopping. Usually secondhand clothing is sorted by color and style, so I have to sift thoroughly to find something that I like that’s also in my size. I have found that this has greatly reduced the quantity of items that I buy because I really have to search for exactly what I want. And if they don’t have my size, then I have to set my heart on something else.
It Goes Both Ways
It’s great to buy second hand, but it’s also important to make the decision to put your unwanted clothes back into that cycle. Whether it’s donating to charity-based stores, going through buyback programs with local trendy secondhand stores, or selling through third-party apps and websites, there are so many ways to get rid of your clothes without them going to the landfill.
In college, when I was cycling through clothes like crazy, I would buy second hand items, wear them for a year or less, then take either donate them to Goodwill or Deseret Industries when I moved, or tried to sell them back to the places I purchased them.
I try to only buy clothes that I am crazy about to reduce my own personal cycle, and I have not been selling clothes as frequently as I did in college.
Opportunity for Creativity
Having the high honor of the Skyline High School’s “Most Unique Style” Senior Award, I can honestly say that I love to use my creativity when making outfits. I try not to confine myself into a certain box, but instead I have different ways to style and use the pieces in my closet.
A dad tee might be used with dad jeans for running errands, but it also might be under a strappy sundress for work.
Leggings are functional for skiing, hiking and yoga, but they also can be combined with blouses and heeled boots for a more stylish look.
A bold leopard print vintage dress can be for date night, but wear with leggings, sneakers, and a jean jacket, it’s dressed down enough for an office job.
And that’s where thrifting comes in. You can’t just have any style at the drop of a hat. You have to look through so many clothing items to find something that matches what you want. And sometimes you don’t get what you want, so you have to be creative and find a way around it.
Honestly, I feel like I have learned an art. I have to be picky, but at the same time, embrace the random pieces that I may come across (and that end up being my most worn things in my closet).
I hope that this helps push you towards making the conscious decision to shop clothes secondhand… And I didn’t even talk about buying items other than textiles…. we’ll save that for another time.
So know that there’s so much more to buying second hand than you think. It’s just a side effect that you may be destroying fast fashion and saving the world.
Your full-time thrifter and second-hand shopper,