I grew up shopping in thrift stores. I remember my mother searching for me as I hid in between clothing racks, her cart piled high with colorful finds and the happy expression on her face when she found both my hiding spot and the perfect outfit for me. I learned during these excursions about the thrill of finding items marked for $2.00, with an original price tag of one hundred times that! It was and still is amazing what people both give and throw away long before their usefulness is through. While as a child I didn’t have much patience for shopping trips of any kind, I still found most of my adolescent clothes secondhand. My mother also created elegant outfits for her tango classes and hilarious Halloween costumes out of what she found at our local thrift stores.
When I got older and we had a bit more money, we stopped thrift shopping as much and started mall shopping. While these trips seemed “easier” in some ways, they never had the same sense of adventure, not to mention that the cost was far greater both monetarily and to my sense of sanity.
After entering college I luckily rediscovered the joy of thrift or consignment stores and yard sales. At that time I was shopping secondhand for the deals and eccentric outfits I could find, but later I came to appreciate all my used, but “new to me” items for the greater purpose they served. I realized that every thrift store, consignment shop, op shop, online secondhand retailer, yard sale and refurbished electronic store provided a secondhand haven for the millions of pounds of clothing and household items that would otherwise be headed for the dump. I learned that by thrift shopping I could save still useful and valuable items from being heaped into our overflowing landfills and save money and natural resources by doing so.
“While more and more people seem to be recycling their old attire, according to the U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste, Americans still throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year. Clothing and other textiles represent about four percent of the municipal solid waste stream.”
– National Geographic
For each of those discarded items there is a larger ecological cost as well, in terms of the power, land and water used to create them and the toxic emissions released during production.
It takes around 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce the average pair of jeans and 400 gallons of water to create 1 cotton shirt.*
Just a couple of months ago I found a two hundred dollar pair of jeans, like new, at a tip shop (thrift store located next to a dump) and they cost me all of $3.00! We wouldn’t just dump 1,800 gallons of water into a landfill because someone said it was last year’s style would we? So why throw our clothes away or buy new when there are so many used, but ready to wear clothing items being discarded?
Whether or not you have the money to shop in department or designer stores, thrift shopping says something about your greater consumer values, such as those of conservation and an appreciation for our natural resources. Shopping secondhand is a wonderful way to replace worn out clothes (that are ready to be rags), trade in clothes you’re tired of or replace any animal items you got rid of after becoming vegan.
Every year there may be a new definition of what is cool to wear, new versions of the iPhone, new flat screen TV’s and new styles of sneakers, but there isn’t a new planet. When purchasing any item you need or replacing your worn out wears, think twice about whatever is stopping you from shopping secondhand.
* From Clean Technology