Thrifting: What's the Tea? by Tori Yeasky
Updated: Dec 26, 2020
These days it seems like everybody and their mothers are shopping at thrift stores, myself included. According to Thredup’s 2020 Resale Report, the Secondhand Market is set to hit $64 billion in the next 5 years, and an estimated 40% of Gen Zers shopped Secondhand in 2019. Why is this a big deal? Let me explain.
Shopping Secondhand is Sustainable
Thrifting is an eco-friendly option compared to the fast fashion companies we are seeing a lot of today. Brands like Zaful and Shein produce new styles of clothes nearly every week at very low prices. While this can be attractive to many consumers, it also has grave consequences on the environment. “The [fashion] industry accounts for a staggering 8-10 percent of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined,” according to the United Nations. Also, because so many of these products are being cheaply produced, and won’t stay “in-style” or hold up for very long, they often get thrown away. Specifically, in 2017, about 11.2 million tons (22.4 billion pounds) of textiles were landfilled, as reported by EPA; the main component of these textiles was discarded clothing. Water usage, microfiber pollution, deforestation, toxins, and human rights are also prominent issues of the fast fashion industry as well, according to Pebble Magazine. Moreover, thrifting is a great, sustainable alternative to fast fashion. Buying used clothes means you are getting the most wear out of an item possible, decreasing the pollution and waste associated with mass production, and also decreasing the worldwide demand for fast fashion.
Thrifting is Affordable and Fun
Not only is thrifting great for the environment, but it is great for your wardrobe and wallet as well. Thrift stores offer hundreds to thousands of clothes for purchase, many of which are unique pieces. Also, depending on the store, they will probably restock and rotate clothes by the day or week so there is always something new to find. Even though it can be intimidating to sort through all of the clothes, popular brands, and styles matching your Pinterest board are often plentiful. Many thrift stores, at least in my experience, typically begin pricing clothes around $3 or $4 depending on the brand and style. This makes it a low-cost option for those looking to save money. Be on the lookout for sales too! My local store usually offers half price clothes on the weekend and Goodwill has Dollar Day Sundays. Some of my favorite items I found thrifting was a pair of Levi jeans for $1, and a pair of custom Nike Low Dunks for $9.99!
Exploitation of Thrifting
If you haven’t heard of Depop, it is a popular shopping application where users can buy and sell their clothes. While it can be a great way to shop Secondhand online, there have also recently been issues linked to its use. With the low-cost nature of thrifting, many Depop users (and sellers on other platforms) have been overpricing their used items astronomically, further causing a detriment to the Secondhand market. I have seen users thrift children’s t-shirts and basic tank tops for $30, tagged under “Y2k Vintage”, as well as Nike tennis skirts listed for $150; personally, I thrift all of these things myself for $5 or less. Also, some users may even buy in bulk solely to sell for huge profits or even go to lower-income areas to shop- this runs the potential of taking quality clothes away from those who are actually in need of them. This is not what thrifting is about! It is this exploitation of thrifting, along with its rise in popularity in general, that could potentially raise Secondhand prices and change the thrifting market permanently for the worse.
The Hard Truth
Try to shop sustainable brands or thrift when possible, donate and reuse old clothes, and demand environmental change from fashion corporations. Also, while thrifting is good for the environment, fun to do, and a great way to save money, make sure you are not taking advantage of it. Keep in mind: the privilege it is to be able to thrift by choice, not by necessity, and don’t ruin thrifting for those who depend on it. Yes, there are plenty of Secondhand clothes to go around, but still shop responsibly!